Staff Profile: Mary Ann Pope, Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies

October 12, 2012

We're delighted to profile the winners of the 2012 Dean's Awards for Excellence in Graduate Studies. Ms Mary Ann Pope received an award for Excellence in Graduate Service.

In 1966, SFU was founded, in an era of great cultural foment and revolution. Three years later, in 1969, Mary Ann Pope, then a teenager, was one of the thousands of people at the Woodstock Festival, one of the iconic events of that era. It was probably no coincidence that the former "hippy" feels so at home at SFU, the "Radical Campus."

Mary Ann started working at SFU in 1995, and held a few jobs before becoming a part-time graduate program assistant in both History and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry — she says, "I used to run from one office to the other, to switch jobs."

She then moved to become the graduate program assistant in the School of Resource and Environmental Management. While working in their graduate program, she created systems and databases that are still in use today.

She remembers one History grad student who missed Convocation because he'd missed the library submission deadline. She arranged for a piper and some regalia for him, and his parents came up from the US and they all piped him down the stairs and went for lunch. She also has fond memories of joining the REM cohort for their annual three-day field course — except, she adds — "for the part where we slept on the floor."

She became involved in the conversion from SIMON, the university's older registration system, to SIMS and became the expert on graduate studies registration processes. It was a natural move after the conversion to her current position of Director of Records and Registration for Graduate Studies at SFU.

Even though she's now a senior director at the university, and one of the key staff in the office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellows, she hasn't strayed far from her activist roots. Her sense of fairness drives many of her decisions and her favourite moments come when she's able to make a difference in order to help individual students.

When a student died suddenly during a vacation trip, and just after handing in his thesis, she stepped up to provide for his family during what would have been his Convocation ceremony. Her colleague says, "She provided for the family what most people would miss out on. She ensured to such a minute level the planning details and comfort level for the family to smooth their pathway as they went through this very difficult challenge in life. She literally thought of everything and put it into place, from a private room with refreshments set up for the family through to providing the family with a parking spot to having the family escorted throughout their time at SFU."

That's why she's receiving this award: Her empathy, and her advocacy efforts on behalf of graduate students have brought about changes in university systems that have and will benefit students for many years to come. Her latest project is a brand new graduate admission system which will speed up the admissions process, allowing staff and prospective students to more efficiently manage the process.

Wade Parkhouse, Dean of Graduate Studies, adds, " As a leader, you want to inspire your staff to do more. But in this case, Mary Ann inspires me to be a better person."

The 2013 Dean of Graduate Studies Awards for Excellence are open for nominations. Deadline for nominations is May 15, 2013.

Tags: Achievements; profiles

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