Campus Life

Recognizing the winners of the 2022 President's Awards for Service Excellence

The University of Lethbridge President's Office is pleased to announce the 2022 recipients of the President's Award for Service Excellence.

AUPE recipient — Rebecca Gray

The University of Lethbridge is extremely pleased to present the President’s Award for Service Excellence (AUPE) to Rebecca Gray, a student loan advisor with Scholarships & Student Finance.

Part mentor, part advocate and part cheerleader, Gray has consistently demonstrated an ability to tackle students’ loan challenges with compassion and resolve. As a student loan advisor for the past 10 years, Gray is the first person to greet visitors to the Scholarships & Student Finance office. With her quick British wit and keen sense of humour, she puts others at ease. Gray is well aware of the financial stressors students can face and she’s quick to offer both emotional and practical support.

As someone who believes finances should never be a barrier to education, Gray goes above and beyond to help students access the maximum funding available to them by finding sources of support they never thought possible. Rather than simply providing advice to students, she goes a step further to work on students’ behalf with government representatives and loan lenders. Gray’s ability to empathize, coupled with her vast knowledge of student finance options, makes her a highly valuable support for both students and the ULethbridge community.

In addition to her front-line work as a student loan advisor, Gray also worked with Information Technology staff to improve departmental operations, specifically the automated student loan confirmation process. Before being rebuilt, the process required many hours of manual labour by staff in Student Finance and the Cash Office. Gray’s knowledge of the inner workings of the current system were critical in the process.

In addition to that knowledge, the project required someone who could adapt and advocate for changes in the functional and technical realms. Gray handily demonstrated these skills while implementing the new system as she spent countless hours testing and trouble-shooting the complexities of the rebuild as it related to the Student Finance office. This work was done in addition to her normal day-to-day tasks and she helped keep the project moving forward by putting in extra time towards its successful completion. Despite the demands, Gray kept a positive attitude throughout the project and her humour helped everyone involved in the project stay upbeat.

To her colleagues and students, Gray is the go-to person who has and continues to make a difference.

Team award recipients — Suzanne Atkinson, Brenda Bell, Jaime Iwaasa, Nicole Spence, Kyra Svrcek and Kelly Vaselenak

The University of Lethbridge is proud to recognize the Faculty of Education’s Student Program Services (SPS) and Field Experiences (FE) teams with the President’s Award for Service Excellence.

From left to right are Nicole Spence, Jaime Iwaasa, Kyra Svrcek, Kelly Vaselenak and Suzanne Atkinson. Missing from the photo is Brenda Bell.

In a post-secondary year defined by the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, these teams have provided exceptional service and care to both students and faculty.

FE team members, Jaime Iwaasa (BMgt '22) and Kelly Vaselenak, and SPS team members, Suzanne Atkinson (BFA ’00), Brenda Bell (BA ’95, MA ’99), Kyra Svrcek (BHSc ’16) and Nicole Spence, often work in tandem to ensure undergraduate students are well supported in the Faculty of Education from pre-application to graduation. These teams are responsible for multiple tasks related to marketing, recruitment, admissions, advising, communications and setting up practicums in many school divisions across Alberta or in other provinces. In addition, the teams help students meet graduation requirements and subsequently navigate the teacher certification process. They also ensure faculty have all they need to successfully supervise students within schools.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented these teams with exceptional circumstances. The FE team is responsible for placing between 900 and 1,000 students in schools every year as they complete their professional semesters. The pandemic posed many challenges in terms of placing student teachers into their classrooms. Further complicating the situation was the fact ULethbridge students were learning remotely, many of them from communities outside Lethbridge. As a result, the FE team negotiated working with new schools and divisions to adapt to the changing practicum environment. Some practicum placements were outside the province where COVID restrictions were different. In the 2020-2021 year, the FE team placed more than 600 students into new practicums where, at times, they worked in a virtual or hybrid teaching environment.

In the run-up to the Fall 2020 semester, admissions had to be completed before a decision was made about how courses were to be delivered. The SPS team handled numerous questions from students who were worried about how they would begin their post-secondary education. The SPS team responded by holding information sessions, virtual townhalls and open houses to both new and continuing students. They also had to quickly adapt to using digital platforms and developed new skills in data management and electronic forms of record keeping in the process. The team found ways to support students and each other with grace and good humour, despite the volume of emails and concerns from students.

The SPS and FE teams are the foundation of the Faculty of Education program and their steadfast efforts over the past year ensured students had the best year possible.

APO recipient — Kali McKay

The University of Lethbridge is very proud to present the President’s Award for Service Excellence (APO) to Kali McKay (BA ’06, MA ’10), director of community engagement.

McKay has held numerous roles at ULethbridge, with the first as a student. After completing a bachelor’s degree, she joined the University as a recruitment officer where she worked until returning to student life to complete her masters. Following the completion of her program, she joined University Advancement as a communications officer, then as events and protocol officer, and later as manager of constituent engagement. She now brings those varied perspectives to her current position as director of community engagement in the Department of Development, Alumni Relations and Community Engagement. Having worked in these roles has given McKay a holistic view of the workings of a post-secondary institution and it’s those experiences she draws upon in meeting the needs of ULethbridge’s many stakeholders.

Her masterstrokes are evident in many of ULethbridge’s most successful events and programs. McKay sees the big picture from the high-level strategy down to the smallest details. She played a crucial role in organizing both the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2017 and the Big Bang Weekend to celebrate the opening of Science Commons in 2019. More recently, McKay led activities to celebrate the conclusion of the SHINE campaign, which raised $100 million and engaged more than 20,000 alumni. She has helped the University’s annual Play Day take shape over the last decade and ensured its longevity by securing a donor for the event. Each year, she works to refine the planning and execution of Play Day so it continues to support the needs of families in southern Alberta.

McKay has formed strong relationships with partners across the University and cemented herself as a leader both within the University and the larger community. Her eye is always on what’s best for the University community and her tendency to dream big allows her to expand ideas. The Nourish program is a perfect example. She played a key role in building a brand for food security initiatives across campus to create a program that supports students and gives alumni and community members a way to give back.

She is also a champion for liberal education and has worked closely with the School of Liberal Education to advance initiatives like the Common Book Project and Volunteer Week. This passion for liberal education also inspired her to secure Margaret Atwood as guest speaker for the 2015 Calgary Alumni & Friends Dinner, an event she organized and helped grow for a number of years. An extraordinary writer, one of the many stories McKay wrote includes The Formidable Margaret Atwood, which was published in Southern Alberta Magazine. Her colleagues fondly remember placing a sign on her office door that read, “Please do not disturb. Interview with MARGARET ATWOOD in progress.”

McKay’s ongoing positivity and drive to make ULethbridge the best it can be has reaped dividends too numerous to count and set a successful path for the University for years to come.