Meet Anna Vanek, Business Officer and Graduate Administrator, Italian Studies

Do you wish to nominate your Graduate Administrator or Coordinator for a profile in Gradschool e-news? Simply send an email to sgs.communications@utoronto.ca with a brief description of how he or she has helped you!

Our latest profile in this series features Anna Vanek, Business Officer and Graduate Administrator in the Department of Italian Studies.

 

Anna Vanek, Business Officer and Graduate Administrator, Italian Studies

Anna Vanek, Business Officer and Graduate Administrator, Italian Studies

Keeping track of important dates and deadlines across the academic year is challenging enough. Imagine what it would be like to juggle two calendars: academic and financial.

For Anna Vanek, Business Officer and Graduate Administrator in the Department of Italian Studies, it’s all in a day’s work. Staying organized is vital to her success, but so is being flexible: during any given day, she is required to change professional “hats” many times.

However Anna manages to do it, she is clearly succeeding: as one graduate student told Gradschool e-news, “Anna has helped me with lots of questions, including … how does my grad award work? … what documents do we need to submit for our taxes? etc. etc.  She’s terrific!”

The art of answering student questions, Anna says, involves taking the time to look behind the question. “Sometimes what students ask is not really what they need to know,” she says. She cites the example of one student asking for a confirmation of registration letter—a simple task for SGS. When Anna explored the student’s needs further, she realized that the situation actually required a personalized reference letter from the department.

According to Anna, her primary role is that of communicator. “I want students to be well-informed so they can make well-informed choices,” she says. If a student asks where to find an online resource, for instance, she will first explain how to navigate there and then send an email detailing the pathway. She meets with students to review and explain their annual funding letters, ensuring that they understand how and when they will be paid. Listening is equally crucial. After asking students their preferences, she adjusted how UTF funding was distributed across the academic year.

When she learned of her nomination, Anna says she was “so humbled” for being recognized, particularly since she joined the Italian Studies department quite recently, in 2016. She has found the department “extremely welcoming” and has made every effort to learn more about Italian culture—including taking a language class through the School of Continuing Studies.

Anna becomes emotional when she speaks of the sacrifices and hard work involved in a graduate degree. Having daily contact with students is the best part of her job, she says. After many years away from a student-facing role, she is happy to be back on the frontlines. “You can lose touch. It’s good to remember that the academic mission is why we’re here.”


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