From behind-the-scenes to the spotlight

The Shared Services Centre team won the Pricipal’s Award for Team Projects. Individual awards went to Eva Cucinelli (left), Shannon Lenhan (middle) and Veronica Amberg (right). / Photo: Owen Egan
The Shared Services Centre team won the Principal’s Award for Team Projects. / Photo: Owen Egan

University staff members celebrated for job well done

By Neale McDevitt

While students and faculty garner much of the attention at McGill, without the support of the behind-the-scenes people the University would simply stop in its tracks. On Nov. 27, as part of the Convocation ceremonies, four individuals and one team were honoured with the Principal’s Awards for Administrative and Support Staff – a University-wide program that recognizes the outstanding contributions of these people to McGill’s mission.

The matchmaker

Eva Cucinelli has been matchmaking at McGill since 1989 with a success rate of what she estimates ran at “about 80 per cent last year.”

No, the lovelorn need not apply. Cucinelli is the Employment Coordinator at the Desautels Faculty of Management’s Career Services where she is the liaison person between employers and students looking for jobs.

Her biggest challenge? “Reassuring students that they will find employment when they graduate – especially in this economy,” said the winner of the Clerical Award.

The biggest reward? “When they get a job, of course! I get calls to thank me, small gifts, invitations to weddings – but I’m just doing my job,” Cucinelli said.

The team

Like one of those special commando units in an old Hollywood movie, the Shared Services Centre of the Human Resources Department is a collection of 15 specialists brought together to create one crack unit. Except, rather than blow up military installations in the night, this winner of the Team Award helps defuse potential problems by fielding questions regarding everything from payroll and benefits to pensions and total compensation.

“It was a lot to ask them to broaden their areas of expertise,” said Alison Verkade, Director of the Centre, “but they’ve worked so hard and really have come together as a team.”

Individual awards went to Eva Cucinelli (left), Shannon Lenhan (middle) and Veronica Amberg (right). / Photo: Owen Egan
Individual awards went to Eva Cucinelli (left), Shannon Lenhan (middle) and Veronica Amberg (right). Absent from the photo is Bruce Osler. / Photo: Owen Egan

The bridge-builder

As Program Officer of McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE), Veronica Amberg is charged with fostering respect among the University’s more than 35,000 students, faculty and administrative and support staff.

“It is an enormously ambitious task and, in all honesty, it was a little daunting when the office first opened four years ago” said the winner of the Management Award. “But people at McGill have been so receptive to our messages that our office is the envy of other universities.”

The coordinator

Ask Shannon Lenhan, Special Events Attendant in the Buildings, Grounds and Special Events unit, what the most exciting part of his job is and he doesn’t hesitate. “Making people happy,” said the recipient of the Trades and Services award.

And to earn those smiles, Lenhan and his small team coordinate most of the events that happen at McGill, be it setting up and taking down over 1,200 desks each exam period, raising the huge tent at Convocation, or helping movie directors with their pyrotechnics when they shoot on campus. “We’re a real turn-key operation,” Lenhan said. “We make sure everything is set up perfectly so our clients just turn the key and off they go.”

Bruce Osler, Library Assistant in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library and winner of the Technical and Library Assistants Award, declined to be interviewed for this article.