It seems fitting that Linda Dalton’s desk is in the same office as the one where she worked when she first joined Sheridan 36 years ago.
It’s just one example of the way her experience with the college has come full circle.
After having initially left Sheridan as a student, today, as Registrar, she’s located in the hub of activity where students receive online and in-person support before, during, and after their time at Sheridan.
And for every student who enters her office, she’s able to personally shake their hand later on when they walk across the stage during convocation, wishing them luck as they begin the next chapter of their lives.
Dalton is following suit, beginning her own next chapter later this month, when she retires.
The moment is bittersweet. “I grew up here,” she says. “I love this job – I could do it another 10 years and I’d be happy – but sometimes, in order for something to move forward, you need a new voice.”
When Dalton began her career at Sheridan, she was one of those new voices.
She graduated from Sheridan’s Journalism program in 1980. In the two years following, she amassed a wealth of experience, working for a now defunct national magazine, a Hamilton-based ad agency, and she enjoyed a stint with the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.
She returned to campus in 1982 as an information officer, writing media releases and working with professors and faculty.
“The interview process was a bit intimidating, since a few of the people interviewing me were my former profs,” recalls Dalton. “It’s a good lesson in never burning bridges – you never know who you’ll come across again.”
What followed were a variety of positions tailored to the writing and communication skills Dalton gathered during her time at Sheridan and the years that followed. She eventually landed a position in the Registrar’s Office on a short-term contract, and was promoted to the position of Registrar in 2004.
Although Dalton could have easily taken a more “behind-the-scenes” approach to the role, she’s been conscious over the years to make sure she spends time out of the office, mingling with staff, and walking the halls with students.
“A mentor told me that I needed to decide if I wanted to be a financially-based, rules-based or student-based registrar,” she says.
Dalton takes two or three students under her wing every year, checking in on them throughout the year. She makes sure to have face time with students, chatting with them about their general impressions of the college and what can be improved.
“I hate seeing students in line,” she says. “I’m always trying to ask them what they’re doing, what they need to see and how we can help expedite the process.”
“The best thing I’ve found is to let students tell me their stories first.”
Over the years, Dalton’s become known for her personable approach, both in the Registrar’s office and across campus.
Laurie Jackson, Associate Registrar, Financial Aid and Awards, says Dalton is known for her “student-first focus” and her willingness to consider “out-of-the-box” approaches to problem resolution.
“Linda greets everyone, regardless of their role at Sheridan, with a smile, a kind word and an offer to assist them in whatever they might need to make their time at Sheridan more enjoyable and satisfying,” says Jackson.
“Linda was the ideal registrar,” adds Ian Marley, VP Student Services and Information Technology. “Her tremendous organizational skills allowed her to keep on top of the myriad of activities that take place in the life cycle of a student. [She] strived to constantly improve processes that made things better for our students.”
While time and technology has changed some of the ways the Registrar’s office functions, Dalton says the crux of her job is still the same: making sure students have a voice.
“The best thing I’ve found is to let students tell me their stories first,” she says. “Sometimes they’ve been bounced around from department to department, and they just want someone to listen to them. Even if they don’t get the answer they want, they’re looking for their perspective to be heard and understood.”
In 2016, Dalton received recognition outside of Sheridan when she was given the Committee of Registrars, Admissions and Liaison Officers’ Golden Quill Award, which recognizes people who go above and beyond in their day-to-day work. She’s also participated in a number of provincial initiatives that help the college implement ministry directives.
But for the last few years, Dalton’s focus has been internal.
“Linda’s most significant contribution to Sheridan has been the positive influence she has on our students, faculty and staff, through her “can do attitude”, work ethic, knowledge and compassion,” says Marley.
Dalton chairs the academic policy standing committee of Sheridan’s senate, where she’s been tasked with looking at academic policies and making sure they’re on schedule and up to date. She also takes pride in initiatives undertaken to support students in transition. “We have a process in place where while they’re here, in a safe environment, these students can have their name of choice on record,” she says. “We have close to 50 students taking advantage of that policy change.”
Dalton also recalls a time when Indigenous students were only allowed to dress in Sheridan apparel when they crossed the stage during convocation. Today, thanks to policy changes that were implemented during her tenure in collaboration with the Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support, these students are now able to wear traditional Indigenous regalia with pride during the ceremony.
Earlier this month, Dalton participated in her last convocation ceremony at Sheridan — a period that she says is her favourite time of the year.
But just as a graduate’s relationship with Sheridan doesn’t end after they’ve crossed the stage, Dalton says she’ll always feel a profound connection with her alma mater.
“I’m a big believer of the quote that that ‘it will all work out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end yet’. That’s how I feel about this next move.”