A woman of distinction

July 07, 2005, vol. 33, no. 6
By Howard Fluxgold

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The first thing you notice upon entering Pat Hibbitts' Strand Hall office is the heavy machinery clanking away outside her window. The noise is enough to disturb most of her colleagues, but it makes Hibbitts, VP-finance and administration, feel right at home.

As the wife of a geologist who worked in the mining industry, Hibbitts is accustomed to heavy equipment. “We lived right next to an open pit mine in Porcupine, Ontario, so it doesn't bother me at all,” says the 2005 winner of a YWCA woman of distinction award.

Hibbitts, her husband and three children have lived in small mining communities in the far-flung corners of Canada.

“Everyone in our generation in mining had to move every few years. To me it's been a wonderful opportunity to be a true Canadian, to get to know the communities I lived in. I have no regrets,” she insists.

She's made the most of her travel, becoming fluent in French while in Chibougamau, Quebec where no one spoke English, or taking on the job of director of finance at Memorial University's West Coast campus in Corner Brook.

“I had to be flexible. My MBA allowed me to do that. If they needed a human resource specialist it allowed me to be one. If they needed a finance specialist, I could do that too. I had to be a generalist, a jack of all trades,” she laughs.

Hibbitts came to SFU in 2001 from the University of Northern British Columbia where she was VP-finance, but this time her husband followed her to Vancouver, where he too is a vice-president of a mining company.

“It was a difficult decision to come to SFU because UNBC was such a new and vibrant place. But I thought if the number one comprehensive university in the country wants you, that's too good to turn down.”

Moving to the big city was the cause of some trepidation. Hibbitts had spent most of her life in small communities, growing up on a farm outside Toronto and attending a one-room schoolhouse until Grade 6. “Coming to Vancouver, we were most afraid of the housing prices and the traffic. This is the first place we've lived with a rush hour. Every place else had a rush minute,” she jokes.

Aside from the job itself, Hibbitts was attracted to SFU because she wanted to study for her doctorate in educational leadership. She has already completed several courses toward that goal.

Not only has the move from UNBC in Prince George meant a change to big city living, it has also meant a change in workplace culture. “UNBC is a new university with lots of younger people with a pioneering spirit. Here, it is an older, more mature university,” she observes.

She says that one of her goals at SFU has been to improve the budgeting process. “There were concerns about the budgeting process here. We've begun to make changes and we'll keep working at it. My commitment is absolute openness and transparency, and serving the academic mission of the university.” And doing it with distinction.

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