Suzanne Atkinson (BFA '00) provides administrative support for the department’s Student Program Services. As the first person students and other visitors see when they enter the office, Suzanne’s role includes plenty of personal interaction with students, which is one of the things she loves about her job assisting students with program needs.
The job is well suited for me,” she says. “I enjoy meeting people.”
The COVID-19 pandemic put that aspect on hold when the university’s services moved online. “That threw us all for a loop,” says Suzanne, who, like her co-workers, found herself working from home. "The pandemic did propel us to make the necessary move to going ‘paperless’ and offering more of our services online. The hardest part was we weren’t able to see the students face to face.”
She’s glad to be back in the office, where her fourth-floor desk in Turcotte Hall offers another positive feature: “I have the best office view,” she says of the window which looks out over the scenic coulee landscape.
Born in England after her parents returned to their homeland for a short time before settling back in Canada, Suzanne was raised in Lethbridge, where her parents and a brother still reside. Her sister lives in Calgary. Suzanne has lived in many different places over the years, including Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Wichita and Aarhus, Denmark, volunteering and working in arts and post-secondary institutions. She has spent 20-plus years in the administrative field, including the last six and a half years with the Faculty of Education. Her return to Lethbridge was a homecoming of sorts for her. She is a U of L alumnus, having obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from 1996 to 2000, focusing primarily on oil painting in her own art, with architectural landscapes one of her main priorities at the time. She has always been interested in art and design and, in her spare time, paints watercolour illustrations for greeting cards.
One of her previous administrative jobs enabled her to combine her drafting training from Lethbridge College with her arts background by working with local architect John Savill, who also operated an art gallery, the Trianon Gallery. It was the drawing aspect of drafting that attracted her to explore that field, and she is looking to reconnect with that part of her arts background by taking an online course in drawing. It’s in keeping with her desire to devote more time to her own art.
It’s the creativity,” she says of her love for art. “It’s visual, something important to me in my everyday life.”
That’s why Suzanne likes to be surrounded by art. “As much as I love office supplies, I’ve got to have something next to me that reflects who I am, whether it’s a book or an art postcard – just something I find pleasing to the eye.”
She finds that in the prairie landscape, which is anything but flat and boring to her. “I always appreciate the landscape here, with its changing skies,” which offers a beauty she enjoys putting onto paper or canvas in her art.
Music also holds an important place in her life. Suzanne enjoys listening to a wide variety of music genres (everything from alt-country to zydeco). She also attends live concerts when she can. Reading and watching films are other fond activities, “and cooking and baking is a big pleasure for me,” she says. In terms of more active pursuits, biking and walking are her preferred choices. It’s all part of her effort to maintain a healthy balance by countering the busyness of life with times of quiet peacefulness.
Concerning her vocation, Suzanne is happy in her University of Lethbridge role. “I love working with the Faculty of Education. I’m lucky to be a part of that.”
Writer: Dave Sulz | Photographer: Rob Olson
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• Faculty of Education profile, Jaime Iwaasa: Juggling the demands of career, studies, and family
• Faculty of Education profiles, Kirsten Livingstone with Cheryl Lynch-Staunton: The CurrLab—a place with things you wouldn’t necessarily have in your school
• Faculty of Education profiles, Scott Powell and Kevin Orr: Keeping up with technology and the evolution of education
• Faculty of Education profile: "I absolutely love what I do and the people I work with," Kelly Vaselenak