The Immigration and Relocation team in Human Resources is responsible for coordinating the relocation of new faculty members to McGill. The team, which includes the Advisor for Faculty Relocation and Partner Work-Life Assistance, works in close cooperation with the Academic Personnel Office. Michelle Cubano-Guzman, who joined McGill a few months ago as the new advisor, helps with everything from language and tax issues, medical insurance, work permits, daycare and anything else a newcomer needs to know about relocating to a new country.
When did you start at McGill?
I started at McGill in July 2011 as the Faculty Relocation Advisor.
How did you hear about this position?
I heard about the position from Jane Levin, the previous Faculty Relocation Advisor. I met her four years ago when my husband accepted an academic position at McGill. I attended some information sessions for spouses given by Jane and she helped with our relocation to Montreal. Over the last few years, we always kept in contact and she helped me with different things.
As a spouse, when I first met Jane, I thought she had the perfect job. I found it very interesting and thought it was such an important role to help families that are new to Montral. To have this resource, someone to talk to when you don’t know anyone is very helpful. It makes the transition so much easier; even when you are excited to come to a new country, it can be overwhelming. When Jane mentioned she was leaving McGill and asked me if I would be interested in this type of position, I knew immediately that it would be a wonderful opportunity, so I applied for the job.
You mentioned having been here for four years. Where are you from?
I am originally from Puerto Rico. I also lived in Chicago for six years and four years ago, I came to Montreal with my husband and two children.
Where is home for you?
Home is where we are living. My family is still in Puerto Rico and we have close ties with Chicago, but right now our life is here in Montreal, so this is home to us.
What is your career background?
I am an attorney. I worked in Puerto Rico at the Commission for Women’s Affairs handling all kinds of issues ranging from employment law, family law, contracts, and government policy and administration. Later in Chicago I worked at a law firm that dealt mostly with civil rights. I was one of the people handling various class actions with clients across the U.S. I also found myself drawn to the field of interior design so I took some courses in Chicago and my hobby turned into a home business when I moved to Montreal. Sometimes when you move to a different country, you have to reinvent yourself and a career change is necessary. For me it worked out well because the children were very young when we moved here, so my focus was to work from home.
After a few months on the job, what are your impressions of McGill?
I have a fantastic impression of McGill. I couldn’t be happier. I already knew from my husband’s experience that McGill is a great environment to work in. There is a human side about my co-workers in HR and I feel welcome and supported. I like the position because it is now my turn to help others. I like it because every case is unique. Even for families coming from Canada, their needs and interests may be very different, so I can help them by making suggestions and recommendations.
Who are your clients and how can they reach you?
My clientele is all new tenure stream faculty and their spouses or partners. They will find out about me usually during the relocation process before arriving in Montreal. My information is on the HR website. People reach me mostly via email and then we meet so I can get a real sense of who they are in order to better advise them. Sometimes during the hiring process they’ll contact me as well.
Is that a good thing?
Yes, because I can help them to plan even more by finding out much more about their needs, especially coming from another country. It makes the transition so much smoother. No matter how positive moving to a new place is, it is always stressful. Our goal is to avoid any surprises and help them have realistic expectations.
Any other comments you would like to share with the McGill community?
I was thrilled to be offered the position. I really enjoy helping people who are new to Montreal and McGill, as I was. It is overwhelming at times, trying to figure out your way around a new city with no network. But it makes a big difference to be supported. McGill offered that support to me four years ago, and I’m just hoping I can “return the favor” by helping all those who come my way.