By Carol Sharpe
On Monday, recipients of the Principal’s Award for Administrative and Support Staff for 2012-2013 were invited to accept their award at the Convocation ceremony that took place at Place des Arts. Among the 30 nomination forms submitted to Human Resources in June, the winners were selected in five categories for their outstanding contribution to their units.
This year’s winners are Evie Cavis (clerical), Martha Robinson (management and professional), Victor Black (trades and services), Walter Kucharski (technical and libraries) and (in the team category) the Preferred First Name project which included Enrolment Services, IT Services and the SEDE Office, with 17 team members. The following are their stories.
Martha Robinson, Supervisor, Maintenance, Facilities Operations and Development
Category: Management and Excluded
Martha Robinson is in her twenty-sixth year at McGill. She is often solicited for her expert advice on roofs, insurance claims, computerized maintenance management systems and her general knowledge of our campuses. On Jan. 28, 2013, this knowledge was pivotal as a broken water main resulted in major flooding, with millions of litres of water flowing through campus.
Had it not been for Robinson’s quick actions, the flood that ravaged parts of McGill’s downtown campus would have been an even greater disaster. Without her efforts to coordinate insurance adjustors, cleaning crews, reconstruction crews, suppliers, teachers, researchers and administrative staff, the University would not have recuperated as swiftly and, in appearance, as effortlessly as it has. Her dedication, extra time and effort, and her constant presence on campus have been instrumental in ensuring a speedy recovery.
Robinson’s dedication and commitment allowed units such as Service Point, Libraries, the faculties of Arts and Religious Studies, among others, to avoid the interruption of services, classes, weddings and student theatre productions – although Robinson did help replace lost costumes and props. She showed excellent teamwork by keeping all of the different trades and departments on task and on schedule. With contractors, she was attentive to high quality work with the least number of errors, in order to manage costs.
Martha’s thoughts on winning the award: «I received a message from the Principal, thinking it was one of her general messages. When I realized it was addressed only to me, I was elated and humbled at the same time. I love my job and when I saw the first signs of flooding, my first thoughts were to minimize disruption of people’s time at work.”
Walter Kucharski, Shop Coordinator, Aerospace Medical Research Unit
Category: Technical and Libraries
Walter Kucharski designs and constructs precision equipment. His innovative contributions have included NASA flight certified equipment. In fact, at one point during the Space Shuttle program, Kucharski was one of only a few Canadian technicians certified to build flight hardware for NASA, and he was a regular consultant to the Canadian Space Agency.
In his endorsement of Kucharski’s nomination for the Principal’s award, one associate professor characterized him as McGill’s mythical “Q” of the James Bond movies – the designer and builder of amazing gadgets.
His colleagues credit him for finding novel solutions to the broad range of difficult mechanical problems in the unit’s laboratories. An exceptional team worker, Kucharski loves to bring his colleagues’ ideas to life. When developing a project, he will take the initiative to improve design whenever possible. As a result, the performance of much of his colleagues’ laboratory infrastructure exceeds original expectations and provides a strong foundation for novel progressive research. Kucharski impresses colleagues with his ability to complete multiple tasks despite the pressure of many and often overlapping deadlines.
Throughout his 34-year career at McGill, Kucharski has contributed countless hours of his own time to develop new approaches to further the research within his unit, the department and the university. He provides a vital service to our community through training of our graduate students and postdocs.
“I was surprised and somewhat uneasy about winning, knowing that I am definitely not alone in going the extra mile,” said Kucharski about winning the Award. “Often, I work on the weekend to build devices only because my work shop at home is better equipped. In my work, my focus is on graduate students, making sure they are well equipped to do their job. That is what is most important to me.”
Evie Cavis, Customer Service Assistant, Parking Services
Evie Cavis consistently develops a good rapport when interacting with clients, which results in a more personal experience for clients and improved quality of parking services. Her organizational skills and attention to detail are a few of the many qualities that illustrate her work ethic.
Cavis goes beyond what is required of her to ensure that clients are kept up-to-date on changes in parking on campus. She is keen on using web technology such as Google Maps on the parking services website, as it can be tailored to events like major conferences. She relies on Twitter feeds to notify clients of changes in routes because of road work around campus.
She has become an integral part of the convocation team, helping to find parking for mobility challenged family members during convocation. Her initiative, flexibility and strong interpersonal skills contribute to effective teamwork, even as she often faces considerable time pressures. Colleagues agree that her professionalism and strong work ethic result in loyalty and support from colleagues who have only positive things to say about her.
Not one to get flustered or frustrated no matter how annoying or complicated the situation, Cavis comes up with creative solutions and presents them in a way that empowers her co-workers. Others have been quick to point out that she is a joy to work with, always efficient, courteous and reliable, adding that parking at McGill becomes “almost a pleasure” thanks to Cavis and her team.
“On finding out I won the Award, I was extremely happy,” says Cavis. “It was a wonderful surprise. I work with a great team of colleagues. What I really like about my work is the interface I have with clients coming from out of town for tests and surgery at the Neuro. I try to ease the process of parking on campus.”
Victor Black, Electrician, South East District (downtown campus), Facilities Operations and Development
Category: Trades and Services
Victor Black takes pride in providing professional services, constantly bringing new technical ideas to improve McGill’s electrical system and to make the University’s fire protection system more efficient and reliable.
Black is generous about transferring his knowledge and professional experience – especially to a young electrician who has been working with him for several years. His expertise is held in such high regard that a group of engineering professors recently asked Black to give a seminar to explain and demystify the complexity of electricity to students.
One of Black’s supporters for the Principal’s Award is Avi Friedman, professor of architecture, who has known Black for 25 years. Friedman credits Black for resolving electrically related technical problems with care and generosity of spirit.
A person like Black is essential because he knows where to locate breakers, switches and motors – not always easy to locate in old buildings. The Department of Chemistry’s building director says they are fortunate to have someone like Black to keep the Otto Maass and the Pulp & Paper buildings running smoothly, 24 hours a day … and rising to the challenge whenever a problem emerges.
“I am in my thirty-ninth year at McGill. I am honoured to receive this award,” said Black. “Knowing that I am valued by my colleagues is a great feeling.”
Preferred First Name project
IT Services, Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office, Enrolment Services
Category: Team projects
Thanks to the Preferred First Name project, expanded this past summer, the 11 per cent of McGill students who have identified a preferred first name other than their legal first name can now have it reflected on their McGill student ID card, class lists, and on their advising transcript. This project was of special benefit to trans and gender non-conforming students. Rather than marginalize a group of students, the University is now seen as being among one of the most student-centered, inclusive institutions in Quebec.
Since 2009, students have been able to indicate their preferred first name in Minerva. However, this name has only appeared on class lists in brackets next to the person’s legal name. This has led to frustrating, uncomfortable and even embarrassing situations for students. For this reason, the project was expanded, led by team members in Enrolment Services, IT Services and the Office of Social Equity and Diversity Education (or SEDE).
The 17 individuals involved in this project did not accept that the computer “refuse to address” students with a preferred first name. The project has given rise to the preferred name appearing on widely used items such as McGill ID cards, exam rosters and academic advising transcripts. Colleagues in front-line student service units are encouraged to use the students’ preferred names when addressing them.
Students have indicated that they are now less likely to be “outed” against their will. Others have said they feel more welcome at McGill, knowing that they will be called by their preferred name and that using their ID card will no longer be stressful. The changes were made in a manner that ensures a strong foundation for further enhancements. The team’s work will lead to other system changes that will undoubtedly improve the student experience.
“Winning in the team category was particularly amazing. There was so much support from the units involved in coming together on this project. I have never seen this kind of enthusiasm from a team. It was absolutely wonderful,” said Tynan Jarrett, LGTQ Advisor at the SEDE Office
“I am so proud of the team of people who worked on this project. The changes the team members planned and implemented, inspired by the 2004-2006 Preferred Name work of the McGill Equity Subcommittee on Queer People, are designed to have a direct and profoundly positive effect on the experience of many students across the university. The changes are aligned with two fundamental and important values: inclusiveness and respect. It is just so gratifying to see the work of the project team aligned with those values,” said Kathleen Massey, University Registrar and Executive Director, Enrolment Services, whose unit was key in this project. “We hope that our students truly sense that McGill is more welcoming, engaging and respectful of their chosen identity as a result.”