Work Performance Award winner Tara McFarlane (right) with Nanda Dimitrov (left) Sarah Turner (left centre) Sheri Fabian (right centre). Photo courtesy of Greg Ehlers.

Tara McFarlane: Winner of a 2019 SFU Staff Achievement Award – Work Performance

April 07, 2020
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Written by Janet Homeniuk

For more than 25 years at Simon Fraser University, Tara McFarlane has consistently demonstrated a committed, reliable, hard-working, and passionate work ethic – work that is consistently “above and beyond the call of duty.”

Tara’s contributions earned her a 2019 Simon Fraser University Staff Achievement Award – Work Performance, which are awards given to recognize Simon Fraser University staff who have demonstrated outstanding achievement within the University.

In her current role as Administrative Coordinator at the Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD), Tara is responsible for ISTLD’s operating and grant budgets, communications coordination, and organizational and administrative support for the team. Her deep knowledge of SFU’s financial systems, collective agreements, and available support services make her insights crucial to ISLTD decisions about its processes and future directions. Her expertise also helps faculty members with TLDG projects avoid administrative pitfalls in their design and make connections with other units that can support their work.

Commitment to Fairness and Equity 

"Tara shows an incredible capacity for attention to detail and organization, a commitment to fairness and equity in the work place, a genuine concern for the nurture and growth of the students and younger staff who work with and for her, a dedication to and delight in building community with her colleague, and a refreshingly kind and patient manner,” says Dr. Sheri Fabian, University Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Director, ISTLD.

Since 2007, Tara has administered the grant funds faculty use to conduct their inquiry projects. In this work, she has interacted with more than 266 faculty members running Teaching and Learning Development Grant projects. In addition, Tara has set up more than 350 RA appointments, most of them (311) for SFU students.

Sarah Turner, Educational Consultant with the Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE), who has worked closely with Tara over a number of years, says she was “impressed with (Tara’s) efficiency and ease with everyone, her knowledge of not only the systems in place at the institution but the unique individuals who enacted the systems. Daily, I witnessed her deep commitment, her sharp mind, and her care for colleagues, in action. It seemed there was no project or initiative that didn’t include Tara in some central way and there was no end to the number of projects, or initiatives that she could manage with grace and ease.”

A dedicated and supportive mentor 

Tara is a dedicated and supportive mentor of the junior members of the ISTLD team.

“Tara, without a doubt, greatly contributes to the vibrant and amicable community that makes ISTLD more than just a workplace but a community of people working on topics that they are passionate about,” says Vanessa Milost Gonzalez, research assistant for the ISTLD.

“Very few entities at SFU, whether they be administrative sections, academic departments, or faculties function as well as does ISTLD. And I know that the other members of ISTLD would agree wholeheartedly with me when I say that the efficiency and effectiveness of the ISTLD is largely due to Tara’s keen abilities and hard work. And she always achieves this with a seeming effortlessness, and a bright smile,” says Dr. Leyland Pitt, Professor, Marketing, Beedie School of Business, and Dennis F. Culver EMBA Alumni Chair.

"Ask Tara, she knows everything!"

Dr. Nanda Dimitrov, Senior Director of CEE says, “Tara has been an amazing mentor to both faculty and RAs. Her encyclopedic knowledge of SFU policies and practices has helped smooth the way for faculty members during the grant process so they can focus on exploring and better understanding their students’ learning. Her work has helped create the conditions in which this incredibly cohesive scholarly community of innovative teaching champions, Dewey Fellows, creative graduate students and staff can collaborate and thrive. When I ask a question about how things work at SFU, the answer is often “Ask Tara, she knows everything!”

Tara has traveled the world, speaks multiple languages, and has lived in a castle. She has now settled down with her husband, Daniel, and is the proud mom of two adorable puppies, Max and Zoey.

Congratulations to Tara on this well-deserved award!