Reflections from members who have previously served on the SFU PDA executive council

Emma Griffiths - Founder of the SFU PDA (2014)

As a co-founder and the first president of the SFU PDA (president 2014-2016), I am very proud of the accomplishments the PDA has achieved over the years. Serving on the PDA was full of exciting opportunities e.g. working with Deans and DGS staff, fellow postdocs, other advocacy groups such as the national postdoc association (CAPS/ACSP) and the women in STEM advocacy group SCWIST, funding/training organizations like Mitacs, all with a view to making a real difference in the lives of postdocs at SFU. I learned how to organize a conference and other events, project and team management skills, about postdoc policies across Canada, and even had opportunities to travel (NPA and CAPS AGMs). We created friendships that will likely last a lifetime. Many of the skills I learned from working with the PDA, I use in my current position carrying out user engagement activities for public health. Working on the PDA exec is a wonderful asset, and showcases leadership ability and service to the community, which is a way to make your CV stand out. Being part of the SFU PDA was one of my favorite experiences and I can’t recommend taking part in the Executive enough!


Jessica Walsh - VP External Communications (2017-2018)

I was Vice-President External Communications for SFU-PDA (2017-18). It was a great way to make friends with other post-docs across different departments, and I was able to contribute to improving the university's policies for post-docs. This role involved me being a Member-at-Large for the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars, which meant I was involved in advocacy campaigns across the country, while linking the SFU post-docs with relevant news and events at national and international levels. Aside from being an excellent opportunity to socialise with other post-docs, it continues to demonstrate my leadership and management skills, which are extremely useful when applying for jobs. Jessica Walsh, Department of Biological Sciences. Monash University


Cristina Serverius - VP Policy (2018-2019)

In 2018-2019, I was VP Policy for the PDA. Our team worked on a variety of important issues, including a PDA constitution and getting SFU PDFs recognized as employees of the university. These projects were started by previous executive councils, and I have been particularly impressed with the PDAs ability to create this kind of year-to-year continuity, despite us postdocs being mostly transient creatures. Therefore, while you work within your current team, you are also always connected to those who went before you. This work comes with a tremendous sense of community that is further strengthened through the social activities.

Being a member of the PDA executive council also provided an opportunity to gain insight into the workings of the university as we met with administrators to advocate for PDFs, and looked into the specifics and ramifications of changing policy. As someone with an interest in educational systems and with the ambition to improve them from the inside, my experience as a VP was invaluable. Engaging with the university in varied capacities increases our ability to create change. Our experiences as undergraduate and graduate students, as postdoc fellows, teaching assistants, research assistants, sessional instructors, staff, etc. all inform our knowledge of how the university works. The more perspectives we can gather, the better we can respond to humans’ most pressing needs. I hope you will add the perspective of a PDA exec council member to your spectrum.


Simone Brugiapaglia - President (2018-2019)

The PDA was a vital part of my postdoc experience at SFU. Its members made me find a welcoming, lively, and supporting community since my first Postdoc Welcome Day in September 2016 (...the great memories I have also include free beer and burgers!). Moreover, I had the privilege of serving the PDA as VP policy in 2017-18 and as president in 2018-19.

Being in the PDA Exec was a transformative and highly rewarding life experience. It allowed me to establish connections with SFU postdocs, faculties, admin, and staff - some of which are now great friends of mine. My experience in the PDA Exec was extremely beneficial from the professional viewpoint. I learned a great deal while planning the future of the SFU postdoc community, organizing exciting events (Postdoc Research Day, brownbag seminars, socials), and collaborating with the amazing SFU GPS staff. Being part of all this was also a unique opportunity to practice both teamwork and leadership. This greatly helped me when I applied and interviewed for academic jobs. In fact, it equipped me with a variety of practical skills that are key in academic life and that I now put to use on a daily basis as a faculty member.