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Janet Webber

August 06, 2012
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This in-depth story about Semester in Dialogue Alumna Janet Webber was originally published by Emily Ross in the SFU Vancouver blog. To read more engaging articles about SFU’s downtown campus, see here.

 By Emily Ross

Janet Webber is no SFU newbie. Though she’s recently taken on the position of Program Manager for SFU Public Square, Webber has been a frequenter of the third floor of SFU Harbour Centre for just over seven years.

Growing up in Ontario, Webber moved away to go to school at the University of Calgary, studying biology. Not quite finding what she was looking for, she embarked on an adventure to Korea to teach English.

Through meeting friends along her journey, Webber was drawn to the west coast of Canada and made her way to Vancouver.

Quickly acquainting herself with the beautiful surroundings, Webber was here with a purpose, which allowed her to build her own community with a few connections.

Working at a restaurant, which employed many actors and artists, Webber found herself surrounded with a vibrant societal circle, which allowed her to transition well into Vancouver life.

After having a child, Webber decided it was time to go back to school. Starting off at Langara in Psychology, Webber eventually came to SFU to finish her degree.

In her last semester, she became a student of the Semester in Dialogue Program, focused on Health Issues and Ethics.

This program, along with her professor, Mark Winston, drastically changed her path.

On her last day of the Semester in Dialogue Program, Webber went and spoke to Winston about her next steps.

When Winston asked her what was in store for her future, Webber quipped, “Well I’m going to work for you.”

Without a moment of hesitation, Winston wrote down a phone number that would eventually land Webber a job with Action Canada, an organization created by Jack Blaney and Sam Belzberg, two individuals whose names are synonymous with SFU.

She became the Program Coordinator at Action Canada working alongside Cathy Beehan, the founding CEO of Action Canada, which coincidentally was also housed on the third floor of Harbour Centre.

This connection led her to meet Shauna Sylvester, now the Executive Director of SFU Public Square. Webber was inspired by Sylvester and quickly realized that this was someone she wanted to work alongside.

She kept in touch over the years and once the chance to work with SFU’s newest initiative, SFU Public Square, came up, Webber jumped on the opportunity.

Webber credits these life decisions to the Dialogue program, which she describes as, “transformative, it changed the way I thought about university...the spirit of dialogue and collaboration and intellectual and civic awareness on the third floor [at SFU Vancouver] is totally like candy for the brain and the soul.”

Knowing that this was an environment she could thrive in, Webber was happy to be back working on the third floor, though she hadn’t technically left.

Now, Webber’s role is deeply entrenched in the field of community engagement.

Though she never knew she had a specific interest in the area, her positions throughout the years really ramped up her desire to become more involved.

Webber realized the importance of being engaged with the community and events, especially in her new position with SFU Public Square, where she is encouraged to interact with the community often, which, “makes me realize how much I really do enjoy doing it.”

Her favourite community events? She loves any event put on by Public Dreams like the Trout Lake Lantern Festival and the Parade of Lost Souls.

Also on her list for must-sees this fall are all of the events that are a part of SFU Public Square’e inaugural summit “Alone Together: Connecting in the City”.

There will be a great community event at the Orpheum, a special edition of Raincity Chronicles, a film festival as well as other exciting components. Don’t miss the action from September 18-23, 2012.

And though Webber has lived in Toronto, Calgary, Houston, and Korea, she’s very happy calling the growing city of Vancouver her home.