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File photo: Steve with students at the new SRYE building.

Get to know Steve Dooley, Executive Director of SFU's Surrey Campus

September 23, 2020
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This blog post is a little different from previous ones! With the fall semester in full swing, we wanted to take some time to introduce you to Steve Dooley, the Executive Director of SFU’s Surrey campus. Steve sat down with Rachel Wong, communications and engagement coordinator at SFU Surrey, to share a little bit about his role, what excites him about SFU Surrey, and what you might not know about him.

Hi Steve! Can you share a little bit about who you are?

I am the second Executive Director (ED) of the Surrey campus and have been in the role for seven years. Prior to coming to SFU, I was a faculty member (Sociology and Criminology) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for 20 years. I have a strong passion for community-engaged research and community development. In the same way that I care about my family, I care deeply about the people on this campus and those in the community. I love meeting people and love nothing better than a conversation in the campus hallways. I always learn something new!

What is something that folks may not know about you?

Good questionwhere do I begin? I like to laugh. I think humour is very good for the soul. People also might not know that I am an avid curler! And as strange as this must sound, watching curling on TV is a zen activity for me. The sounds of the curling stones crossing the ice is something I find very relaxing. I know, sounds weird doesn’t it?  But I speak the truth.

As Executive Director of SFU’s Surrey campus, what do you do?

I have two primary roles: supporting the day to day operations of the campus and developing partnerships with business, government and various community groups. Both of these are very important. From an operations perspective we need to ensure we create the right spaces and programs that support and advance student, faculty and staff success. In terms of external part of my work, the boundaries between community and SFU have always been non-existentthey ripped a roof off Surrey’s downtown mall and built a university campus on top! Understanding the role SFU can play in addressing place-based social and economic issues is very important to me.

Over your time at SFU Surrey so far, there must have been a number of highlights. What are some of your top memories and highlights as Executive Director?

There have been so many highlights over the last seven years. Number one, for sure, are the connections I have made with the amazing faculty, staff and students at SFU Surrey. Those who know me know that I talk a lot about the Surrey campus vibe! It’s hard to describe, but there’s an energy and commitment by the campus community to support one another and help each other succeed. I am so proud that I get to work with such an amazing group of people.

My second highlight would be serving as co-chair of C2UExpo 2017-For the Common Good. More that 600 delegates from across North America and around the world came to our Surrey and Vancouver campuses to celebrate excellence in community-engaged research. In particular, I am proud of two aspects of the conference. We set a high bar for community participation in the eventwe didn’t want academics just speaking to other academics. Our goal was to have 50% from community and 50% from universities and colleges. Ideally, they would come together to present. Well, we almost reached those goals: 46 % of the participants were from community organizations. I was also very proud of the Ambassadors program. To ensure the conference itself supported community capacity building, we hired and trained 80 people with barriers to employment to work at the conference. They contributed to the conference in a variety of ways, including  photography, witnessing, facilitating, and writing. They did an amazing job!

My third highlight was the opening of the new Surrey campus building (SRY-E) that is home to the new Sustainable Energy Engineering program. I am so proud that nearly 50% of the first cohort in the program were women. This is such positive step forward. The building is part of our Surrey campus expansion, and is for all faculty, staff and students at SFU.

In your view, what makes SFU Surrey unique?

The people and the space. The people are outstanding and really support each other in meaningful and sustained ways. This is supported through the space of both buildings, which were designed by the late architect Bing Thom. Both are so inviting and really lend themselves to having informal conversations. The ‘Mezz’ is a strong reflection of this design principle: it is our campus living room, where people stop to chat, learn and connect.

What message of encouragement do you have for students during this challenging time?

Given these extraordinary times, my message this semester is not what I would normally say. I want to encourage students to hang in there. And, I would also say that this too shall pass. As hard as things might be right now, there will come a time when we can all be together on the Surrey campus.

During this time, it’s more important than ever that you take care of yourself and others. Connect with fellow students the best way you can, take breaks when you need them and ask for help should you need it. SFU and the people at the Surrey campus are here for you.

File photo: Steve with some students during Mental Health Week 2019.