Staff Perspectives: Ross Sheppard, President’s Staff Award

“I think the role staff play in creating a safe, positive, and welcoming space where students can feel validated and heard is incredibly important… It can make all the difference when students feel supported.”

Congratulations to UBC Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Student Services Manager Ross Sheppard, who has been awarded a President’s Staff Award for Enhancing the UBC Experience! These awards recognize the personal achievements and contributions that staff make to UBC.

At Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ross supports ECE students. He’s been instrumental in improving the ECE student experience, and in his time at the department has spearheaded the creation of onboarding resources and orientations for new students, initiatives to connect the ECE student body with industry, other departments, and other students, student newsletters, and wellness resources.  He’s helped to build a stronger sense of community and connection among students in the department that he hopes can continue to grow, and if you’re a student in our department, you’ve probably seen him at least once!

We spoke to Ross to learn more about his time at ECE, his perspective on Student Services, and why supporting students in Engineering is so important.

Congratulations! How do you feel about this award?

I feel honored to receive this award! It means a lot to me, as I know our team in ECE has done a lot of work over the past few years to try to improve the student experience at ECE. We have lots more still to do, but to be recognized for this award this year has been wonderful and I’m very excited about it!

How did you get started at ECE? How did you get to where you are now? 

I started at ECE at the reception desk many years ago! The part of my job I liked the most was helping students whenever they would come in, and through a few staff openings in the admissions team/graduate program, I entered into more of an advising role. I really enjoyed advising, and this led to an eventual management position. I’m happy to say I enjoy my current work with our student services team more than ever, as we’re taking an active role in supporting and enhancing the experience of our student cohort. The other ECE managers and student services team has played a huge role in supporting me over the years get to where I am now, as well.

What do you like most about working at ECE?

My favourite thing about working in ECE has to be the staff I work alongside of, as well as the many students we see start and finish their programs through the years. I’ve met a lot of very cool people during my time in ECE, doing some awesome work and research. I’ve gotten to learn about a variety of engineering topics through the student interactions I have — during advising, social events, onboarding meetings, etc!

It’s also very satisfying to assist students during milestones in their programs, from basic steps to more challenging moments, and helping them move through to eventually graduate.

What’s important to you about working with students?

Aside from the logistical and procedural parts of a university program that our team helps students with (which is indeed important), the most crucial part about working with students to me is being able to provide a safe and “human” attitude towards their experience, where they feel listened to, and understood and supported.

I remember being a student myself, struggling through a busy program, and dealing with the challenges of transitioning to the university experience. I think the role staff play in creating a safe, positive, and welcoming space where students can feel validated and heard is incredibly important for their time at UBC. It can make all the difference when students feel supported — especially with how challenging an engineering program can be.

What should a student do if they’re looking for support?

If a student is looking for support, I want to reinforce that they can always, always, always email to get in touch with me or our student services team. While this email address may seem robotic, it actually does go right to myself and our staff, and we want to help as much as we can.

We also offer drop-in virtual advising multiple times each week, and I am always happy to meet for one-on-one advising as needed. Students don’t need to be worried about contacting us, as there are truly no questions too small for us to answer, and we are always there to help. In the rare case that we cannot help with certain questions, at the very least we will put a student in touch with the right campus resource that can help best.   

Any tips for a new graduate or undergraduate student in ECE? What resources should they check out?

My biggest tip is, like I mentioned above, ask a question if you’re not sure about something! It’s always better to push through the initial discomfort of asking a question, rather than struggling with something for an extended period of time. Go for it if you’re not sure!

My other major tip is to take part in the social events at ECE, whether they’re casual breakfast socials with other students, workshops, student-led events, industry presentations, etc.  There are so many ways to connect with people that can help in your program and beyond. You can find out about societies and clubs here or here, and can see what interesting events are coming up at Electrical and Computer Engineering here.

Your program at UBC is a great time to meet people and learn new things outside of your classes, and you never know what connections or information might lead you to an awesome and interesting place in your future or trigger an idea you haven’t thought about before. Take advantage of these opportunities when you can. It always helps to hear and learn about other people’s experiences!