Staff, Alumna, Political Science

Staff/Alumna Profile: Lynn Kool, Political Science

August 07, 2014

Lynn Kool knows SFU well. Since 2006 she has worked as the Department Manager and Student Adviser for Political Science, and prior to that position, she was a student working towards her Bachelor of Arts degree, all the while working temp jobs in different parts of the university.

When Lynn started at SFU in 1996 she was not a typical undergraduate; she was a mature student and mother to three children. At that time she thought about pursuing a teaching career but when she landed a job working as an adviser in Political Science, she fell in love with the work and knew it was the career for her. As Lynn comments, it was a job that suited her “helper” personality. Upon graduating with a major in History with a minor in Political Science (she also has a Certificate in Liberal Arts), Lynn took on student advising full time.

As student adviser, Lynn explains that her job is to guide Political Science students through their degrees, and to help them make decisions about their educational goals. Such work requires constant communication with students, something which Lynn seems to have perfected. For instance, Lynn is active on social media because she recognizes that this is one of the key ways in which young people communicate.

In fact, recent research has shown that university students are moving away from email and many universities have now incorporated social media - like Twitter and Facebook - into their communication strategies. For Lynn, communicating with students takes place across multiple platforms, including Twitter, Skype, instant messaging and, of course, email (the new “snail mail”). As Lynn notes, there are “so many ways to talk to students” that to ignore alternative forms of engagement is to risk alienating students who often already feel overwhelmed by school and other life commitments.

When not advising students, you’ll most likely find Lynn spending time outdoors, relaxing on her sailboat with her family and dog.

Lynn has also seen first-hand how the culture of the university has changed over the years. She notes how the main campus has become less of a commuter campus and more student-centered, which she views as a positive change. This shift is evident in the proliferation of online/distance courses and weekend classes offered through the highly successful SFU Now programme, and reflects a desire to accommodate the needs of mature or professional students who want to brush up their skills and/or broaden their knowledge-base, but can only attend school on a part-time or flexible basis. Given that mature students are more likely to be women, ethnic minorities, and to have disabilities, the future success of the arts and social sciences will need to find ways to effectively communicate with this growing cohort.

The students have also changed. Lynn has observed how many are “in a rush” to finish school either because they want to graduate with their friends and/or get out into the work world. As a result, she finds that many students overload courses while also trying to hold down some kind of employment. A “solution-oriented” person, Lynn advises students not to take so many classes at once if possible, and to “get experiences” such as taking on volunteer work or enrolling in co-operative learning courses to gain practical skills. Not surprisingly, Lynn is especially attentive to the needs and issues facing mature students, and goes out of her way to ensure that they are getting the best educational experience possible. Most of all, she feels strongly that students take advantage of everything that postsecondary learning has to offer - “do everything you can do that you can’t do after graduation”.

Within the Department of Political Science, Lynn has seen students go on to work in a variety of professions such as provincial/federal politics, international embassies, CSIS, the military, journalism and so on. This is why, when asked how the BA prepares students for the “real world” Lynn contends it’s “not the degree but what you do with the degree” that matters most. The arts and social sciences teaches students to “see thing differently” and provides them with new ways of looking at the world.