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People of SFU: Meet Lulu Bersamira, Lifelong Learning budget coordinator
If you think of accountants as number-crunchers who prefer spreadsheets to people, you haven’t met Lulu Bersamira. As the budget coordinator for Lifelong Learning, Bersamira brings to her role a passion for finance, a fondness for old-school adding machines—and “a beautiful heart,” as one colleague puts it.
Brilliant, innovative, tireless, patient and generous are a few of the other words Lifelong Learning staff use to describe their hardworking teammate.
“Not only is Lulu a consummate professional, she is one of the kindest and most caring people I have ever met,” says Julia Denholm, dean of Lifelong Learning. “She has warm and genuine friendships and working relationships with every member of our team.”
Bersamira studied business administration and accountancy in the Philippines before moving to Canada 12 years ago and earning her CPA CGA designation. When she joined Lifelong Learning in 2010, the dean at the time told her, “Your job is to keep us financially honest.” Bersamira never forgot it.
“I’m responsible for financial reports that are used by senior management to make their decisions,” she explains, “so it’s important to get everything right.”
Encompassing both Continuing Studies and the English Language and Culture program, Lifelong Learning delivers non-credit courses and programs to more than 5,000 adult learners annually. Effective fiscal management has been particularly critical in recent years, given the amount of change the unit has experienced—including the sudden pivot to online operations brought on by the pandemic.
“Lulu consistently works beyond the call of duty to mitigate risks and ensure sound financial management during often turbulent and rapid change,” notes Lifelong Learning executive director Judy Smith. “Yet she’s always available for questions and will patiently explain steps and teach those of us needing extra support.”
No question is too small for her attention, says Bersamira: “I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who are really passionate about their job. But for some people, as soon as they see a spreadsheet or a form, they feel intimidated. If I can relieve some of that anxiety, then they can concentrate on their own work better—that way we can all succeed.”
In Bersamira’s office, along with her beloved big-button calculator, she treasures a printed email from a student whose life was changed by a free computer skills program that Bersamira financially managed. Once living in a shelter and now successfully employed, the student wrote to thank “all those who worked behind the scenes” to deliver the program.
“That email made me so happy,” smiles Bersamira. “It’s so easy to think that you don’t make a significant contribution when you’re alone in your office, when you don’t interact with students.”
If she ever forgets why her work matters, she simply thinks back to her orientation day at SFU.
“They encouraged everyone to attend a convocation sometime. They said to look around at the faces of all the parents and happy students, and remember: whatever your job is at SFU, you are part of it.”
This is a story in our People of SFU series, where we’re celebrating SFU’s unsung heroes—those who go above and beyond the call of duty to create community, advance SFU’s mission and make the university a great place to work and learn. You can read more stories here.