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Mavis MacMillen

Top university staffer completes graduate degree

June 11, 2009

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Imagine your boss conferring a university degree on you. Now imagine that you’re the right-hand person of the boss who is conferring the degree on you.

Mavis MacMillen, executive assistant to SFU President Michael Stevenson, collected her MA in communication during the June convocation ceremonies from Stevenson, for whom she manages budgets, supervises staff, handles communications, troubleshoots and coordinates the flow of information.

"It doesn’t get better than this—working with key players and pursuing graduate studies at a top-ranked university. I feel incredibly lucky to have had this experience," reflects MacMillen, who enjoys the occasional debate with colleagues about the subject of her MA thesis. It weighed the impact of expansive intellectual property rights on research innovation and the public domain.

She now looks forward to simplifying her life after spending the past 5 1/2 years juggling graduate studies with her day job. She says there were times when she wondered if she would ever finish her degree.

She faced the pressures of keeping the president’s office running smoothly and efficiently and then decided to revise her graduate thesis, adding years to the process.

"It was often difficult to find the time and the energy, but giving up was never an option," she says.

A passion for learning and an interest in kayaking kept her moving forward and on track. "Most weekends I’d give myself a few hours to escape on the water," says MacMillen, who used all her SFU vacation time during her graduate work to study and write.

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