Our Staff

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People, Not “Functions”

Dear Staff,

To have your photo added to this gallery, please send a .jpg along to artssquared@gmail.com.


As many of you already know, our staff are very reluctant to speak up for themselves in this time of crisis. We have heard from some of them that they are reluctant even to have their photos posted here out of fear that by identifying themselves with this campaign on their behalf they may make themselves more vulnerable to losing their jobs. We greatly feel for them in this, and find in the fear and the stress that they have all been living under already for months a pressing reason for us — as many of us as possible — to speak up on their behalf. We encourage you to write a word here about why our staff is so important to you. Feel free to leave a ‘testimonial’ about our staff in general or a particular staff member whose contributions to the daily operations of this Faculty are of special importance to you. 

8 Responses to Our Staff

  1. Arts Squared says:

    A word about Kris “Open Door” Calhoun:

    “Hi Kris!” I say at least once a week “Have you got a minute? I’ve got trouble to fill it!” I’m only half joking, as it is usually trouble that brings me to her door (gossipy time-waster that I am, I nonetheless know that she has better things to do that idly chat with me). I might have a grad student too sick to teach and in need of emergency replacement, or a question about department practices, or a need to take 8 (instead of 1 or 2) grad students out of teaching next term so that they can finish their dissertations, or a grad student on medical leave who needs library privileges, or…..well it could be anything at all that I need because when in doubt, in need, in confusion, or in desperation, I drop by Kris Calhoun’s office. In response to the AdPrep process, Kris has no doubt produced some list of “functions” that she performs for the department, but the truth is that she does it all. She seems to always be at work, squirrelled away in her little office with a million things to do, but with the door open, ready to entertain any problem that I (or any of dozens or even hundreds of people) bring to her. Kris has been the APO for English and Film Studies for 14 years. I am sure I’m not the only one who cannot imagine working at the Department of English and Film Studies without her. Has she ever closed her door? Has anyone ever been turned away?

    Corrinne Harol

  2. Arts Squared says:

    Kim Brown:

    The first time I introduced myself to Kim, she knew exactly who I was, what I was studying, and what my needs were. Since then, she has always been able to answer my questions right away, knows exactly where I am in my degree without any prompting, and to top it all of, is friendly and always welcoming. I have received emails from her at 11pm on her holidays and she has come running down the hallway when she sees me at her door. Kim Brown is part of the reason why this department is one of the best I have ever attended. I cannot imagine this place without her.

    Kris Calhoun:

    As current Co-Chair of GSEC, a body that has a new membership every year, I have many questions about institutional practice and policy that no one but Kris can answer. Despite probably hearing the same questions year after year, Kris unfailingly invites me into her office, gives me a thorough answer and words of encouragement. She has seen and heard it all and knows the ins and outs of admin processes like the back of her hand. I know that in terms of student governance in the department, we could not do it without Kris.

    Mary Marshall Durrell:

    Whenever I’m feeling down, a trip to Mary’s office always cheers me up. Her generosity of spirit, her patience, and her wicked sense of humour are all enviable traits she brings to undergraduate advising. Whether students missed the deadline to register for my class, need to be squeezed in somehow, or I have a question about teaching requirements, Mary is the first person I go to and I always finds a solution. Despite the line-up that often appears outside her door she always makes time for instructors and never seems to get tired of us (although I am sure she does!)

    Marcie Whitecotton-Carroll:

    The patron saint of all things tech, Marcie makes sure my Moodle is running, my spreadsheets are working, and my email functioning. I can’t recall the number of genuinely stupid questions I have asked Marcie and all of them have been answered promptly and without even a hint of exasperation. She even answers questions on her days off! As classrooms are involving ever more technology, Marcie is an indispensable recourse to make sure that I can at least pretend to know what I am doing . . . .

    Ashley Dryburgh

  3. Kathleen Lowrey says:

    Erin Plume is officially our “Undergraduate Programs Administrator” but she is also the person who sits at the departmental front desk, answers the phones, and handles all initial inquiries: from students, faculty, and the general public. For an Anthropology Department, these inquiries can range from exciting to peculiar (somebody found something weird in their backyard, basement, or attic and wants to know if any of our faculty would like to have a look at it). She has the perfect personality for the job: warm, friendly, and unflappable. With regard to her official duties, it doesn’t hurt that she is hyper-competent. Students and faculty alike find figuring out the latest bureaucratic changes hard to keep up with – or we would, if we couldn’t just ask Erin. She either knows the answer, or will find it for you within the day if she doesn’t.

    On top of handling the diverse day-to-day concerns of students, faculty, and the public, Erin and her non-academic staff colleagues in the Anthropology Department do vital work about which no consultant will ever ask. Graduate and undergraduate students come into and out of the department according to academic and degree schedules; faculty have staggered patterns of fieldwork and teaching and research; people graduate, retire, take leaves. It’s the non-academic staff of the department that make the unpaid, never officially described or recognized, effort of creating an accessible community around these constraints. They plan the office holiday party, they put up pumpkin pictures at Halloween and leprechaun decorations on St. Patrick’s Day, they organize the sending of congratulations when somebody has a baby and of condolences when somebody loses a loved one. These are things that can’t be quantified, or turned into “measurables”, but without which the Department of Anthropology will be a lesser place: for students, for faculty, and for the larger University and Alberta community.

  4. corrinne harol says:

    Kim “Heart of Gold/Brains of Steel” Brown

    Kim has been grad administrator in English and Film Studies for 17 years. She knows all the students by name, and though she maintains totally up-to-date paper files and an extensive database of everything related to them, she appears to retain and process all the information in her head. “Hey Kim, how many second year PhD Students are teaching on Tuesday and Thursdays?” I might ask. In a nanosecond, while glancing casually at list of students, she’ll produce an answer. “Which third year students still need to do their candidacies?” Whatever it is, Kim knows the answer. But where she really shines is figuring out how to get the students money, how to facilitate their programs, and how to help them negotiate FGSR bureaucracy to their advantage. “I think we can make it work” and “It’s been done before,” are her usual responses to student needs. She has to train a new Grad Chair every three years, and she is a tough boss to work for: no award goes un-nominated, no form goes unchecked, no student request goes unconsidered. She has been known to work on New Years day getting admission files ready; to check herself out of the hospital to process grant applications; and to call from the roadside to make sure a graduate student writing exams has fresh water. The Department of EFS, as a result, has one of the best-funded and most successful graduate programs in the University. What would it be without Kim?

  5. Christine Stewart says:

    The English and Film Studies Administration Staff

    When I first came to English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta from the University of British Columbia for a job interview in 2007, I was immediately taken with the Administrative Staff. Not only was Marcie Whitecotton-Carroll warm and cheerful as she helped me set up for my talk, two women down the hall gave me something in a can to spray on my woolen leggings to stop my skirt climbing up on to my lap. No one, they observed, had told me about static cling. And it was true, nobody had—I was from Vancouver, and I was unprepared. These women, as it turned out, were Kim Brown, Graduate Programs Administrator, and Mary Marshall Durrell, Undergraduate Advisor. And in the 4.5 years that I have now spent in the Department, this culture of kindness, and support has never wavered. Here, at EFS, the Administrative Staff is the backbone, the sense of humor and the soul of the place. From Marcie, our Technical Resources Coordinator, who gives us vital technological support and who has made me feel at home here from day one and without whom I would be lost (and locked out), to Kim and Mary, their sense of humor and their integral and unflagging support of faculty and students, to Kris Calhoun, Assistant Chair, who is the cornerstone of this the place, and has always generously supported me and my ideas—no matter how far-out they might be—, to Liz Kuiken, Classroom Resource Manager, who runs the Salter Reading Room, orders our books and once told me a story that I will never forget about driving south at dawn under a sky of Canadian Geese, to Linda Thompson who works the front desk, knows everything about mushrooms and always wears something beautifully orange or green just when it is necessary, to Shari Kasinec who skillfully and kindly helps me navigate the complexities of the reimbursement form, to our Operations Manager, Sue Henry who has generously helped me beyond measure in my darkest SSHRC hours, to Carolyn Laverdiere who knows the hidden truth of the Xerox machine and has a computer that mews, and to Robbie Zopf, who is the Executive Assistant to the Chair, but who also cheerfully organizes our endless receptions and worries about recycling—these are the people that make our Department work. And while this list comes nowhere near (not even close) to describing the work that the Administrative Staff does, and the invaluable support they provide (that allows us to do the work we do), it is an attempt to express how deeply appreciated they are—for the work they do, and for the people they are.

  6. Laurie Adkin says:

    We went through an extensive exercize in 2007-2008 called “A Critical Dialogue in the Arts for the 21st Century.” The Critical Dialogue task force’s report is available on the Arts Faculty website at: http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/artsdialogue_31/pdfs/Final%20Report%20Electronic.pdf.

    It spoke to the role of Arts in the university and wider society, and made specific recommendations, including (ironically):

on external 
 university” (30).

  7. Julie Rak says:

    More about staff. I want to shout out for our hard-working computer support staff in the Faculty, especially David and Chee-Ling. I couldn’t keep my computer running without them. One of them who is no longer here, Colin, used to go to the house of one of our Ph.D students in the English and Film Studies department to service her computer, because that student is quadraplegic. He did this for free, on his own time.

    That’s commitment.

    • Laurie Adkin says:

      I echo Julie’s comments about David and Chee-Ling in the Arts technical services group–also Giovanni. All very helpful to staff.

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