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‘Concordia has grown so much’: a celebration of long-serving staff and faculty

Stephanie Russ and Christopher Trueman share the wisdom of their many years at the university
November 25, 2014
By Theresa Knowles and Tom Peacock

A university is defined by the quality and commitment of its people. This is why, in the weeks leading up to the Long Service and Retirees Luncheon, we are profiling some of this year’s honourees. The aim is to share a glimpse of the rich knowledge and diverse professional backgrounds at Concordia.

On December 4, Concordia is recognizing 200 employees who have reached the 20-, 25-, 30-, 35-, 40- and 45-year milestones in their careers, alongside a further 100 staff and faculty members who retired in 2013.

The annual Long Service and Retirees Luncheon is a time when the Concordia community comes together to honour these dedicated colleagues, and to acknowledge their many years of service, loyalty to the institution and deep commitment to its values.

Concordia is proud to honour the people who helped make it the great institution it is today — particularly as it marks its 40th anniversary.

Stephanie Russ: ‘Students bring so much’

Part-time instructor in the Print Media program
20 years at Concordia

Stephanie Russ started her Concordia career in 1994, as a print media technician — a position she ultimately replaced with teaching. 

Twenty years on, Print Media instructor Stephanie Russ finds that her field is “a lot more vibrant now.” Twenty years on, Print Media instructor Stephanie Russ finds that her field is “a lot more vibrant now.” | Photo by Concordia University

Russ addressed her first class in the spring of 1995, and has been working as a part-time instructor in the Faculty of Fine Arts ever since. She currently teaches screen printing and digital printing, as well as lithography.

Russ is no stranger to evolution: a lot has changed at Concordia in the last 20 years. For one thing, she remembers when the first computers were set up in her office.

At the time, Russ said she didn’t mind doing the budget by hand and wouldn’t need a computer. Now she can’t imagine life without one.

Change can inspire art, she says. “We have traditional techniques, like working off limestone, but then we also have very new ones — like the integration of digital ink-jet images.” 

The instructor finds that the whole definition of print has become much more inclusive of other media. She cites the combination of video and performance art with printed images as an example.

“It’s a lot more vibrant right now,” Russ says. “It’s really a great area to be in.”

Another transformation came about a decade ago, when Russ moved from the Visual Arts Building on René Lévesque Boulevard West to the ninth floor of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV). There, she discovered “beautiful state-of-the-art facilities and an amazing view.” 

Russ sees the value of innovation in her work as a teacher. A favourite part of the job is watching her students’ creations take shape.

“Students bring so much,” she says. “They have a fresh way of looking at things. They come with fresh eyes and fresh ideas and a fresh view of the world.”

Christopher Trueman: ‘Teaching is the best part of my job’

Associate dean of Academic Affairs, Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science
40 years at Concordia

In the past four decades Christopher Trueman, associate dean of Academic Affairs for the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, feels like he’s seen it all. 

“Concordia has grown so much in the years that I have been here,” he says. ”We have more programs, more rules, more administration, more complexity and a great many more students.”

Chris Trueman, who has been at Concordia for 40 years: “I love it when a student succeeds.” Chris Trueman, who has been at Concordia for 40 years: “I love it when a student succeeds.” Photo by David Ward

The internet, laptop computers and smart phones have also altered the way students learn, but for Trueman, the fundamentals remain the same. “It is a very different environment than it was — yet it is still possible to get to know individual students. ”

Indeed, the individual connections he makes at the university are what keep Trueman going. He currently collaborates with the dean, department chairs and staff to ensure that full- and part-time faculty members and teaching assistants have the tools they need to succeed.

Trueman’s mandate also involves assisting staff members from Student Academic Services in helping to resolve problems so that students can get ahead in their programs and graduate. This work is a constant source of engagement and pride.

“I love it when a student succeeds, in spite of what seemed a great problem, and then graduates and starts on a career,” Trueman says. “Many are kind enough to come back to thank us!”

His own career has taken on many different shapes, and his passions have evolved over the years. “Twenty years ago, I enjoyed research projects closely involved with industry and government, where I could apply my professional skills to real-world problems that made a difference. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed my administrative role.”

After 40 dedicated years, Trueman understands the pressures faced by his fellow faculty members. He recommends a measured approach.

“Divide your time carefully between teaching and research to establish a good balance,” he says. ”In research, take on a graduate student to assist you as early as possible, and focus on conference and journal papers to build up your credibility in applying for external funding. Good teaching is worth the time invested, and your students will reward you with their appreciation.”

Overall, what has proved most gratifying about Trueman’s time at Concordia? He doesn’t hesitate: “My most rewarding experience has been teaching classes and working with individual students who are passionate about their education.”

Long Service and Retirees Luncheon takes place on December 4, 2014. Watch for more profiles and stories about the 2014 long Long Service and Retirees Luncheon in the coming weeks.

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