24 HOURS DC/UOIT: Popp is an academic powerhouse

Michelle Hutt (left), dean of School of Science and Engineering Technology and Elaine Popp, vice-president, Academic, have a chat before Alumni in The Pit at Durham College. Photo credit: Morgan Kelly

Our second-year Journalism – Mass Media students from Durham College have tackled a special project – one we are calling ’24 Hours DC/UOIT’.
On Feb. 5, 2019, the students visited particular areas of the Durham College and UOIT campuses, including north Oshawa, downtown Oshawa and Whitby.

They talked to people, snapped pictures and gathered stories from students, faculty and staff about their campus experiences. This is one in a series of 16 stories from that day.

Elaine Popp has one of the most challenging jobs at Durham College.

She is the school’s vice-president, Academic – meaning she’s responsible for ensuring quality programs for DC’s 12,000 students.

But with a love for learning, active lifestyle and well-maintained schedule, Popp makes it look easy.

Her day normally begins when her alarm sounds at 5 a.m.

Sometimes she’ll squeeze in an “hour for herself” in the morning and exercise in the basement gym of her Uxbridge home, depending on her schedule for the day.

Then, she gets ready for her commute which takes 27 to 35 minutes between campuses.

“Most of the times I am coming to Oshawa campus, sometimes I’m going to Whitby first thing in the morning,” says Popp, who arrived at DC four years ago after working at Humber College.

Her day officially begins at 9 a.m. where she’s occupied in meetings until 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. Popp says she can be in six to eight meetings a day.

The deans’ meeting taking place the morning of Feb. 5, 2019. Photo credit: Morgan Kelly
Elaine Popp meets with the alumni before the event in The Pit. Photo credit: Morgan Kelly

“What the day looks like will vary, very much from one day to another and one week to the next week,” says Popp. “I would not say there’s a typical.”

There’s a lot of re-occurring events Popp takes part in such as the deans’ meeting, meetings with different leadership teams, program coordinator meetings, along with weekly and monthly touch points with staff.

“The best part of my day I think is when we’re meeting as the (academic) leadership team (ALT),” says Popp. “You can feel the collective excitement and engagement.” The ALT also includes school president Don Lovisa and other senior managers.

Elaine Popp listens to the alumni’s experiences and advice in The Pit with Durham College president Don Lovisa (right). Photo credit: Morgan Kelly

The “wealth of knowledge and skill sets” the leadership team has goes towards making decisions to help improve all that goes on at the college, she says.

As for the least enjoyable part of Popp’s day – that’s easy – dealing with emails.

“Email’s just not fun, I enjoy being with people, I’m a relater, I like talking,” she says with a smile and a chuckle. “Email’s just not that.”

Popp adds a lot of work can be completed through email though, but it does occupy a large chunk of time. She usually addresses email for a couple of hours in the evening.

Outside of work, Popp lives an active lifestyle with her husband, Willie Popp, the councillor of ward four in Uxbridge.

“We participate with the Uxbridge Cycling Club. He’s much more of a serious rider than I am, I would call myself a beginner,” she jokes.

She also enjoys spending time on Uxbridge’s many trails – specifically during warmer weather. Popp and her husband are also “foodies” and enjoy dining at Bistro ’67 or other local restaurants.

Yet, even outside of campus Popp is still hard at work.

“It is a pretty busy job…I enjoy my job too, so it’s hard to shut down and turn the volume down a little bit,” says Popp.

Although her work is demanding, Popp’s love for learning pushes her through and allows her to take great pride and love in her career.

“Recognizing how important learning was to me, I always keep that in mind when thinking about our students,” she says.