People of SFU

Meet the families of SFU

December 17, 2021
SFU's Rob McTavish, left, Cher Hill, centre, and their family at Big White. The couple have a tradition of handing out scratch-and-win lottery tickets to lifties and ski patrol as a way of spreading holiday cheer.

As the days get shorter and 2021 comes to a close, SFU faculty and staff are getting ready to spend some quality time with families and loved ones during the winter break.

In that spirit, we wanted to introduce you to some of the families who work and learn at SFU.

Donna and Rick Dove, centre right, celebrate the season with food and family.

Donna and Rick Dove and children, Eric and Whitney

What’s your SFU connection?

Rick and Donna are both SFU alumni. Donna currently works for the Faculty of Environment in the dean's office as the associate director, strategic enrollment management. Rick came to SFU on a wrestling scholarship and wrestled for SFU (and the Canadian National team) during his undergrad.

Donna and her daughter make home-made sugar cookies every year and deliver them to family and friends.

How do you spend the university’s winter break?

‘Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, especially if there is snow,’ says Donna. ‘We love to get up to the mountains to watch the sunrise if we get a dry day over the break, and make an annual trip to Whistler for some family fun. Of course, food is another family past-time during the holidays and not having to work during the break means we can workout every morning and indulge guilt-free! My daughter and I make home-made sugar cookies every year – our creative side comes to life – and the “elves” deliver them to family and friends.’ 

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

‘I'm looking forward to some international adventure travel in 2022! Fingers crossed.’

From left, Rachel, Eleanor and Threrese Wong typically mark the winter break with game nights, good food and calling family and friends.

Rachel, Eleanor and Therese Wong

What’s your SFU connection?

Rachel is the coordinator, communications & engagement, SFU Surrey, since July 2020, and has been SFU staff since 2019. She is an SFU alumnus (BA 2020 (Hons.), Communication + International Studies). Her sister Eleanor is a volunteer engagement assistant, SFU Surrey TD-Community Engagement Centre and a soon-to-be SFU alumnus, studying health sciences and education. And sister Therese is a first-year student at SFU, studying interactive arts and technology.

How do you spend the university’s winter break?

‘As a family we usually go to Christmas mass and spend time together,’ says Rachel. ‘Pre-COVID, we may be out of town visiting family or going on a family trip, but the past few Christmases have been spent at home. We'll have lots of game nights, good food and calling family and friends.’

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

‘We're hoping for some opportunities to travel! But of course, looking forward to another year with good health, more family time and personal growth!’

Cher Hill, left, and Rob McTavish, centre, with their family of avid skiers and snowboarders at Big White.

Rob McTavish and Cher Hill

What’s your SFU connection?

Rob and Cher are both alumni who received their BAs, MAs and PhDs at SFU. Rob began working at SFU more than 25 years ago and has held various positions in Lifelong Learning, Centre for Distance Education and is now with the Centre for Educational Excellence. He was associate dean in Lifelong Learning before returning to CEE in 2019. Cher is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education and has been employed in various roles since 2011. Their three children Kai, 14, Alex, 11, and Mia, 9, have all attended SFU summer camps and enjoy attending the SFU observatory and the Science Open House.

How do you spend the university’s winter break?

‘We typically spend Christmas with our family at Big White where we can be guaranteed a white Christmas,’ says Rob. ‘Our kids are all avid skiers and snowboarders. Typically, on Christmas morning we dress up in holiday onesies and do a few early morning runs. Last year, we started a tradition of handing out scratch-and-win lottery tickets to the lifties and ski patrol workers to spread holiday cheer. We ski to Cher's parents’ condo to exchange gifts and have a holiday brunch.’

‘Rob then heads back to the cabin to begin preparing a festive meal for the entire family,’ adds Cher. ‘He puts on some Christmas music and enjoys being in the kitchen on his own preparing a turkey dinner for the family.’

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

‘In 2022, we look forward to hopefully spending more time with family and friends as we have dearly missed all the social activities we usually participate in – things like hosting a neighbourhood movie night in the backyard, or camping with groups of friends.’ 

Elissa Cyr, right, with her family. Over the winter break, she spends time cooking and hosting dinners (and enjoying the leftovers).

Elissa Cyr

What’s your SFU connection?

Elissa has been part of the SFU community for almost 20 years – first as an undergraduate student (Communications major, 2005) and since 2006 as a staff member. She began working in central student services (admissions) and then moved to the School of Resource and Environmental Management in 2009. She’s been in her current role as manager, academic and administrative services since 2011.

How do you spend the university’s winter break?

‘I am so grateful for the bonus week that the university gives us to spend with family!’ says Elissa. ‘I have a large extended family, so that is really what we do over the holidays. I spend time cooking and hosting dinners, and then enjoying the leftovers! We bake Grandma’s famous butter tarts (truly the best!) and take in some of the local light events, including an old-fashioned drive around the city looking for the best light displays. This year my son is asking to go to the mountains, so we will likely head to one of the local hills for tobogganing or snow tubing.’

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

‘I am looking forward to being able to travel more and visit family and friends.’

Kris Nordgren and Melanie Monk

What’s your SFU connection?

Melanie and Kris are both SFU staff. Melanie has worked at SFU for 25 years. Much of that time has been under the Vice-President, Research in communications- and writing-related roles. She is the associate director, research excellence and recognition, with SFU’s Institutional Strategic Awards. She also recently completed her master of education at SFU. Kris currently works in Student Services as assistant registrar for Senate & Academic Services, a role he’s held since April 2018. He’s worked for SFU for 10 years in a variety of positions. He’s also an alumnus, starting his undergrad in 1988 and – with a two-decade career at Telus in-between – completing in 2010. He’s now doing his master of education at SFU.

Melanie Monk and Kris Nordgren celebrate Monk's master of education during the Fall 2021 convocation. Their daughter has applied for SFU next year.

How do you spend the university’s winter break?

‘In addition to family gatherings, which have been limited for the past two years, we like to snowshoe and hike the local trails,’ says Kris.

‘I like to be as unproductive as possible during the break,’ adds Melanie. ‘I tend to do loads of baking and reading and watch slow-living vlogs to get into a more relaxed mindset for entering the New Year. And I’m OK with snowshoeing as long as I get to bring spiked hot chocolate and cookies.’

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

‘Our daughter has applied to SFU for the Fall 2022 term, so if all goes well, we’ll be carpooling to work and school together,’ says Kris.

“Career-wise,’ Melanie adds, ‘I recently completed my MEd focused on equity, diversity and inclusion issues around researcher development. I am eager to apply my research to help SFU ensure that all researchers feel supported to develop their capacities throughout their careers and gain recognition for their contributions. Personally, I am also looking forward to seeing my daughter and her friends on campus next September. As we lived in UniverCity and our daughter attended daycare and went to the elementary school here, she already feels part of the university community.’