Psychology Departmental Manager, Beverley Davino on 36 years of Service at SFU

June 15, 2013

When Beverley Davino moved to North Burnaby from the Northwest Territories in 1978 , it hadn’t occurred to her to look for work at the nearby university up on Burnaby Mountain. That is until one day, at Kitsilano Beach, a fellow beachgoer suggested she submit her resumé to the growing institution. As she remembers, she put on her “culottes” one hot day in August 1977 and walked up the hill to SFU from her North Burnaby basement suite.

Starting in the temporary employment pool that autumn, Bev found work selling locker and gym tags to incoming students, faculty and staff and, shortly thereafter, she was working for the University registrar’s office, ordering office supplies. The rest—as they say—is history. She landed a position as the Graduate Program Assistant for the Department of Psychology and after working that job for 4-5 years, eventually moved into the position she has now, as the Departmental Manager of Psychology.

Remembering how she moved into the position of full-on Departmental Manager, Bev recalls that while she was the Graduate Program Assistant, she began filling in temporarily for then-manager Mary Batchelor, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer. Bev remembers Mary as a “wonderful, sweet, person, a terrific manager and a kind, thoughtful, dedicated, loyal but fun woman.” With Mary’s health on the decline, Bev says the Department of Psychology was fully invested in having Mary still “feel a part of things” in the running of the Department. They promoted Bev temporarily to the position of Departmental Assistant and continued to involve Mary in decisions and in the training of her successor.

Bev used to call Mary during the day and often visit her at home. Mary had a hospital bed set up in her dining room, and Bev remembers, “I would go over there; once a week I would take documents or paperwork and I would spend a good portion of the day there and would continue to involve her in her work here at SFU.” She did this, she says, “partly to engage her in the ongoing work of the Department [but also] I was learning from her as best I could.” Bev and many in the Department remember Mary wth fondness, as a kind and gentle woman who is still missed.

For Bev, the Department of Psychology’s ability to foster such lasting closeness and community is something she’s been most appreciative of over the years. Many of the staff, faculty and graduate students have become, over the years, “lifelong friends” as have others in the Faculty, such as the staff in the Dean’s office. Bev says the University on the whole has a been a good employer but in particular, “working in the Psychology Department has been incredible, a wonderful gift.” It is clear that the feeling is mutual: Davino was awarded the 1998 staff achievement award, presented annually to SFU employees who demonstrate outstanding achievement within the university.

Reflecting on how much technology has shifted over the years, Bev remembers how serendipitous it was, back then, to be referred to SFU from a fellow beachgoer. This was “before the days of email” and electronic job portals. “In those days,” she recalls, “everything was done on a typewriter, or mimeograph for interoffice memos.” The ways her professional context has “grown and developed technologically” is truly a “miracle,” she reflects. For example, “someone is on holiday in Australia and they’ve sent you an attachment for some grant application. The technology has improved our access to things in an instant—like overnight.”

Despite these benefits of modern technology, Bev remembers her early days at SFU, working during the busy semester registration periods. She would come in at 7am greeting students already lined up to be added to and dropped from classes. She remembers happily: “it was fun to speak to students, you saw them, they told you their stories, [for example] ‘I’m a single mother, I have a small child, and I have to take them to daycare and I take the bus so there’s no way I can make an 8:30 class…and oftentimes their stories were credible and you would want to do whatever you could for them.” As she remembers it, the students in those days were more physically connected: “they met in the hallways, they ordered pizza, they studied together.” More recently, students are often not coming to classes, “they’re reading notes off WebCT or listening online because lectures are often recorded.”

To some, it might seem a foregone conclusion that advancements in computer technology are indispensible, that the efficiencies they enable are priceless. Bev, however, notes that there is an “absenteeism” that comes with the instant gratification of modern technology in the office. She emphasizes that “it’s not a criticism” but that faculty and students are often absent from the halls of the University, while staff is present day-in and day-out. She explains, “There are days you can walk up and down these hallways and it’s so quiet, you can shoot a cannon ball and not actually hit anyone.” Faculty and students are indeed working and are very busy, she says: “working at home, […] exchanging papers or ideas with collaborative researchers.” She notes the lack of commuting can be positive insofar as it means they may multitask and also reduce their carbon footprint by not spending time and gas on commuting.

Despite these advantages, as a long-term manager at SFU, Bev is rather wistful thinking back to the days before internet efficiency. She explains alongside the instant gratification that email and social networking provide today, there seems to be a decline in that “joie de vivre “or serendipity she encountered in her early days at SFU. In the “old days” she remembers, faculty, graduate students and staff could be found running into each other in halls or offices and oftentimes having short, productive “spur of the moment” or “drop-in” meetings. In this way, people feel connected and, Bev observes, “physical presence has a value.” Regaining that sense of community is something Bev would like to see at SFU. After nearly 36 years of service at SFU, a job that began with a happenstance encounter at Kitsilano beach, Bev’s journey suggests that there is, indeed, a valuable connection between serendipity, physical presence and the building of a strong, caring, community-minded workplace.

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