There are more than 5,500 employees at Dalhousie. They come from different places, different backgrounds and bring different perspectives to help support teaching, research and operations at the university.
And they’re the biggest reason that Dalhousie was just named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers – the first ever Atlantic Canadian university to make the list and only one of four universities in the country.
The recognition comes from the annual report of employers published in the Globe and Mail. Dalhousie received ‘A’ or ‘A+’ ratings in the categories of ‘Physical Workplace,’ ‘Financial Benefits and Compensation,’ ‘Health & Family-Friendly Benefits,’ ‘Training & Skills Development’ and ‘Community Involvement.’
In a memo to the Dal community, President Tom Traves highlighted the university’s accomplishments in recent years—from the increase in faculty research awards to the success of the Bold Ambitions campaign to date —and saluted the employees who made them possible.
“To earn this distinction, we required a special workplace for terrific employees doing a great job,” he said. “Dalhousie’s award was truly earned by every member of our community.”
Striving for inclusion and support
And every member of that community has his or her own reasons for working at Dal.
Monica Baccardax has been with the Faculty of Medicine for 33 years, and is now a project manager with MedIT. She’s not only worked with various departments at the medical school, but her role supporting recruitment and campaigning for Dalhousie’s United Way effort has introduced her to many other community-minded staffers across the university.
“It’s a great way to learn more about what’s going on at Dalhousie, while also making a difference, even if indirectly,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what faculty you’re in, there’s a community here. We’re all doing different work, but our goals are the same.”
Bill Gilbert, a working foreman with Custodial Services, also believes in the power of an inclusive community. Along with evening custodial supervisors Cindy Murphy and Juanita Haas, he spearheaded the “Respect” campaign within Facilities Management, encouraging employees to wear pink buttons and pink gloves to reinforce that everyone and their ideas, skills and thoughts should be treated fairly.
“I find that if you put a hand out here, you get two in return,” says Mr. Gilbert, who has been with Dalhousie for four years. He says his work has been encouraged both by his own leaders as well as other leaders on campus, and he hopes to continue to see it expand in the future.
“I feel like Dalhousie supports and gives latitude to those who want to make a difference….I’ve worked for a lot of huge organizations in my life, but I’ve never encountered a more supportive employer.”
Passion for teaching
For those on the front lines of Dal’s teaching and research, supporting both students and colleagues is a key part of being a university employee.
“I think Dalhousie blends the best of big and small university environments,” says Srini Sampalli, professor with the Faculty of Computer Science, noting what he perceives as a true sense of collegiality on campus. “What is remarkable is that the university has a rich research culture as well as student-centered learning.”
And for Dr. Sampalli it’s the student experience, first and foremost, that keeps him excited about coming to work each morning.
“I’m very passionate about teaching. I believe students are the reason we’re here, and I feel privileged to get to teach and work with students…. It’s like that Chinese saying, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ And I feel like I chose a job I love.”
Setting a standard
Katherine Sheehan, assistant vice-president of Human Resources, is quick to credit the entire Dal community for helping make the Top 100 recognition possible. In particular, she’s thankful for the staff across various departments and offices who were involved in preparing materials during the application process.
She adds that while being named one of the best employers in Canada is a source of pride for Dalhousie, it’s also something of a challenge.
“This symbolizes that we’re a workplace that attracts and supports excellent people – and it means we have to continue to live up to that standard,” she says, noting that the forthcoming release of the latest workplace survey (scheduled for October 17) will provide more insight into how Dalhousie can continue to improve as an employer.
“No workplace is without its issues, and I’m sure our employees will—and should—point to this award as something to hold us accountable to.”
After all, she says, the sort of accomplishments cited by Dr. Traves can only happen if there is a community of employees to help achieve them.
“On their behalf, we’re committed to earning this distinction every day.”