Nobody appointed Leah Whitehouse to a leadership role at the University of the Fraser Valley. She just came to it naturally. And for the leadership and initiative she has shown in creating community at UFV’s Trades and Technology Centre, she is a recipient of the UFV Leadership award for 2020.
Leah’s official job is cashier in the cafeteria run by UFV’s Culinary Arts program on the Chilliwack campus.
But she’s also the eyes, ears, and heart of the TTC.
Leah Whitehouse acceptance video
She gets to know most of the trades students as they shuffle through the lineup with their fries or sandwich of the day. She doesn’t just ring in their purchase; she asks how they are and really listens.
She knows that many of them face financial struggles, or have a hard time balancing school, part-time work and family.
And she’s made it her business to make sure they know about the resources available to them. Although she maintains a professional manner and never probes, her reputation for caring means that students will seek her out to share their problems.
She’s always there with a sympathetic ear and a list of UFV contacts and resources right at her cashier’s station, so that she can steer them towards the appropriate university resource, whether it’s counselling, the UFV Food Bank, financial aid, or academic advising.
Leah has also initiated projects to help students, such as the Trades Tree, a drop-off station for winter coats, and used tools and work-related gear.
She also brings her energy and spirit to work with her every day and shares it with others.
“She encourages faculty and students, whether passing along overheard accolades, planning social events, or just listening deeply and emphatically while she is working,” reports electronics professor Joel Feenstra, who nominated Leah for the award.
Leah has worked the cashier station at TTC since 2013, after serving as a janitor and bookstore clerk. She started with UFV in 2000. She says it’s important to her to serve students and employees as best as she can.
“I try get to know the students, staff and faculty. I do care how my customers are doing and if there are issues I can help with in any way I will, or direct them to UFV’S great resources.”
It’s the students who inspire Leah.
“The students why we are here! They give our buildings so much life! You sure can see that now with the COVID-19 distancing that we are having! Miss them all very much and hope everyone is safe! My love for the students and my job and UFV is what inspires me! I love the ‘family’ feel of UFV. I decided to start the Trades Tree of Compassion because I was seeing students pass by the cafe and not eat and I couldn’t stand to watch that happen if we could help.”
Leah says she’s honoured to receive the leadership award but wants to share the glory.
“I am among many at Trades that go above and beyond for our students! I love to inspire others to take the time with the students and get to know their stories. They have so much to offer, like innovative ideas on how we can improve the student experience. I will continue to work hard and give 100% in everything I do at UFV!”