Written by Karen E. Mosier
Mark Ferguson has a Bachelor of Arts (English Major) from the University of Saskatchewan and a post-grad Bachelor of Journalism from the University of King’s College. His first job was as the Editor of the Sheaf student newspaper in 2001. He moved away for a while to pursue grad studies. Mark returned in 2007 to take a position with the Alumni Relations Department working on the Green & White and as an in-house writer. He soon moved over to On Campus News as a writer with the Communications Department. He became the first Media Relations Officer a couple years after that and built the first USask news site (news.usask.ca). He took a position with the Canadian Light Source in 2013 where he worked in the communications department as a science writer until 2016. Mark took a short leave from campus to work for the Aga Khan Foundation in Tajikistan but returned in 2017 to take a position with the Global Institute for Water Security and the pan-Canadian Global Water Futures program. He has worked about 17 years at the university.
His current position as the Director of Communications for GIWS is really centered around the need to talk about climate and water research and the changes that are happening to our planet. “There is tremendous capacity at this university for this kind of research and we have many of the top minds in the world either here or in our networks across Canada,” he says. Mark says he feels lucky to lead a team responsible for the outreach, communications, public relations, social media, and web communications on everything from the Covid-19 wastewater testing to the severe changes water has on things like floods, fires, and drought. He admits “It’s uplifting to know the tremendous work that is happening to find solutions to these massive problems and it’s a real honour to be able to work alongside such wonderful people.”
Mark believes “As humans we are all at our most useful, and even happiest, when we are solving problems and overcoming obstacles.” He feels like every single day that he is working as a science communicator, there are new problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. “Trying to communicate science in a meaningful way and engaging with the public, peers, even kids, brings challenges,” he says. “But these are such important things to talk about and the nature of what we are learning is always changing, so it is vitally important that we communicate well.” Marks sums it up, “I suppose if I had to boil it down, what I like the most about being on campus is that I find it very inspiring, even when we are dealing with massive challenges like climate change.” Mark was delighted when their What About Water podcast won an award for Best Education and Outreach podcast last year.
Mark feels that his educational background has benefited him in his current position. The two most important things he learned during his studies were the ability to think critically and the ability to write well, so he wouldn’t be where he is today without those skills. He also learned a lot during his photography courses which helped him in his career tremendously!
Mark is happy to be a part of the ASPA organization. He feels that ASPA has been tremendous in their support of a great work-life balance and providing so many university employees with a voice. ASPA members play a crucial role in keeping the university running smoothly and efficiently. Being in ASPA has opened doors for him on numerous occasions as a preferred candidate and definitely helped support the growth of communications as a whole on campus.
Mark would like to pass on some great advice from a former manager, “It might not be my problem, but it’s my responsibility”, which is based on the mantra Walt Disney used in his theme parks with his employees. He continues, “If somebody calls looking for support or to find out information, just do your best to help them, even if it has nothing to do with your job, department, or unit. You just have no idea where these conversations could lead…”