Sandra Meek is the NYSF Manager of Operations and is celebrating 20 years with the organisation this year.
What was your first role and how has that changed?
My first experience of with the NYSF was in 1989 where I was employed in a casual position to send letters to students heading off on international programs. But in 1995, when I was living in Papua New Guinea with my young family, I kept getting calls every month asking when I would be returning to Canberra to help organise the NYSF as the office was busy planning the Physics Olympiad here in Canberra. By September 1995, I was employed full-time. We arrived back in the country and within two weeks, I found a house to live in and childcare for my sons and began working four days a week. My first role was as the assistant to the then office manager – Ada Meek – my mother-in-law. You could say the NYSF was already in my blood.
Over the years my role changed and I became more involved with organising the suite of programs the NYSF offers to students and alumni, and ultimately managing all of the logistics. When Ada Meek retired, I became the office manager.
As you can imagine, business processes over the years have changed dramatically, as has my role with the student staff. I am now more involved with supporting student staff leaders who run the January forum for NYSF students. I am also a keen photographer so I am kept busy capturing the students’ enjoyment as they attend lectures and labs, learning new skills and concepts they hadn’t yet considered, and of course forming life-long friendships with students who love science as much as they do.
What have been some of the highlights?
One of the biggest highlights would have to be seeing the difference the NYSF program has on students from their first day to the final day. The growth and knowledge (those light-bulb moments) gained by the students is truly remarkable. Working with the student staff each year and watching them mature into great leaders and role models is a very rewarding part of my job.
I have had the opportunity to accompany students who have been selected for international programs, and attend Next Step programs with students to partner organisations.
In 2013, I was proud to receive the Paul Harris Fellow Award from Rotary. The award gave me great pleasure in knowing that the service I have provided to the NYSF over the past 20 years has been recognised.
Although organising travel for every student every year is a challenge, it is very rewarding. I have learned about towns I had never heard of before and people are surprised when I can say, “Yes, I know where that is”.
I must say a huge thank you to my family for putting up with me not being home each January and sometimes in the middle of the year while I travel with the NYSFers on international programs. The contribution to the program comes from us all.