When Brenda Rennie, the executive director of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA), moved to Lethbridge from Vienna, Austria, she thought she would only stay for a few years.
“I thought we would be here for three years,” she says, “but it’s been over 25 years and we’re still here!”
Rennie retired this past week from the ULFA after almost 30 years of service with the organization. Her journey with the ULFA began in 1985, when she was hired as the sole employee.
“I was hired on as a part-time secretary, and at that time we were representing around 200 faculty,” she says. “It became clear after a few weeks that just answering the phones and opening the mail wasn’t going to be enough for me!”
The ULFA has grown in Rennie’s time from representing just over 200 faculty members to the current membership, which consists of over 500 faculty members, academic assistants and sessional lecturers.
“Until this previous year, our membership grew every year, which kept the role challenging,” she says.
“I sort of created this position from the ground up,” say Rennie, who over the years has worked with 23 ULFA presidents and six staff members in five different locations across campus. “I’ve been so fortunate to have been given an opportunity to grow with the role. That’s been fantastic.”
As executive director, Rennie’s job entails a variety of tasks every day.
“I’ve always seen my role as helping support what the president and executive do,” she says. “I’m always kept on my toes. No two days are ever the same.”
Annabree Fairweather, currently the executive officer of the ULFA, will be stepping into Rennie’s role after spending the past year learning about the job.
“We’ve had a succession plan in place for the past few years, so I feel very comfortable passing the torch, so to speak, to Annabree. The ULFA is going to be in very capable hands,” says Rennie.
When asked about the most memorable aspect of the role, Rennie says it’s always been about the connections she has made with the volunteers of the ULFA.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people,” she says, “and I’ve gained so much from those relationships.”
Rennie’s connection to the University of Lethbridge extends beyond her time at the ULFA, though. Her son and daughter attended the University for their undergraduate education, and Rennie is quick to point that fact out to anyone who asks.
“I’m so proud to say that my children graduated from the U of L,” she says. “They had a fantastic experience… it is a great school.”
Spending time with her two sons is part of what Rennie plans to do with her free time.
“It’s going to be a transition, as it is for most retirees. I keep joking that I’m so used to my routine, I’ll be showing up on campus,” she laughs. “I’m looking forward to travelling, hiking, just staying active, but it is definitely going to be a transition, as I like being busy.”