Member Profile: Laurie Dawkins, Canada’s newest Master Communicator

Back to Blogs By Gemma Lawrence Posted: October 19, 2017

Laurie Dawkins, ABC, MC, has been a member of IABC/BC for 23 years. Throughout these times she’s been a consistently active member of our vibrant chapter and has won many awards with her superstar communication colleagues at Vancouver Coastal Health.


She inspires many around her, and I decided to catch up with her over coffee to learn more about her time with IABC/BC and her recent accolade.

Laurie’s IABC/BC path began as a student member in 1994 when she was a co-op student at Karen Lee’s agency: KJ Lee Agency. Karen bought her a student membership and took her to the Wave Awards that year. Laurie recalls, “I watched her team win award after award and I was in awe.”  After buying Laurie her student membership, 23 years later, Karen Lee, ABC, MC, was one of those who wrote a letter of support for her Master Communicator nomination.

Volunteering with IABC

Within a year of joining, Laurie was actively involved in the chapter and volunteered for well-known chapter member Gary Carr, who was the IABC/BC Student Services Director at the time. Through Gary, Laurie met Jennifer Wah, ABC, MC, Fellow, when she stepped in for Gary at a board meeting. “I was so earnest with lots of notes and after I’d finished speaking, Jennifer smirked, tossed me a candy and said that I was way better organized than Gary, and that I  should come all the time”. And after various committee roles, she joined the board. In 1999-2000 Laurie was the Student Services Director and the Volunteer Relations Chair for the Hospitality Task Force when Vancouver hosted the IABC World conference: “This was a game changer for me, being immersed into that level of intensity. Finding 150 volunteers in 9-10 months as part of the local hospitality committee for World Conference.” She took on an even bigger international role  in 2005 when the World conference returned to Vancouver and she served as Chair for the overall Hospitality Task Force.

This time Gary volunteered for Laurie “With IABC/BC the lines blur. I have volunteered for people and there has been no hesitancy for them to volunteer for me”

During her time on the board she held two director roles, was Executive Administrator twice and did the Presidency track (Laurie was President in 2004-2005). She’s sat on numerous committees, been a mentor, an exam proctor and has been a judge for IABC Awards programs countless times. On top of this, she has held several local and international co-chairs positions including co-chair and fabulous host for our most recent Wave Awards.

Collectively, her volunteer contributions have spanned local, national and international boards, projects, committees and awards programs.

Laurie’s professional career

“In 2002, while I was working at UBC, Peter Roaf, ABC, MC, (who I’d volunteered with for the World Conference in 2000) was building a team for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). He called me and invited me for an interview. I showed up with my portfolio of work samples, and waited for all the questions, but they had already made up their mind about me…They said ‘we know you can do it, we just want to hire you.’ But I said no because I was pretty sure the job was over my head.” Peter Roaf called her 24 hrs later asking her to reconsider…and 15 years on, Laurie is still at VCH.

One man in particular came up a lot in our discussion when we discussed VCH: Clay Adams, ABC, APR.

“It was Peter Roaf that brought me on board, but after six months Clay took me onto his team. Over 15 years and 7 different roles, I feel that with each one he has taken a leap of faith with me. In the moment, it often felt like the roles were an opportunity beyond my years of experience, but Clay consistently believed that I was up for the challenge and that we would figure it out together. As a result of his faith in me,  I have always had opportunities beyond my job description, including direct access to CEOs, Board Members and government ministers. Clay’s a generous leader who focuses on people and their skills, rather than job titles or seniority, in order to get the best results. Plus, he has a wicked sense of dark humour! This is why I’m still at VCH after 15 years, but the longer I stay the more people I couldn’t be without in the team.”

An Award Winning Rockstar

VCH won the IABC Not for Profit Communications Department of the year award in 2017. It’s a team honor recognizing the great, award-winning work over the past several years, as well as some of their most recent Gold Quill Awards for projects in employee engagement, audio/visual and photography skills and internal communications. VCH was also nominated by IABC in this category in 2015 and 2016 – a testament to Laurie, Clay and the larger team of talented communicators who make up the VCH Communications & Public Affairs team.

Laurie: “I’ve never seen a group of people so willing to put aside their own priorities to help someone in the moment. That’s very rare. They are a talented resourceful team”.

The Value of Communications

Laurie completed her first award submissions in 2000/2001 for two Blue Wave Awards. She’d previously helped out as an Awards judge with Gary as a buddy to learn “I knew what excellence looked like, I just didn’t know if I was capable”. She won one merit and one excellence award for those submissions. Laurie was working for the faculty of applied sciences as a lone communicator, working with and reporting to engineers at UBC. Laurie remembers that at the time, “they all had letters after their names and I felt a little inferior. But then when I won awards and the Dean was so impressed that I could quantify the value of communications.”
Since then Laurie on her own, and with her VCH team, has been the winner of numerous awards.

She’s been personally involved in 22 wins including 5 Silver Leaf Awards and 2 Gold Quill Awards, in the past year.

What IABC/BC means to Laurie

Since earning the designation of Master Communicator, Laurie has been reflective of how much IABC/BC has given to her.

“We live in a time and place where few people have a true sense of ‘community,’ but that’s what IABC has been to me – it’s my community. It’s a group of people who have wrapped their arms around me personally and professionally, prodding me over more than 20 years to be brave and take on more than I ever thought possible, be it volunteer roles or career opportunities. And in the moments where I doubted myself,and felt that maybe it was all too much, these people were the first to buy me a drink and say ‘you got this!’”

“I will be forever grateful for their support, and for the opportunity to pay it forward to others.”

An element of this post is to share Laurie’s profile as an example of a tenured member in IABC/BC. But also we really want to say Thank You Laurie – for your continued leadership, mentorship and contributions to the local chapter.

You can meet Laurie and many of our other talented senior members at our many networking and PD events throughout the year.

Interested in getting involved with us as a volunteer? Check out our latest volunteer opportunities


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