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Shirley Heap

Smoothing the way for graduate students

October 8, 2009

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At many convocations for the past 31 years, Shirley Heap has been standing on the sidelines, waving to Faculty of Education graduate students lined up to receive their degrees. They wave back with gratitude, because Heap’s guidance has helped them through course selections and deadlines, missed classes due to illness, and even personal difficulties such as family illnesses or financial struggles during their years as graduate students.

Heap, who describes herself as a people person, says listening to and assisting as many as 100 graduate students each semester is a rewarding aspect of her job as secretary to the director of graduate programs. And while she’s eligible to retire, she has no plans to do so.

"I enjoy this," she says. "I enjoy the people, particularly the students—that’s why I’m here."

However, Heap, who is one of many staffers on campus to assist graduate students, finds today’s students more demanding than those of 30 years ago. "Sometimes I’m asked to move mountains—for example to get them into extra courses or to assist them because they’ve left their registration until the last moment, which can be very difficult for us, as they may need special permissions."

The job’s heart-warming aspects, however, far outweigh those frustrating moments. She’s glad to help steward the students through difficulties and share the moment they finally graduate, sometimes after overcoming great challenges.

Interestingly, Heap rarely forgets students’ faces or their names. She sometimes encounters students from 30 years ago who are astonished by this. And that, she says, "is a lot of fun."

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aldo caixeta

Although I don't know Shirley Heap personally, I believe she is a person who really enjoys her job. She has been extremely attentive to my application process and I have much to thank her.

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