Employee Feature — Pina McDonnell

Note: The Brock Employee Feature is a Q&A-style series that aims to highlight those who contribute to the University’s positive working environment and make a difference in the campus community. The full series is available on The Brock News. Employees interested in being featured are asked to fill out an online form.

Pina McDonnell’s lighthearted laugh and listening ear is part of what makes her an excellent Academic Advisor.

As a member of the Faculty of Education’s academic advising team, McDonnell (BA ’18) assists students in the Faculty’s professional and undergraduate programs as they go about understanding and fulfilling their degree requirements.

McDonnell can often relate to the students she advises, having taken “the long route” of completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 2018, and experiencing her own mental health challenges.

Which department do you work for?

As a proud staff member of the Faculty of Education, I am part of the academic advising team, which advises for all programs within the Faculty of Education, including Adult Education (completely online), Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (completely online), Concurrent Teacher Education programs and Consecutive Teacher Education programs.

What do you like about your role?

Listening to students and learning about their individual journeys — and watching them graduate — is what I like most about my job.

Share your Brock career story.

I started at Brock in 1991 on a temporary assignment to assist with Spring Convocation. It was such a wonderful experience. Students were happy to graduate and move forward with their chosen career or the next part of their educational journey. Parents were proud their children had been successful, and faculty and staff, although quite busily rushing around, were also glad to be part of the experience. I was hooked. To this day, Convocation is my favourite time of year.

Since then, I have worked in full-time, permanent roles within several Brock departments, including Student Records in the Registrar’s Office; the Dean’s Office for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (which was combined at the time); the Advancement and External Relations Office; the Office of the President; the Student Development Centre; the Concurrent Education Department; the Department of Mathematics and Statistics; and now, the Faculty of Education.

What do you like about working at Brock?

I was raised in Niagara and still live here, so working at such an integral place for the Niagara community is why I enjoy working at Brock so much.

I also enjoy working with an excellent team of bright, professional and caring colleagues, and absolutely love the University’s hybrid model of work. Working from home provides no distractions and offers me the opportunity to get much more of the administrative portion of my job done at a quicker pace than I would working on campus. Microsoft Teams allows me to meet with students who prefer not coming to campus for a 30-minute academic advising meeting as well as students who study completely online from every corner of the world.

Four women stand side-by-side in front of the entrance to a building named Robert S.K. Welch Hall.

The Faculty of Education academic advising team can be found in WH 126, in Brock University’s Robert S.K. Welch Hall. From left, Monique Beauregard, Academic Advisor; Cara Sparman, Academic Advisor; Ethna Bernat, Manager, Academic Advising; and Pina McDonnell, Academic Advisor.

What was your first job ever?

My first job ever was cherry picking on a Niagara farm when I was 13 years old. It was hot and exhausting, hence, I have never been cherry picking since.

Where is your favourite place to visit or spend time in Niagara?

I enjoy spending time all over Niagara, particularly Niagara-on-the-Lake and Port Dalhousie.

How would others describe you?

I would like to think others would describe me as friendly and approachable with a good sense of humour. My loud giggles have gotten me into trouble in the past.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I love NFL football, especially the Buffalo Bills.

What do you do for self-care to maintain positive mental health?

Like many others, mental health has been a challenge for me these past two years. I have been open about my longstanding issues with depression, having presented on the topic when Brock hosted in-person Wellness Days. The pandemic has added anxiety to my life. My fantastic team and some of the workshops offered through Health, Safety and Wellness have been helpful.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance? 

I’m working on this. Disconnecting at the end of the workday while working from home can be challenging. I have come to realize that by disconnecting I am giving my body, soul and mind a chance to rest, and by doing so I will be more effective the next day.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I ever received was ‘If I am not good to myself, I cannot be good to others.’ This is also a work in progress for me. As a parent and an academic advisor, putting others’ needs ahead of my own just feels more natural.

Are you or your family members involved in any initiatives at Brock outside of your role?

My son, Ryan, graduated from Brock in June 2020 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Since it was during the pandemic, he and I watched the ceremony from my couch. We are delighted Brock is offering legacy celebrations this October, which will allow me the opportunity to see him cross the stage.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my son, Ryan, who I call ‘The King.’ We have been through some tough circumstances, but we always came through them together. He went on to complete a Master of Economics degree at McMaster University and is currently working as a Data Analyst, Sports Analytics at Canadian Tire Financial Services.

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