University of the Fraser Valley

Staff Excellence 2024: Sheila McKay brings UFV together

Staff Excellence 2024: Sheila McKay brings UFV together

Sheila McKay has spent 18 years at UFV sewing togetherness with the threads of community, connection, and belonging. Before she was a staff member she enrolled as a student in 1988, studying early childhood education with the dream of becoming a teacher. After two professors encouraged her to apply for a job here, Sheila tried her hand at many different departments – including Financial Aid, the bookstore, the Career Centre, and the mail room – before landing in what was then known as Student Life.

It was there she found her passion for event planning and student engagement. As a Student Transition and Engagement Coordinator in the newly renamed Student Experience Office, she now champions a variety of initiatives like Get Involved UFV and the Campus Engagement Expo while providing support for Orientation and student clubs and associations.

It is for this incredible commitment to serving and helping students that Sheila is being recognized as the UFV Staff Excellence award recipient for 2024.

“Students, staff, and faculty are always coming into the office looking for Sheila,” shares Hillary Rowe, a fellow Student Transition and Engagement Coordinator. “They want her help finding the perfect space, or advice on how to recruit volunteers, or her support on an upcoming student-facing event – or even just someone they know will be there to listen and comfort them when they’re struggling with a challenge. Everybody knows Sheila, and Sheila helps everybody.”

After years of service, Sheila never stops learning. She works toward Indigenization by taking classes, attending events, and building relationships with members of the Sto:lo First Nation. She’ll cross the stage this summer with her long-awaited Bachelor of Arts degree. Sheila’s always taking in a new podcast, webinar or book to broaden her perspective; she shares what she’s learned with her teammates, and applies it to her work to make the Student Experience Office a safer, more inclusive space for all.

“She has played an instrumental role in the internationalization and Indigenization of our departmental hiring practices and procedures,” Hillary continues. “She considers how people of all abilities – both physical and neurodiverse – can engage in her programming.”

Sheila’s known for making magic happen – by stretching a penny into a nickel to make an event come to life, or making space for 1,000 hungry students at the last moment when other venues fall through. With her bright ideas and her knack for creative problem solving, she’s the one people come to when they’ve got the will, but don’t know the way.

“It is difficult to have a conversation with Sheila without her having a lightbulb moment, one that sparks a new idea or plan to engage students,” says her supervisor and Associate Director of Student Affairs, Bryanna Anderson. “Sheila approaches situations with openness and integrity, upholding her values even when stakes are high or challenges arise.”

Her love for community building keeps Sheila coming back. “My joy is increased by being able to provide opportunities for others to make connections, and I’m so thankful that I get to do this in my work,” she explains. “It is a part of who I am, and being able to do this in my work is so amazing.”