Southern mobility

January 08, 2004, vol. 29, no. 1
By Julie Ovenll-Carter



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SFU staffers Dal Sohal and Jill Jodrey are heading south this winter, but not for a vacation. The two women are the first participants in SFU international's new staff mobility initiative (SMI), a program to support staff exchanges or attachments to partner universities around the world.

Later this month, Sohal, health outreach coordinator for the health, career, and counselling centre (HCCC), will travel to Tucson to begin a three-week placement at the University of Arizona. In February, Jodrey, an instructional developer in the learning and instructional development centre (LIDC) heads to Monash University in Melbourne, Australia for three weeks.

Both women have a passion for travel: Sohal, 30, a 1996 SFU criminology graduate, worked in Switzerland before returning to Vancouver two years ago.

Jodrey, 35, taught English in Korea, and most recently vacationed in Vietnam. They say they are thrilled by the opportunity to advance their professional skills in an international setting.

“ I was very excited when I got the news that my proposal had been accepted,” says Jodrey. “I'd spent several weeks preparing it and I was nervously awaiting the final decision. I feel so privileged.” Jodrey says both her career and campus will benefit from her time in Australia.

“At LIDC, we're looking at ways to improve learning management systems for students. Monash University has recently undergone a similar process. They've implemented faculty workshops related to diversity and inclusive teaching. I hope to be inspired by their methods and at the same time, I want to share with them some of the good things we do here at SFU. I view this as a collaborative experience.”

In Tuscon, Sohal will investigate how the University of Arizona has used social norms marketing to promote healthy student lifestyles - particularly in the area of alcohol awareness.

Last October, as part of a three-year nationwide study overseen by the Canadian centre for social norms research, SFU's HCCC sent surveys to 1,200 students in an effort to learn how much students drink versus how much they think their peers drink.

“When it comes to student drinking, we expect to find a difference between what's real and what's perceived,” says Sohal.

“We want to pull out the reality of the situation and then market those statistics back to students. People want to be part of the majority and they will change their behavior to match the average. A social normal marketing campaign will attempt to correct student misperceptions of drinking norms to reflect actual drinking patterns on campus.”

Sohal says the University of Arizona is a leader in proactive health promotion. “They don't try to scare the health into people. The messages on their posters are from students, for students.” She hopes to “bring back tools and strategies for how we can implement similar successful awareness campaigns at SFU.”

Sohal plans to come back to SFU without taking any vacation days, but Jodrey will add a week's holiday to her time down under.

“I'm training for a triathalon in the spring, so I plan to cycle down the coastline, which my friends tell me is beautiful.”

When they return, Sohal and Jodrey are required to submit a written report to their supervisors and to prepare a presentation to colleagues. “It'll be work, work, work for me,” laughs Sohal, “and I'm really happy for the opportunity.”

The next SMI application deadline is Jan. 20. For more information, call 604-291-4232 or visit http://www.sfu.ca/international/smi.htm.

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