Derek Stockley makes it his life mission to listen. And that listening led him to a job he describes as, well, cool.
Stockley became principal of the campus after Wanda Buote — who was principal for the last six years — took on a new role as Dean of Educational Training Solutions.
Stockley said he’s honoured to take the principal position in addition to being the Dean of the School of Social and Community Services.
Inside his office at the Welcome and Resource Centre, he deploys what he calls his “20-second sell.”
Before discovering Humber, Stockley spent — and continues spending — most of his life listening to people.
As a registered therapist, he involved himself with addressing other people’s obstacles including family matters, marriage counselling and harm prevention.
His career in smaller communities also gave him a skill in building rapport with strangers.
“There’s something about being in a classroom,” said Stockley, who entered the postsecondary world after taking an opportunity to connect with dozens of students at a time. From giving the first lecture, he said he instantly fell in love.
“Being a therapist and working one-on-one with an individual and with families is a privilege, being able to look at ways to support people and help them make changes that impact their lives,” he said.
His investment of being with students took Stockley across different colleges, eventually becoming the Associate Dean and currently Dean for Humber’s School of Community Services.
Despite working in offices, he said he still finds a reward in seeing former students as co-workers across the colleges.
“To me, the day they graduated (is the day) they became colleagues,” said Stockley. “They became colleagues, but then to see them in your workplace, working with you — that’s so cool.”
Supporting students after graduation is a value Stockley grew up with, around a small and nurturing community in Tottenham, just north of Caledon.
“I was fortunate enough to have parents that encouraged me to follow my passions,” he said. “While my parents never had a full understanding or appreciation of what postsecondary offered, I think they saw early on the benefits that could come with it.”
Stockley was the second person in his family to pursue a degree at the University of Guelph in 1991. He walked out with a Masters in Marriage and Family and Therapy in 1998.
For seven years, he picked up a knack in understanding human behaviour.
Earning a degree in Sociology is also what keeps Stockley fascinated with Humber’s changing nature across the semesters. Since 2009, he embraced a culture shock that comes in seeing what completely different programs do across one campus.
His academic career began as faculty at Sheridan College in 2004 before be took on an Associate Dean role five years later. He then moved to Humber in the same role in 2009. He became Dean of the School of Social and Community Services.
Realizing how Humber’s communities influence Etobicoke’s own community was his “icing on the cake.”
At Lakeshore, he remembers finding a spark with the campus from travelling along its busy street.
“I remember taking a bicycle ride down here before and it was a fall day,” Stockley said. “You can imagine walking around on a day like this in the campus, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with this campus on a fall day. It’s such a beautiful place to be.”
He said being able to connect with coordinators is what he sees “as a treat.”
“You have these world class experts of the industry,” said Stockley. “Not only do they know the field from the outside-in, they know the classroom from the inside-out and they’re the ones able to marry all those pieces together.”
Through his career in listening to people’s struggles, Stockley said he feels fortunate in learning more from other people’s experiences. He said he thinks there should be a co-curricular record for personal resilience among students.
“Every term, there was someone in class who would experience loss whether it’s a family member or a partner. Every term there was someone that would experience maybe a dissolution of a relationship, someone that would always experience with addictions and mental health,” Stockley said.
“And that was just one class,” he said.
The student body is something of a community for him. While he said students are getting directions inside the classroom, there lies a passion in giving support outside of Humber’s walls.
“It’s recognizing that life happens at the pace of life, that’s going to throw all of those obstacles at us,” Stockley said. “How can we have an awareness of that, how can we have an appreciation of that, how can we be responsive to that?”
“I think that’s gonna be a larger part of my life,” he said. “It was a part of my life as a dean, and it still is doing that at a school level.”
“But now, having a good fortune to be able to do it with a larger community,” Stockley said. “It’s a pretty cool job.”