Meet Anna Sousa, Graduate Administrator
Thank you for the nominations of graduate administrators or coordinators at U of T who have provided clarity, sanity, and an exceptional level of support to graduate students! In the coming months, Gradschool e-news will profile all nominees. If you still wish to share a nomination, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of how your Graduate Administrator or Coordinator has helped you!
We received an overwhelming number of nominations for Anna Sousa who, for nearly 17 years, has been Graduate Administrator in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations on St. George campus. “She helps, soothes, and goes out of her way to provide support for grad students,” writes one NMC student. Writes another: “No one in the entire Dept [has] truly cared about the financial, mental and intellectual challenges that PhD students face more than Anna.”
Before coming to the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Anna worked in administrative positions across St. George campus, getting to know the Industrial Relations and Anthropology departments, among others, as well as the School of Graduate Studies. Anna’s remarkable service in NMC has already been recognized; in 2008 she received a Faculty of Arts & Science Outstanding Student Life Award, and in 2011 she was nominated for a Chancellor’s Award, which honours exceptional leadership in advancing the University’s mission.
How does she do it? According to Anna, she daily applies the motto, “There’s a solution to every problem.” A self-described “file queen,” she is scrupulous about keeping track of each and every graduate student in her department—what funding they are receiving, where in the world they are currently doing research (and ensuring they are registered with the Safety Abroad Office), and what deadlines they have or have not met. One student noted in her nomination that she would have missed her opportunity to accept SSHRC funding had it not been for Anna: “Anna knew I was abroad [doing fieldwork] and suspected the poor quality of our internet connection. When she saw the deadline [to accept the award] get dangerously close, she took it upon herself to send me email after email, at two different addresses no less, with all the paperwork I had to fill for the award. She didn’t let go until I finally replied, with very very few days left to that deadline.”
“I am there to help,” Anna says matter-of-factly, adding that she never “babies” students, but does take care not to add to their stress. She points out that students already have many responsibilities beyond their programs, including families and relationships that must be balanced with academic work. She sets departmental deadlines for applications at least a week in advance of SGS sessional dates, giving her time to confirm that applications are correctly prepared and, if not, to follow up with students or faculty, as needed. Recalls one student: “When I was applying for the doctoral SSHRC Anna double checked … my application package to make sure everything was there and correctly formatted.”
In addition to answering questions from students and faculty about departmental policies, funding applications, and a myriad of other administrative matters, Anna coordinates workshops for new and continuing NMC students. These include orientation sessions, which invite representatives from the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication (GCAC), Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program, and others to build students’ awareness of supports and services at the very start of their programs. Additional workshops share strategies on how to apply for federal and provincial awards and how to stay safe when conducting researching abroad, a reality for many NMC graduate students.
To keep up to date on current policy, procedures, and resources relevant to graduate students, Anna also regularly attends information sessions for graduate administrators offered by the School of Graduate Studies. Clearly Anna’s diligent information-gathering is working. Says one student: “I will still walk into her office next week with a list of questions no one else has the answers to, and I’m sure I will walk out knowing everything I need to know. And no matter how weird, unusual, or clueless our questions may be, she will always answer them with a smile.”
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