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Kelly and Pat Hibbitts

Convocation a family affair

May 28, 2009

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There were times when Pat Hibbitts (above right) worried about whether her children would ever make it to university. Although she saw her three children as intelligent and able, the K-12 systems that her children experienced as the family moved from mine site to mine site across the country assigned labels and saw disability.

It’s a topic Hibbitts analyzed in her recent doctoral thesis in education, which describes her experiences as a mother negotiating kindergarten-Grade 12 school systems in four Canadian provinces.

So it’s all the more gratifying that Hibbitts, SFU’s VP-finance and administration, who receives her EdD at the June convocation, will share the moment with her daughter Kelly, who graduates with a BA in history. Her eldest son, Patrick, has already graduated with a degree in commerce from UNBC, while her middle child, Sean, is still completing his SFU degree.

Kelly (above left) spent her elementary school years in special needs classes because she felt teachers didn’t engage with her, or recognize the impact of her mild dysgraphia and because she herself admits to not understanding the need for genuine effort. University proved to be completely different. "Except for one class, all of the professors and tutorial assistants were engaged and passionate about what they were talking about," she says. "They really seemed to care about students."

Now, she doesn’t discount a career in the academic world, perhaps as a librarian. "I enjoy researching and finding out new things," she says, noting that those findings were often the subject of intense mother/daughter debates during their morning commutes to campus.

"We debated many different topics including how to achieve peace in the Middle East, the merits of globalization, and the resolution of the American economic meltdown, to name but a few. We rarely agreed," says Pat Hibbitts, "but it was always a stimulating conversation."

Now that Hibbitts has documented her experiences in the K-12 system, she plans to pursue further scholarly writing about issues in university administration. "I’m very interested in university leadership," she says. "There are big issues in Canada around that."

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