People of Arts: Sandy Lapsky

A Leader with Unparalleled Benevolence and Empathy




Department of Geography

Summary of your role:
I’ve been an administrator in the Geography department since 1989.  That is the best job ever and I was able to say I love my job every day.

Journey at UBC:
After graduating with a BA in English in 1980, I didn’t have any idea of what to do so I thought I would apply for a job at UBC.  I successfully got a position in the main office and moved from that to grad secretary, head secretary and became Administrator by 1989.  I loved working in Geography and was lucky enough to work for amazing Heads of  the department.  There was a vibrant community, I was young, and there were opportunities to make friends and have fun.  No matter what happened in my non-work life, I felt loved in Geography. 


What is the best thing about your work? 

I wanted a job where I would be working with people and being of service.  As the Administrator and working with wonderful Heads, I felt I was given the autonomy and confidence to do my job and make the department a great place to work.

What is a project or work achievement you are most proud of? Why?

The project that I have the fondest memory of and where I remember having much fun was in 1992 when Geography hosted the CAG conference (Canadian Association of Geographers) attended by about 500 people.  We had a fantastic organizing committee of hard-working and creative people, and we did everything ourselves – we handled the registration, we recruited volunteers, we had beautiful T-shirts made, we organized all the activities, we went out and bought donuts for coffee breaks, and we had karaoke at the conference dinner too.  So fun!


What is your fondest memory at UBC?

My favourite memories included playing hockey with staff, faculty and students on Friday afternoons.  I had never skated, having grown up in Hong Kong, but I wanted to play on this team, so I learned how to skate, and Dr. Robinson was kind enough to practice hockey with me.  I attended hockey school one summer and was the only girl in the camp.  It was difficult for me to keep up, but most people were accommodating and generous, and I loved the attention.  Contrasting this with a women’s hockey camp that I took once but found that much too aggressive.  After being boarded several times and being checked much too hard, I decided the camp was not for me.  So many fond memories of skiing with grad students, playing board games with staff, dancing with the faculty… Ah, to be young again…


Any advice for new staff?

Everyone has their own style and personality, and we all have to find our way.  As a manager, I would say look for strengths in other people and give lots of encouragement.

Messages of Gratitude from her colleagues

“It has been an absolute privilege and a joy working with Sandy Lapsky over the past 11 years. Whether through unprecedented times or the ordinary day-to-day, she consistently prioritized the well-being of her staff with unparalleled benevolence and empathetic leadership. I will miss walking into her office and being welcomed by her lovely, approachable smile, but am excited for her as she embarks on her next chapter. I, Connie Cheung, hope she enjoys every moment of her next adventure!”
Assistant to Head

“Sandy Lapsky is one of the hardest working staff members and you can often find her replying to emails after work hours and on weekends and holidays. The door to her office is always open to anyone who has questions, and she is a very supportive and kindhearted Administrator. I am sure everyone in the department will miss her very much!”
Student Services Coordinator

“Sandy is amazing at everything she does. She is dedicated to her job, but also people’s personal successes. And she seems to have boundless kindness and generosity. This department wouldn’t be the same without her. We wouldn’t have the same level of staff satisfaction. We wouldn’t see the line ups in front of the administrator’s office to talk about things we probably don’t need to discuss with her, but we want to because she is so welcoming and supportive. We wouldn’t have the same level of respect around campus because Sandy is so kind, knowledgeable and dedicated. When I was offered an interview in 2010 with the department, I told my mother. She was speaking to a neighbour in Kelowna about my potential new job and the neighbour remarked: “UBC Geography? That’s where Sandy Lapsky works!” This person didn’t remember our department for its well-publicized, academic superstars, but for Sandy Lapsky – a UBC staff member. Her reputation preceded her, but she exceeded expectations. I was lucky to get the position and grateful for the opportunity to work with her ever since.”
Undergraduate Advisor