The son of a pilot and business owner, Epp gained insight into the customer and employee experience early on in life. He went on to spend his summers as a student working in a fishing lodge in Northern Saskatchewan, and wasted little time in establishing his career at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), transitioning from student to chartered human resources professional after earning his Bachelor of Commerce in 2004.
“I went from writing my last final to starting my job almost immediately after,” Epp said.
Now, serving as USask’s associate vice-president, services, within the Finance and Resources portfolio, Epp has had his share of experiences on campus and his passion and understanding of the student experience continues to grow.
“So many of my memories as a student were shaped by the people I met, the places we stayed and the food we ate,” said Epp, adding those experiences are something that he and his team take into consideration every day.
With a team of more than 600 people, services unit employees work to enhance the student experience, some working directly with students daily, with others lending their expertise and enthusiasm behind the scenes.
“It’s fascinating to see how things have changed since I was a student,” said Epp. “Something as simple as the tunnel is a great example. When I was a student it was this huge collecting point where everyone would hang out and people-watch. The university is sort of a living organism that continues to evolve with the needs of our students. It wasn’t the same place when my mom was studying here, and who knows where the focal points on campus will be for my two kids.”
Things change all the time on and off campus, and that’s something Epp and his team are keeping pace with. In 2000, the food options on campus were limited to Marquis Hall and the Arts, Agriculture and the now-defunct Education Buffeterias. Today’s campus offers students, staff and faculty a wide variety of options, including a Starbucks and multiple Tim Hortons locations.
“It’s not just that we’ve got more options,” said Epp. “We’ve also got award-winning chef James McFarland, who has created a nutritious and often locally sourced menu for Marquis Culinary Centre.”
The broad range of talents within services lends the portfolio to a number of unique and creative connections. Whether its culinary services partnering with grounds to compost food waste, or ConnectionPoint—a leader in North America for shared services—Epp and his team are always looking to break down silos and establish meaningful and efficient partnerships on campus.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t sit still, I’m always looking for change,” said Epp. “I’m sure no one on campus feels that more than my team, but they are always up for the challenge. Many of our team members have a long history with USask and they are always looking to improve the experience on campus, whether it’s for students, faculty or staff. My role is really about helping to make sure that they have the tools and support to move ahead.”
Becoming The University the World Needs is something that Epp and his team take seriously. Whether they’re housing students, doing emergency repairs, or handling travel reimbursements, the services team is doing its part to support the university.
“The work that our team does ensures that our faculty have the time, the space, and supports that make world-class research possible,” said Epp.
While that is evident every day at the university, it was especially clear the night of the campus power outage on Oct. 21, 2019 when a team of experts managed the emergency power to ensure that critical research projects were secure through the night.
“I’m not in a lab doing groundbreaking research, or in front of students in a classroom, but I know that the work our team does helps everyone on campus do theirs,” said Epp. “It’s a privilege to be part of the university. Where else can you work and know that what you’re doing every day, in some small or large part, is helping to change the world?”