By Diane Mar-Nicolle
After 22 years as the financial assistant in SFU’s Department of Mathematics, Casey Bell says she feels like she has “grown up” with math faculty members and grad students.
“My favourite thing about working in the math department for all this time has been watching grad students become faculty, faculty become parents, faculty retire,” she says. “And they’ve watched me get married and go on to have three boys, now aged 10,16 and 20.”
Bell’s special ability to carry out official and unofficial duties with efficiency and a smile has been formally recognized with an SFU Staff Achievement Award for Community Contribution.
She has worked tirelessly to assist with the daily logistics of the department’s many community programs that bring young students to SFU’s summer schools and camps, workshops and field trips.
Nominator Sheryl Thompson says, “She ensured visiting Indigenous leadership, families and guests felt received and respected. She did this because it is who she is, and, she learned the importance these gestures play in building and strengthening relationships within Indigenous communities. She always, always, had a kind word and a smile at the ready—no matter what.”
In addition to Bell’s regular tasks of payroll, accounting, web design and conference organization, Bell says she feels privileged to spend time with community groups, citing SFU’s Aboriginal Camps as an example.
“I feel honored to have worked alongside Veselin Jungic and Sheryl Thompson on the camp—witnessing their true passion for nurturing these kids was an amazing experience.”
But being so close to students and staff creates worries as well. Bell says one of the hardest parts of her job is seeing grad students struggle financially.
“Over the past 10 years we've seen a dramatic increase in living expenses for all of us living in Metro Vancouver. Grad students rely on the money they bring in from TA/RA work and sometimes this just isn’t enough. Being a mother of a 20 year old, this now hits closer to home for me and I really feel for the grad students and the struggles they face.”
She also candidly admits to days when she feels that support staff can be overworked and underpaid. She was in this frame of mind when one of her coworkers anonymously left a copy of the award nomination papers on her desk, circled with a big heart.
“I sat at my desk and read through the support letters in tears. I was so moved that I literally couldn’t speak about it for days without crying. This award represents all the relationship I’ve built over the past 22 years and I was very deeply touched,” she says.
Always thinking of others, Bell says that everyone needs to be reminded that they are valued. She says, “What we do at work every day DOES matter and IS appreciated.”