Dr. Sue Brigden has been appointed as the Dean of the Faculty of Access and Open Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, a role she has been acting in since September of 2010.
Comprised of the Continuing Studies, English as a Second Language, and Upgrading and University Preparation departments, as well as Aboriginal Access, Assessment Services, and Open Studies, the programs and services housed in Access and Open Studies help students of all backgrounds meet their personal, educational, and career goals.
Brigden joined UFV as an instructor in the Upgrading and University Preparation (UUP) department in 1999, and became department head of UUP in 2005. During her time at UFV, she has also served as acting director of Assessment Services, and coordinator of a number of UFV and external special projects and assignments, including ones focusing on topics such as assessment services , computers for elder learning, provincial prior learning assessment for adult basic education, adult basic education in the Fraser Valley, flexible assessment for increased post-secondary access, and resources available in the Chilliwack area for adults with disabilities.
“Both UFV and the Fraser Valley are fortunate to have in this position a person with Sue’s skills and absolute commitment to access, to supporting non-traditional and first-generation university students,” said Dr. Eric Davis, UFV Vice President, Academic.
Brigden has a Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, and a PhD, all earned at the University of British Columbia.
She started her career as a secondary school teacher in Lytton. While a grad student and Assistant Director of the Centre for Applied Studies in Evaluation, she worked on several large-scale provincial, national, and international research projects affiliated with the BC Ministry of Education and the University of British Columbia before joining UFV. Brigden says she’s excited about continuing to lead the Faculty of Access and Open Studies and happy to have been given the mandate to do so on a permanent basis.
“I never aspired to be an administrator or dean earlier in my career, but I came to realize that I have an understanding of the kinds of students we serve in this faculty through the experiences I have gained in my teaching and research,” she said. “Throughout my life, there have been people who have identified strengths and talents in me that I never knew I had and have given me opportunities to develop others. Now I try to do that for others. In our area, we work with students to help them identify strengths and talents that they may not know they have.”
‘It’s not always a straight and narrow path through post-secondary for all students,” she added. “Some drop out, or take a break, or have to overcome unexpected obstacles. Success isn’t just measured by how many degrees we earn. Some people are here to finish up high school courses to be an example for their children. Some need to come back to school because their jobs have disappeared. Others come back to test the waters and then realize ‘hey, I can do this!’ and go on to successes they’d never imagined. It is satisfying in so many ways to work with these students.”The areas that fall under Brigden’s portfolio are all concerned with providing access to post-secondary education. Upgrading and University Preparation helps students upgrade their skills and prepare for further university-level courses. English as a Second Language helps students gain the English skills needed to succeed at work, in the community, and in university-level courses. Continuing Studies provides a range of career-related courses and programs, mostly non-credit, for adult learners.
The Open Studies part of her faculty is responsible for the 4,000 or so UFV students who are not yet formally part of a UFV program, but are enrolled in “program paths” with the goal exploring options and eventually being accepted into a program.
“These 4,000 students need a home where their progress can be monitored and they can get support,” she says. “These students are often in the midst of a life transition and come from a background where nobody in their family has university experience. If they are not monitored, they can make decisions that end up with unintended consequences. We want to provide the support they need.”
One of Brigden’s goals is to help ensure that students in the upgrading areas are well prepared to be successful in the programs in which they wish to enroll.
“We need to ensure that they realize that if they don’t take certain preparatory courses, they may not be successful in the programs they want to get into,” she says. “We will continue to be an access-oriented university dedicated to helping all students reach their goals, but we want to help them become focused early in their time with us and really primed to succeed. Our goal is to ensure that students are not’ floating’ around without clear educational goals because they do not know how to get the information and guidance they need. We in Access and Open Studies will continue to work with the ‘receiving’ departments to identify what students need to gain access to and succeed in their programs of choice, so we can develop and provide the necessary programs and supports.”
Brigden was appointed to the dean role on a permanent basis in December.