Where are you from? Where is your background? I am from the small farming hamlet of Halkirk, Alberta. I moved to Rocky Mountain House when I was 16 and finished high school there. I earned my Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta and I tried to get into the classroom, but both my husband, Greg and I were trying to establish our careers and then a really great opportunity opened up at the U of A in the Faculty of Education, so I jumped on it! I worked in Alumni Relations for two years and the absolute highlight (aside from fantastic coworkers) was meeting the artist Ted Harrison and seeing him work in his Oak Bay studio. Mr. Harrison was the Honorary Degree Recipient at my convocation ceremony from the U of A, and his words, "Don't let the bastards grind you down. A curator once told me he didn't want my work in his gallery because it was so simple that even children understood it and I thought, what a wonderful tribute!" have always stayed with me. The work I do is a part of who I am, it feeds my soul. Others may think it's simple or it's unimportant, but I would argue it is fundamental and immeasurably valuable to the student experience and future success.
When did you join the uLethbridge team and what do you do here? While I was working for the Faculty of Education at the U of A, I saw a posting for a position in the School (that's how long I've been here!) of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge. My husband, was born and raised in Lethbridge and I knew he was wanting to come back, so I applied and was very fortunate (even after being half an hour late for my interview because of a very animated and lovely tour guide!) to be the successful candidate. That was 13 years ago, but about 5 years ago, I left the Faculty of Health Sciences and joined the Enrollment Services team as the Orientation and Transition Coordinator.
What is the best part of your job? Students. Without question, it is working directly with students. I have the benefit of working with senior-level students through my student mentor team and we support incoming first-year students transition from high school or another PSI and start their living and learning experience at uLethbridge. I learn so much and have grown so much by working with and for students.
How has your job changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year?
COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the value of connection and the importance of relationships, which has been a fantastic opportunity for my job. I have always known how important students mentoring students is, how valuable the time and expertise of senior level students is to our incoming classes, but the pandemic has allowed me to give critical thought to what we do, when, why, where and how. It's given me an opportunity to allow my student mentor team to shine and wow...they did NOT disappoint. Their work has provided connection for an entire incoming class of students who are working, living, and experiencing the transition to university at home. Offering all my programming, the largest being New Student Orientation, online has been a cool opportunity for growth. It has had its fair share of frustrations and I had moments of insecurity that I was making the best decisions for our students, but it has also made me realize that I have strengths too. I value working as a part of a team, and I could NOT have provided the online Orientation experience we had this year without an incredible team from departments across campus. I like change, it's never been something I'm afraid of, so embracing this pivot in how O&T programs are being offered has been a really great opportunity for growth (with a healthy dose of growing pains).
Can you tell us about the pivot you had to make for NSO and how these plans came about? What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was taking the intentional, strategic NSO program we've built over the past 4 years and turning it into a purposeful, robust, and relevant online experience. How did it come about? By aligning myself and working with some of the most creative, thoughtful, and innovative professionals at the university! I worked with teams from across campus to provide an NSO program for our students that would allow them to experience services, staff supports and all the great opportunities for involvement they would if they were starting on-campus this fall. The dedication and work ethic to make this program happen from teams who normally have little to do with NSO made me very proud to work here.