By Cynthia Lee
With more than 20 years experience in the realm of student affairs, Kathleen Massey, McGill’s Registrar and Executive Director of Enrolment Services, is looking forward to the moment she opens up shop at the new Student Service Point at McTavish and Sherbrooke this summer. The new hub will be a first for McGill and will offer a plethora of services for students all under one roof. After years of planning, the Service Point will revolutionize the way students are served at the University. Recently, Massey took time out of her schedule to discuss her career and the Service Point project with the McGill Reporter.
Tell me about your background.
I was born outside Toronto and I’ve lived in many different places over the last 20 years I’ve spent working in academia. I have a degree in Political Science and I’m now pursuing a Masters degree in Leadership at Royal Roads University in Victoria, B.C. I’m working on that and working full time. I came to McGill in 2007.
Tell me about your degree.
It’s something I deferred for a year before I started here at McGill, and was something I always wanted to do – it’s onsite and distance learning. The degree is something that’s very important to me. I’ve always had an interest in the way organizations are led and how effective people can be – do we bring our values to work? What informs our decisions? When we see companies like Enron, I wonder what the human dimensions are behind those decisions.
How did you end up at McGill?
When I came to the interview, I took a tour of campus to see what the University is about – to see how people make decisions and learn what is top of mind. I had a long conversation with the tour guide and got such a positive impression of the face of McGill. And of course the very strong reputation of the school, and the beautiful campus and beautiful Montreal – it all influenced my decision. But also the other side is that I have looked at my career as a way to experience different organizations. It’s been very deliberate on my part.
What is your mandate?
At McGill, I’m responsible for operations and everything from recruitment to admissions and campus tours to front-line services, registration, transcripts. Now that we’re integrating, we also have student-account activities down through to Convocation. So really, I’m involved in all aspects of the life of the student, A through Z.
Can you fill us in about Ennrolment Services moving?
It’s a really exciting moment in our history. We’ve been renovating the former Archives (in the McLellan Library Building) – it’s undergoing renovation as we speak. We’re opening up that space at Sherbrooke and McTavish and we’ll be moving there in mid-June, when we will open up our Service Point and Welcome Centre.
What does this move mean?
The Service Point is a partnership between many units in the University, such as Post-Graduate Studies, Student Accounts, International Students, and many more. Our front-line experts will be able to offer a “soup to nuts” experience for students. For example, if a current student came to Service Point needing a transcript, they can also get answers to their questions regarding their fee account. They can get one person at the Service Point to assist them with many different issues on the spot. Before they’d have to go to two different floors and stand in two different lines. It will cut down on the runaround and red tape for our students as well as empower our staff to make more decisions. But in order to be able to offer this improved service, our front-line staff will go through 12 weeks of intensive training.
Is this the panacea for all student issues?
First of all, I don’t see Service Point as “the” answer for all the challenges students face at McGill and it will not address every issue. It is important for students to continue to see academic advisors at Dawson Hall. That said, our peak periods are August, September and January and toward the end of the year, toward exams and graduation, we see a lot of traffic then. It will help by offering a one-stop shop for many students’ administrative needs. One staff person will offer the full spectrum and not a narrow slice. For the next while we will be ironing out the rough spots.
How will Service Point set McGill apart?
Like so many other things my colleagues are working on, anything we can do to improve the experiences of students helps, we have a lot more to do, but we have a lot going on. We want to be part of that, enhancing the student experience. We know McGill has so much to offer in terms of research and teaching, so for us the real opportunity is to keep finding ways to improve.
What changes will be made to the Welcome Centre?
The new location is in a very public area and will provide a better place for tours and multi-purpose room for presentations. We can offer a much more robust welcoming space for all our visitors. Soon, Jocelyne Younan, Director and Assistant Registrar of the new Integrated Service Point, will initiate an advisory committee and ask alumni, parents and students to talk to us about how we can further enhance our Welcome Centre programming.
Is the staff excited about the new Service Point?
All indicators are yes. People are excited to be part of something new and address many of the issues raised in the Task Force for Student Life and Learning. About 120 staffers will be making the big move.
How long has the project been germinating?
This idea had been talked about for 10 years and many people had been imaging it. When I came here, I was asked to make it happen, so I invited my colleagues to weigh in and we all worked together to come to this moment. For me it has been the most gratifying collaboration of my career.
What is the typical day of a Registrar and Executive Director?
There isn’t one, really, and that’s what I love so much about it. I come in and think I’m going to tackle my “to do” list and something pops up, whether it be a media call or an event I need to attend – something challenging invariably presents itself.
What are your hobbies?
I love the outdoors and camping, I love travel. Some of my favourite times have been road trips with my daughter across Canada where we talk about what’s important.
Is there something people don’t know about you?
My family moved around a lot so I grew up not only in the city but also on a dairy farm. But, I’m not an early riser. If there’s no cow to milk I won’t be getting up at 5 a.m. I have no desire to move back, it’s a hard life, but I reflect on it because it helped me learn resourcefulness and collaboration. That is where I learned that you need to rely on others and support others – and where I learned my key values. They all came from that experience – it’s a lot closer to the bone. Farming is about learning how to survive and thrive in a way that is very community-oriented.
For more about the Service Point, please visit: http://www.mcgill.ca/integratedservices/listofservices/