by Julia Brown
October 12, 2022
Ian Sankey has been the Canadian Director of the Golden Key International Honour Society for more than 13 years. He first heard about the opportunity to become the Canadian Director through a fellow Canadian expatriate in Atlanta, also employed by Golden Key at the time.
“The idea of working with university students across Canada sounded great,” Sankey says.
When first interviewed, he met with a number of the staff and was delighted to discover such a friendly team.
“We had some good conversations,” says Sankey. “I knew it would be a good working environment. I think the people you meet through Golden Key are one of the biggest benefits of being part of the organization. I have met some incredible students, wonderful university professors and administrators that advise the student groups, and really impressive alumni and honorary members. I have come into contact with people from all around the world and grown my personal and professional network far beyond many typical job contacts.”
Although he has met even more people through his role working with Golden Key, Sankey believes these networking opportunities are there to enjoy for all global lifetime members.
“I think the members can experience the same widening of their networks by getting involved with their local chapter and then also expanding their contacts out to other chapters around the world,” he says. “These connections are good avenues to lifelong friendships, work networking contacts, and learning opportunities.”
For Sankey, 2022 has been challenging since the world is already two years into the epidemic, and many schools are operating at least partly online. Nonetheless, he said he is delighted with the student leaders at Canadian institutions for their persistent efforts to unite students and serve their local communities. Student leaders continue to arrange meaningful service projects for their communities, and the pandemic has not deterred them from doing so. Their optimism is uplifting in light of the difficulties caused by the spread of COVID-19.
Prior to joining Golden Key, Sankey worked in various positions in the non-profit and education fields. He explains that it was in a previous role at the Maritime National Park in San Fransisco that he met the best person he’s ever worked with, a fellow instructor at his job.
“We became roommates, and he is still one of my best friends to this day,” says Sankey. “Working with him was always fun and interesting, and his quick wit and wonderful storytelling ability kept the students engaged and entertained. We played off each other very well as instructors. He later became a writer and book publisher. It is always great to work with people who really enjoy their jobs, and you can feel that their enthusiasm and talents are well aligned with the job.”
The best professional advice Sankey ever received was to seize chances when they presented themselves. A few years back, at a GK New Member Recognition Event, he was listening to a presentation by a Golden Key honorary member. One of the speakers was a doctor who dedicated their career to understanding how the brain works and how it develops.
The speaker reminisced about meeting a neurologist at a party while he was just out of medical school. They had considered family practice, but he had always been fascinated by the brain’s inner workings. After a late-night neuroscience discussion, the neurologist invited him to join his team and participate in an upcoming research study. He shifted his focus to neurology and hasn’t looked back since. Because he was curious and willing to seize possibilities as they presented themselves, that fortuitous encounter led him onto a new route (which he now enjoys).
“I think the general idea is to not be afraid to try different things and to take opportunities when they arise,” he says.
Sankey said that an excellent manager and leader can inspire and motivate their team to achieve their goals.
“It is great if you are very capable and talented at what you do,” explains Sankey. “It is even better if you can also help others around you and lift them up by helping them when they need it and trusting in them as well so they can shine on their own.”
Sankey also believes that a consistently good attitude can do a lot for a person.
“I don’t want to sound like a daily affirmation poster but being able to stay positive and shift how you think about things is a powerful mental tool,” says Sankey.
Sankey explains that unknown challenges, adversity, self-doubt, and the occasional “what the heck is going on?” will affect most of us. He advises that everyone keeps going, keeps working, keeps trying, and reaches out to connect with people and activities that are important to them.
According to Sankey, things will typically work out for the best if people are friendly to themselves and try not to worry too much. He says that his parents were the first people to inspire him.
“They have always been there for my brother and myself, and I am fortunate enough to get to spend time with them every week,” he says.
“My wife and kids also inspire me,” he continues. “My wife is an amazing person who has a great career and a wonderful family, she is a great mom and partner, and she somehow always knows how to buy people the perfect gift.”
Sankey also considers his children to be a source of his motivation and he wants to serve as a positive example for them.
“Their playful natures and inventiveness keep me engaged and motivated to show them the world and provide them with the best education possible,” he says.
Finally, his top piece of advice for new members? Get involved!
“There are a lot of ways to make the most of your lifetime membership,” he says. “Apply for Golden Key scholarships, attend events put on by your local chapter, register and explore the Golden Key Academy, or join a student leadership team and organize events yourself if you have the time. Golden Key can be much more than a line on your resume, and I think those who put themselves in the position to meet other people and get involved in activities can really take their membership to the next level. There are a lot of member stories at www.goldenkey.org/canada that demonstrate how other members have made Golden Key a big part of their university experience and beyond.”