Tara McFarlane (right) with Nanda Dimitrov (left) and Sheri Fabian (centre) at the SFU Awards Gala.

Faculty and Staff

Deep commitment to job and care for colleagues earns Tara McFarlane an SFU Staff Achievement Award

September 18, 2020

By Diane Luckow

SFU alumnus and lifetime staffer Tara McFarlane has worked for every SFU employee group but the Poly Party during her more than 25 years at SFU.

She is now the administrative coordinator at SFU’s Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD), where she has been recognized with a 2019 SFU Staff Achievement Award for work performance.

The ISTLD supports faculty inquiry into teaching and learning across SFU through a grants program that McFarlane administers. Her faculty nominators say the institute would not be the huge success it is today without “the amazing amount of work Tara does behind the scenes. She is the glue that holds the institute together.”

McFarlane manages the institute’s operating budget, coordinates communications, and offers organizational support. With her deep knowledge of SFU’s financial systems, collective agreements and support services, colleagues and faculty say her insights are crucial to ISTLD decisions and processes. Her expertise also helps faculty to avoid administrative pitfalls as they design research projects and apply for funding.

Says one nominator, who worked with her in the former Learning and Instructional Development Centre, “Daily, I witnessed her deep commitment, her sharp mind, and her care for colleagues.”

McFarlane, who characterizes herself as a ‘people person’, says the best aspect of her job is its positive atmosphere. She also appreciates the mix of academic and administrative work she encounters each day.

“I get to read the literature and be informed so, for me, it’s an ideal situation. And I get to interact with faculty and hear about their positive teaching experiences which, at the end of the day, is why we’re at the university.”

Colleagues say they also value McFarlane’s interest in creating community at work where, before the pandemic, she organized potluck meals or lunchtime film screenings, and always lent a willing hand to those who needed it.

“Tara lives far out of town and commutes by bus and Skytrain,” says another nominator. “But no matter where someone lives, if a baby is born or a colleague becomes sick, Tara is the first and most frequent visitor. 

“She cares with a depth that cannot be quantified by salary or promotion.”

Do you know a staff member who deserves to be recognized for their outstanding work? Nominations are now open for the annual Staff Achievement Awards. To learn more about the award categories, how to nominate and more, visit the Human Resources website. The deadline to submit a nomination is October 23, 2020.