What Goes Around Comes Around

UAlberta Law Prizes and Awards Coordinator Gloria Strathern wins prestigious peer-nominated support award

Brea Elford - 03 January 2018

The sky is still black as Gloria Strathern starts up her two computer monitors and begins the herculean task of sifting through her emails. On one side of her office is a filing cabinet, home to a vast collection of handwritten cards she's amassed from 14 years with the University of Alberta Faculty of Law.

Her open office door has been a permanent fixture during her tenure, as has been the constant rotation of student, staff and faculty visitors. This is why few who know her are surprised she won one of the University of Alberta Annual Support Staff Recognition Awards, a prestigious peer-nominated award given to only three people every year.

As the Prizes and Awards Coordinator for UAlberta Law, one of Strathern's primary objectives is finding ways to distribute and assess awards and "putting them in the hands of deserving students, whatever that entails," she said.

Strathern understands the Faculty cohorts are generally older, and come from a variety of circumstances - single parenthood, international backgrounds, low-income households - meaning financial and emotional support from her and other staff members are vital to their success.

"When I see that we have resources or information at our disposal that can have a profound impact at the right moment for a student, that's valuable," said Strathern.

Born and raised in Edmonton, Strathern's adapted many times throughout her career. Her first job as a computer operator in the private sector (where she met her now-husband) was exciting and fast-paced, but after an economic crash in the 1980s, she decided she needed a more stable job to support her family. This led to a position at the university and eventually - after over a decade off work to raise her two children - a job at UAlberta Law.

The recipients of university support staff awards are chosen via a selection committee who select the winners after reading the submitted applications and testimonials and interviewing the nominees. As far as Strathern was concerned, just being nominated was a big honour.

"We really work hard and sometimes you'll think: that was a lot of work or time away from my family. And then to read the testimonials, particularly from the students, all of a sudden you see it mattered to them. It made it all very worthwhile," said Strathern.

Now, at 57, Strathern's kids are grown and she's taking time to travel with her husband - Europe is on their list. But that doesn't mean her time at the Faculty is done.

"Things never stop evolving and changing here, and I think that's what keeps it fresh," she said.

"As difficult as it is to hear people say nice things about me - it can feel awkward - I appreciate it. As the Vice Dean Moin Yahya said to me, "just enjoy it, Gloria." And that's what I'm going to do."