Dr. Elizabeth Worobec served as the Dean of Science and Horticulture from Sept. 21, 2012 to Feb. 18, 2022 at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She supported the launch of seven new degrees and two diploma programs and the renovation and construction of numerous teaching and research labs, including the Brewing program and the research and teaching farm in Richmond.
To honour her work and celebrate International Women’s Day this year, the KPU Brewing program named a beer after her called “Betty Boots.”
For almost 25 years, Worobec held various positions at the University of Manitoba, including an Assistant Professor in Microbiology, Associate Professor, Assistant Head of Microbiology and Associate Dean of Science (Student Affairs), as well as the Director of University 1, a unit overseeing student academic support for first-year students there.
Worobec also helped bring the national science awareness festival called Science Rendezvous to KPU, which expanded from 500 visitors during the initial opening in 2013 to over 4,000 in 2019.
Now, Worobec plans to travel and spend her time volunteering and giving back to the community as much as she can.
When did you join the KPU community, and why?
I started in September of 2012 in the Dean of Science and Horticulture position. I came to KPU from the University of Manitoba, a large university with tens of thousands of students.
I was interested in KPU because I had done my undergraduate work at the University of Winnipeg, which is a small liberal arts university, much smaller than KPU, and I liked the idea of KPU being a small university. Also that it was a fairly new university, and our faculty was just put together and starting to develop new programs. So that’s really what attracted me, the small student-centred university versus the large one, and being part of something brand new.
Of course, living on the west coast coming from Winnipeg also attracted me. I had done my post-doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia, so I lived in Vancouver in the West End for a few years and I wanted to come back at some point. So all the stars aligned.
What is your favourite story of your time at KPU?
The year 2019 was sort of a banner year. When I first joined KPU in 2013, myself and my assistant at that time put on, for the very first time, Science Rendezvous, a national science awareness event to get young people curious but also comfortable with coming to a university and being drawn towards the sciences.
The first time we ran it, there was only the Faculty of Science and Horticulture. We opened up the labs and had all kinds of hands-on activities, and we had 500 people join and come to see us and spend the day.
Year after year, we started to expand, and in 2019 we had close to 4,000 people come for the day, and we had every faculty at KPU participating with hands-on activities and demonstrations. The entire courtyard at Langley campus was full of tents and people.
To me, that was wonderful, to take something small and expand it that much, and expand it not only in the community but also within KPU. This year it’s going to be virtual, but I’m pretty sure next year it’ll be at campus and it’ll have thousands of people again.
That was also the year when KPU’s brewery was named the B.C. Brewery of the Year, and the Brewing Program was again given the prize of being the top brewing school of all of North America. Being part of both of those made me very happy and proud of all the people that I’ve worked with in our programs.
What is something you’d like to say to people new to the community?
Well KPU is like a big family, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a good-sized university, but it runs like a small university, and that might have something to do with the different campuses.
All the faculties get along very well, which is quite unusual when you think about other universities. There’s all kinds of collaborations, and people are willing to help, so anyone new just has to reach out, and there’ll be someone there to guide and help them on their way.
And right up to the president, he’s happy to chat with anybody and help out, and I see that with the students too. They look happy walking through the hallways, and kudos to KPU for that, because that’s also pretty rare as far as universities go the friendly atmosphere and collegiality.
What are you working on right now?
One of the things that I was planning to do when I retire is to travel, so right now, I’m planning a number of trips for myself and my husband. We’re going to Australia in the first week of April. One of my daughters lives there, so I’m excited about that. And a couple of other trips, so that’s one thing I’m looking forward to.
I will eventually volunteer, and I’ve certainly put my name out to the KPU folks if they ever need someone to help out at open houses or any other event. I’m happy to do that, but I don’t have anything right now in particular. I have had many people give me advice, and the advice is, “Don’t rush into anything, don’t overcommit,” and the first year many people say, “Don’t do anything, just try a few things and see what you like right.” So I’m excited to do that.
There are many things I would love to volunteer with, like our local newspapers. I volunteered at a food bank before, I liked that. Anything like driving community groups or anything to do with education I’m interested in. I’m happy to participate and excited to do those things.
What is something you would like people to know about you?
When I started as a faculty member at the University of Manitoba, I ran a pretty vibrant research program in infectious diseases. In particular, I was studying antibiotic resistance in bacteria, but I was also doing vaccine development. My course was part of the pharmacy program. So all these COVID-19 things, with the vaccines and the treatments, is so interesting to me and I just wish I was teaching because that is a teacher’s dream, to come in every day and talk about the new developments.