Economics instructor Joan McEachern has been teaching at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for 28 years, while it was still a university-college. She has a degree in computer science from the University of Saskatchewan, as well as a master’s degree in economics from Simon Fraser University.
McEachern is passionate about sports, specifically soccer, and played on the Canadian National Women’s Team from 1987 to 1995. She also played in the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup on team Canada.
With her love of sports, McEachern became the assistant coach for the Kwantlen Eagles women’s soccer team until the varsity program was cut, mainly due to financial costs, in 2015. She has also been inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2009 and was recently inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in the athletics category. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When did you join the KPU community and why?
I started teaching in the fall of 1996. I was teaching at smaller colleges and trying to get a full-time job at a larger school. So, I was interviewed and hired at KPU, while it was still a university-college. I have a master’s degree, so I knew I would not be teaching at a research university. I was hoping there would be a fit for me at one of these institutions. When we became a full-scale university, the number of degrees developed continually increased. We began to change from a commuter school, where students would attend for two years and then transfer, to a destination. More students come to KPU to earn their degree now. With smaller classes you are able to get to know your students, and they get to know you. It is a much more enjoyable and rewarding teaching experience and a much better learning experience. Our department is small as well, so over the years I have also gotten to know my department colleagues. That makes coming to work enjoyable.
What is your favourite story of your time at KPU?
I was the assistant coach of the women’s soccer team at Kwantlen from 2003 until 2015. So I got to know a lot of our students as players. It was always enjoyable being around the players. It was also very special to be with the program for its entirety. I was able to see it go from a program where players might have played a season or two, to where most of our players played for four or five years. There was a player that we recruited and she was 18. She was just finishing high school and played for five years for KPU. Then she joined the coaching staff, so she became a colleague. And then, she actually got a job at KPU, working in the Future Students’ Office. So, she became another colleague in a different sense. A few years later, I was at her wedding when she got married. The teams were always very close, like family, and they were proud to play for KPU. In our early years, we were not successful, but by the time the program ended, we had won two provincial championships and a bronze medal at nationals. I am very proud of the growth and success of KPU’s women’s soccer team.
What is something you’d like to say to students new to the KPU community?
Be engaged, get involved, and be curious. You are probably going to be afraid when you first go, but everyone is, and just try to meet new people and try new things. Your time spent in university is some of the best times in your life, and this is your opportunity to really explore the world and yourself. So, take full advantage of all the great people you are going to meet over the next number of years and opportunities that present themselves.
What are you working on or doing right now?
I most enjoy exposing students to economics and having them realize that economics is everywhere. Students usually come into economics thinking the subject is about money, but they leave realizing that every decision they make involves economics. Teaching them the way economists look at the world and the economic way of thinking is rewarding.
What is something you’d like people to know about you?
This is a fairly recent thing, but I love gardening. If you would have asked me 10 years ago, “Would you garden?” I would have laughed.
My mom was a huge gardener and she had her flowers. I thought all the flowers were pretty, but I just did not see the point of gardening. It was five or six years ago that I started. The impetus was for the pollinators and the “Bring Back The Bees” campaign. So, I bought some flowers to help bring back the bees, and of course, I cannot just plant a couple of flowers, I have to immerse myself into it.
So, then it became not only the bees that I want to bring back, but all pollinators. I try different plants and researched which ones will be good for different pollinators. Spring has always been my favourite time of year, when the bulbs pop up and you start to see colour. But, it is also just the tranquility of seeing the hummingbirds come around and the bees.
You also get to go to nurseries and pick out new plants. Tons of bees have been attracted to my yard. I have got lots of hummingbirds and the final frontier seems to be butterflies. They are really hard to get. I love to garden and the reason is for the birds, the bees, and the butterflies. I grow garlic and some herbs, and throughout the summer, little cherry tomatoes and lettuce too. It is nice to be able to go down to the garden and pick up your food for dinner. It is one of those things that I honestly never thought I would be interested in. I grew up on a farm, so I have been around that, but I just did not think it was something that I would find interesting. It is just relaxing.