2023 Stellar Staff and TA Awards

Each year, Geography faculty, staff and students acknowledge exceptional members of our community who go above and beyond in their roles in the department. With such a talented group of hard-working community members, the task of selecting the awardees is never easy.  

The recipient of the 2023 Stellar Staff Award, which recognizes the quality and dedication of our wonderful team members, is Sandy Lapsky, our long-time head Administrator. With more than three decades of dedicated service to the department and a total of 42 years at UBC, Sandy’s generosity of time and spirit have touched many. Her thoughtfulness, caring and passion for her work shines through in any task or responsibility she takes on, which are plentiful. 

Receiving over 75 nominations collectively from staff, students and faculty, there is resounding support from the Geography community. As the nominating letter states: 

“It is difficult to find the words to capture all of the ways in which Sandy has contributed to the life and work of the department over her many years with us. She has long been the department’s ‘memory’. More importantly, she has also been its conscience. Sandy is the very heart of this place.” 

From Sandy we heard: 

“I am so honoured to receive this award. Early on in my role as administrator, I had wondered what expectations there were of an administrator, how would she dress, how would she interact with members of our community, should she be serious and professional?  I was advised to be serious, to not make friends with those you manage, to dress in professional attire, to be formal.  But I was young then, so I ignored the advice and had a lot of fun.  Community was very important, making people feel comfortable and involved and loved was important, hiring caring staff was important.  Thank you for agreeing with me. Thank you for your encouragement and support.”  

We also wish to acknowledge the outstanding contributions that our Teaching Assistants (TAs) make to uphold the educational integrity of our department and to create a supportive learning environment for undergraduate students. Each year we celebrate two individuals, one physical and one human geographer, whose impacts on the student community stand out. 

Andrea Ku is a recently graduated MSc student whose research areas includes landscapes, geospatial analysis, biodiversity and ecology. Supervised by Dr. Naomi Schwartz, her work focuses particularly on disturbance ecology and the climate effects on disturbance. Andrea is a careful thinker always willing to share her time and insights with others. Her approachable nature and patient support ensured that no students were left behind in her labs.  

“Andrea, without a doubt, has been the best TA I’ve had throughout my UBC journey so far. She really sets the bar high and is always eager to help, easy talk to, respectful and kind,” says a former student. 

PhD candidate Nico Jimenez is at once an outstanding student and teacher. Already an accomplished scholar with publications in high-ranking journals, Nico is described as a “…deft thinker and a conscientious self-starter” by supervisor Dr. Trevor Barnes. A TA in four of Dr. Barnes’ classes, Nico is valued by students for his energetic and dynamic guest lectures, as well as his smile. His generosity, conviviality and openness shines through in his teaching approach.  

“I love teaching because I get to learn with and from our amazing students. I try to develop a classroom culture where students are valued and empowered. Moments in the classroom and office hours are often the highlight of my day. It is a true honour to receive this award, and it is a validation of my passion for teaching and my dream to be a professor one day. As a graduate of this department, I can attest to the amazing teaching that goes on in our halls. I can only hope to do the same and inspire the next generation of geographers,” reflects Nico. 

Please join us in congratulating Sandy, Andrea and Nico in recognition of and gratitude for their substantial contributions to our people and department.