Joe Van Snellenberg

2007 staff achievement awards: Joe Van Snellenberg

January 24, 2008

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By: Barry Shell

Each year, SFU’s staff achievement awards highlight the exceptional personal and work-related accomplishments of staff members. Throughout this semester, SFU News will feature profiles on each of the 2007 winners, who were recognized at a formal luncheon Jan. 21 at the Diamond Alumni Centre. In this issue: Lifetime Achievement Award — Joe Van Snellenberg, assistant to the dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences.

This month every e-mail from Joe Van Snellenberg ends with the quip: “If you’re going to try cross-country skiing for the first time, start with a small country.”

Creating a happy work environment is a big reason why he won the 2008 SFU Staff Lifetime Achievement award.

Another is his long and committed devotion to SFU. Currently the assistant to the dean of applied sciences, Van Snellenberg was a student at SFU in the early ’70s, even then working as a teaching and research assistant in mathematics and biology respectively. In 1977 he began what was to be 16 years in SFU’s department of athletics and recreation, working his way up to assistant to the director. Next he moved to kinesiology for a few years. In applied sciences, in addition to his regular job duties, Van Snellenberg oversaw the construction of two new buildings as well as the moves of all schools in the faculty.

Van Snellenberg’s campus involvement has also extended to the Administrative and Professional Staff Association, where he has chaired numerous committees and served as vice-president in 1996 and president from 1997-99. As the current head of the advocacy committee, he supports staff through grievance procedures while staying on top of changes in labour laws. His commitment to creating a fair and just workplace is equal to his sense of fun and games.

For Van Snellenberg, SFU is really a family affair. He married a fellow staff member in Athletics (Cecilia) and his first son Jared graduated from SFU. Van Snellenberg’s love of sports led him to develop intramural soccer and softball at SFU in the 1970s and he still plays. He currently coaches both under-seven boys and over-30 men’s soccer in Burnaby.

Van Snellenberg’s positive spirit makes a difference to those who work with him. He says, “I believe you get the most out of people when you make their work environment enjoyable.” And he never forgets the popcorn at his weekly staff meetings.

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