Staffer goes beyond the call of duty

18 October 2004

Susan McElvaine

Susan McElvaine is a Five-Star Staffer who isn't afraid to move beyond the boundaries of her job description.

Besides being the manager of the law faculty's Professional Education Project, McElvaine has also been known to scour the streets of Rosebank to source bougainvillaea for a colleague's function.

"And when the dean turned 50, Susan simply set up a gas stove on her desk and produced fresh flapjacks for his surprise breakfast," added colleague and nominator Pauline Alexander.

"Susan is always ready to go the extra mile. She is a very competent and personable manager. As we share an office, she is a great source of information and practical advice."

Having joined the faculty five years ago, McElvaine has been responsible for supervising courses which have trained over 800 professionals on legal continuing education programmes. The project's courses have so far drawn participants from Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Canada, with enquiries coming from an increasingly wider spectrum.

Asked what she most enjoys about her job, McElvaine, who was previously the director of the Cape Town Law Society, said it was the constant interaction with a diverse group of people.

"The faculty is a wonderful environment. The staff are particularly friendly and there is a constant exchange of ideas, information and cooperation which is always appreciated." In her line of work, with the possibility of a crisis popping up, McElvaine believes it is essential to always have a "plan B".

"In a customer service environment there has to be delivery regardless of crises. There is a job to be done so you have no choice but to make it work and, hopefully, to do this so the participants didn't even know there was a problem to begin with. I do, however, have a list of phone numbers of people I can rely on to provide backup.

"I'm also fortunate that my husband is hugely supportive and understanding of long - and sometimes odd - working hours."

Besides her law degree, McElvaine also boasts a music degree and, in her spare time, is a chamber musician and piano accompanist.

"I've been involved in music since the age of five and it offers me something totally different," she said.

McElvaine also enjoys reading, beading, mosaics, sewing and silversmithing - "there are many unfinished items lying around," she concedes - and walking with her husband and two young children.

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