Where are you from?
I was born in Simcoe and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario. I’m the oldest of seven children. My dad was a Dutch immigrant who came to Canada when he was 16 years old. My mom is also from a Dutch immigrant family, although she was born in Canada.
There were many challenges when their families immigrated. In the case of my dad’s family, for example, my grandfather, who had severe hearing challenges, was 40 years old and my grandmother was 46 years old at the time they immigrated and they came to Canada with only $100. To help his family, instead of completing his high school diploma, my dad went to work in a seafood restaurant that my grandfather started. He worked at that through his 20s and started his own store. He went back to school at McMaster University when he was in his 30s and completed undergraduate degrees in classical civilizations and social work and a graduate degree in theology.
He became a minister in the Christian faith and his first congregation was in northern British Columbia, so our family moved out west when I was around 13. We moved to a town called Houston, home of the largest fly-fishing rod, and I went to high school in Smithers. I learned a lot from my father’s example of determination and service to God and others and it’s definitely how I try to live my own path. Who knows how my own career path might have been different had my dad not exemplified an interest in post-secondary education, lifelong learning and the gumption of going for things!
Houston was a beautiful place to grow up. The outdoors was right there; we used to have black bears on our back porch. We lived outside and that’s stuck with me too in terms of my ongoing hobbies and pursuits as an adult. My wife and kids and I are big backcountry backpackers.
After high school, I did my first year of post-secondary at Northwest Community College in Terrace. After that year, my dad took a call to another congregation just north of Edmonton and I transferred to the University of Alberta. I was interested in a career in the helping professions; I knew that I wanted my life to be about service and about helping people build healthy lives of meaning and purpose. The passionate pursuit I’ve had is understanding what factors account for a flourishing life.
I did a degree in English and psychology and then I did a bachelor of education in secondary education. I taught high school for eight years. In 2003, while I was a school teacher, I pursued a masters of education in counselling psychology here at the U of L. The format of the program allowed me to keep working and I also had a young family at that time. In 2007, not too long after I completed my degree, I was offered a job here in the counselling department, which I did for another eight years or so before becoming manager of the counselling department. I completed a PhD at the University of Calgary also while I was working full time. The month I finished my PhD was when I took on the manager’s role. My wife has been an incredible support to me as I pursued these educational and career goals while together raising five children — I could not have done it without her.
What do you do here?
As executive director of student services, I oversee the Health Centre, Counselling and Career Services, which includes our sexual violence prevention educator position, the Accommodated Learning Centre, Scholarships and Student Finance and Iikaiskini Indigenous Gathering Place.
What’s the best part of your job?
I genuinely love the people I work with. I have so many great relationships with people across campus that I really value. I love doing good work with good people. Kindness is a fundamental value of mine and I have so many kind colleagues.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I love traditional country music, the twangier and the more nasally the better. Some of my favourites are Don Williams, Randy Travis and George Strait. I love the sound of a great guitar, banjo or mandolin and I love to sing and play guitar.