Adam Rozenhart (`04 BA, Psychology) and Amy Shostak (`07 BA, Drama), both winners of 2014 UAlberta Alumni Horizon Awards, are recognizable as big-name Edmontonians shaping the direction of the city.
But their wildly different stories start with a single drop — an event or a moment that rippled outward to bigger and better, a rock thrown into the pond of life that continues to make waves.
Rozenhart is a digital strategist at Calder Bateman, co-founder of the Yeggies (Edmonton’s new media awards celebration heading into its third year) and the social media brains behind Don Iveson’s mayoral campaign in 2013, but his rise to social media prominence started with a conversation about the Edmonton Oilers in 2007.
The team had just traded fan-favourite Ryan Smyth and Chris Pronger had left under murky circumstances. Rozenhart and his business partner created Oilers Nation, one of the most successful fan blogs about the team, because they wanted a place where people could talk about the team without feeling censored.
This experience pushed Rozenhart to experiment further with social media, where he eventually reconnected with fellow Gateway alumni Scott C. Bourgeois. The two started recording The Unknown Studio, a podcast featuring Edmonton stories, in 2009.
“Scott had the means and I had the ego to support this idea that I could be interesting,” says Rozenhart.
Shostak had a similarly quiet start to her path. Improv theatre would be her first step toward bigger and better. “I kind of came out of high school being kind of shy. When I was in high school plays, I was always in the chorus. In university I was always unsure of what I wanted to do.”
But she fell in love with improv and jumped in with both feet, becoming deeply entrenched at Rapid Fire Theatre by her fifth year of university. She became associate director and then took over as artistic director from Kevin Gillese when he left in 2010.
“That was one of those moments where I said, ‘I can’t do this. I don’t understand how this company runs,’” remembers Shostak.
But with the support of the company, she has been in charge for almost five years. Her work at Rapid Fire grabbed the attention of author and fellow Arts alum Todd Babiak and then-mayor Stephen Mandel, and they asked Shostak to be involved with their Make Something Edmonton campaign to address an image problem with the city.
“I’d never thought of why I loved the city,” explains Shostak about her decision to participate. “The community is really what makes it so special.”
The idea of building something has kept both alumni in Edmonton. Rozenhart was biding his time after university, and Shostak was asked by members of the improv community to leave the city for greener pastures. But they decided to stay — to make things better.
“Too often people fixate on the negatives of Edmonton,” says Rozenhart. “But I think there are far more interesting things going on in this city…. Rather than continue being an apologist I wanted to do something.”