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June 01, 2008

Glad to be an SFU Alumni

I've become pretty good at this, I said to Lisa as we were chowing down on free food at the SFU Theatre on Saturday afternoon. Although, it was her suggestion that we go because a friend was running for the SFU Board of Governor's and it was voting day. Free stuff. Finding free stuff to do, that's what I meant I've become really good at.

The event coincided with SFU's Open House and part of that also included an Alumni event in which if you showed up at the Board of Governor's meeting, you would be treated to lunch and an Improv Comedy performance afterwards.
I hadn't been up to SFU for a very long time and it was impressive to see how much it has grown in terms of new and interesting buildings.

I have to say that I am glad to be an SFU Alumni. Although I worked at UBC for many years, on and off, I went to SFU as an undergrad and I have no qualms saying that I have always felt that SFU, overall, is the more progressive university.

Why do I feel this? It was first to have a downtown campus. It's now going to house its School of Contemporary Arts in the old Woodwards' building in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. It just seems to me that it has always tried to remain true to its more radical history within its vision. And it seems to be able to react faster than UBC when it comes to capitalizing on new opportunities. I think about the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at the Surrey Campus. I think about the Writing and Publishing programs.

Maybe I'm biased but I don't think so. I liked working at UBC, especially in Computer Science. It was a great place and a great experience and as a result of all my time at UBC, I don't think I am biased. If anything, I should be biased in the other direction, towards UBC. Afterall, they paid my rent for many years thanks to a regular paycheque,and I made great friends there.

As I was driving up the hill, yesterday, I thought about my time at SFU and a feeling of sadness came over me briefly. Having attended university right out of highschool, I really know now just how badly I handled the whole experience by not getting involved. I'm one of those people who is now a firm believer that you shouldn't even really be allowed to go to university right out of highschool. You should travel. You should work for a year. And, only when you can articulate why you really want to be there, as opposed to doing something else, should you go.

Right out of high school I felt intimidated by the whole experience and in hindsight, it's quite amazing to me that I managed to complete my degree at all. Talk to a professor? Oh my God. I couldn't imagine that. My father didn't even finish high school. I couldn't talk to a professor back then. Like every experience, you get out of it what you put into it.

But, what's that saying? When you know better, you do better!

So, it really impresses me now that a friend's daughter, Courtney, has done such an amazing job at researching universities. She's about to graduate and she has been to the prospective student events at the University of Victoria. She's flown with a friend to the University of Alberta to compare that to the University of Victoria. I assume she's done her research into SFU and UBC. She's contacted the field hockey coaches about how to get on the teams. She's applied for bursaries and scholarships. I'm totally blown away by her choosing to control her destiny and make an informed decision about her future.

My friends, her parents, have obviously done a great job in guiding her, and, it's not because either one experienced university firsthand. It's because they understand that as parents it's their role to be "mentors", to create a dialogue around "options" and to remain as neutral as possible about the outcome.

Are you glad you made the decisions you made about your education or career choices? What would you do differently, if anything at all?

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