Inspirational Leadership award: Leadership comes naturally to Leah Whitehouse

Leah Whitehouse beside her cashier station in the Culinary Arts cafeteria in the Trades and Tech Centre at UFV. She’s missing her customers these days as the centre is closed due to COVID-19 but has cheerfully accepted redeployment to other work.

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 Whitehouse

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!”



3 Responses to Inspirational Leadership award: Leadership comes naturally to Leah Whitehouse

  1. Margeurite Gibson May 19, 2020 at 8:52 am #

    Our beautiful daughter……I am so very proud of her and what she has accomplished at UFV. She truly is an inspiration and a genuinely compassionate person who is always looking out for the students she interacts with. Each time I went to have lunch at the Culinary Department’s cafe, I would observe how caring and friendly she was with everyone who went through her till, and the camaraderie she had with staff members as well. Leah is a true demonstration showing how it’s not necessarily about the education a person has received in their lifetime that makes them great, but more about the inner soul a person possesses, and the integrity and kindness she constantly demonstrates easily and honestly. This is a young woman who has always shown love and respect for all individuals and continues to enthusiastically enjoy new experiences that usually benefit others around her and in her life. Leah is completely deserving of this award, and I am extremely grateful that the University has recognized our daughter for the beautiful young woman she is and for the warm and caring heart that she possesses within her soul. I am a very proud mom. ❤️❤️

    • Anne Russell May 20, 2020 at 9:39 pm #

      We like her too! Thanks for your response. You raised a good one!

  2. Leona May 20, 2020 at 8:32 pm #

    Congratulations Leah! That’s awesome.