On November 20, Susanne Gomes was presented with the Principal’s Award for Administrative and Support Staff in the Clerical Category as part of Fall 2023 Convocation celebrations.
There is some irony in Gomes being awarded one of McGill’s most prestigious individual staff honours, irony because she is determined to share the spotlight.
“It means a lot to receive this award because it shows that people appreciate our work,” she says. “But it’s not only for me, there are a lot of people involved in supporting students and staff. I keep telling our team that this award is for all of us because we work so closely.”
Keeping everything running smoothly
Gomes is Curriculum Administrator in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science. In the citation at Monday’s award presentation, Diana Dutton, Interim Vice-Principal, Administration and Finance; and Associate Vice-Principal, Human Resources, outlined the vital role played by Gomes.
“She expertly manages complex course curricula, dealing with daunting logistical and administrative challenges on a daily basis and providing invaluable support to all stakeholders involved, including 440 medical and dentistry students, six course directors, numerous invigilators and well over 200 faculty,” said Dutton. “Suzanne has fostered teamwork and community for both students and colleagues, through her constant willingness to help and her friendly, reassuring presence.”
Her team does everything from delivering the curriculum, managing course material, and coordinating exams, to overseeing policies, finalizing grades, and helping students resolve issues or problems.
“Basically, we make sure everything runs,” says Gomes with her ever-present smile.
She says while the ever-changing nature of the job is challenging, it also keeps it interesting.
“There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure,” she says. “We work with so many other teams. I may not do the editing for myCourses, but I make sure the material is there for the team that does. We can’t solve all the issues students and teachers have, but we know where to direct them.”
Over her 16 years at McGill, Gomes has developed strong relationships with colleagues. Her expertise, hard work, and team-oriented outlook are greatly appreciated by the people she works with.
“I cannot overstate how indispensable Susanne has been,” says David Ragsdale, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, at the Neuro. “Thanks to her exceptional competence, hard work, and enthusiasm, all the balls somehow stay in the air and the course runs smoothly year in and year out.”
Not surprisingly, Gomes enjoys working with people – especially students. She particularly appreciates getting to know them over the years.
“I call them my kids because I’ve known them since they first started here and then they move into residency, and some of them become tutors and then lecturers,” she says.
Occasionally, Gomes is on the bus and someone will smile at her or wave – former students. “They recognize me, but I can’t remember everyone because I see 200 to 400 students a year,” she laughs.
The right career move
Gomes first came to McGill from the private sector and, while it was a “definite step down” in terms of her salary, she thought there was greater potential for growth and career advancement in the Faculty of Medicine (now the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences).
“I didn’t know anything about the Faculty or education when I started. So, I worked at reception, and I really learned a lot about how things work,” she says.
Over the years, she moved to different units but always within the Faculty. With every stop, she assumed more responsibilities and gained a deeper understanding of the needs of students and faculty, and of how the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences worked.
Today, that expertise is a valued commodity.
“Susanne brings to the team an intimate knowledge of curriculum delivery. She is a true team player, providing invaluable input to any team discussion,” says Anna Lee, Curriculum Component Officer. “She is able to smooth the path of a complex curriculum for all stakeholders involved. She listens attentively to the concerns of the students and her academic partners and goes above and beyond to find solutions. She is exceptionally competent, always available, and a pleasure to work with.
“She has provided feedback and made suggestions that have led to improvements to the running of our exams,” continues Lee. “She has been invited to sit on a working group as a subject matter expert on our absence policy. She has been involved in several aspects of training and continues to support our newest colleague as a mentor.”
As for Gomes, she’s found the place that’s right for her. “I got exactly what I wanted by coming to McGill,” she says. “I have a great team, great colleagues and I really enjoy working with the students and the teachers. I’m not going anywhere.”