Meet Margaret Meaney, 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!
“I think that this reflects on their awesomeness,” says Margaret Meaney upon learning that graduate students in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics have nominated her for her work as a Graduate Administrator. Margaret describes the department as a tight community of about 50 students, where mutual support is key. She points out that a home department is a graduate student’s central connection to the university, and it is where many first seek administrative and academic assistance. Entering graduate studies involves encountering some familiar terrain, but it can also involve navigating the unknown—everything from figuring out the dynamics of a thesis supervisor relationship to making sense of a funding package.
Margaret is a self-described “one stop shop.” She has helped new students transition to Toronto (“I went to her with questions about housing, funding, prices of things, weather, etc.,” says one student). She has helped others manage the administrative side of important life decisions, including “whether or not to take an official maternity leave.” She has also clarified scholarship types and application processes; in the words of one grateful student, “she gave me all sorts of tips, and even directed me to campus resources I could use to make my proposals better.”
Margaret shrugs off attempts to make her own part in the process seem out of the ordinary. When she goes the extra mile to find out the answer to a student’s question, she says she benefits, too. Challenges like these fuel her interest in graduate policy and administration. Noting that she can “build a database from scratch”—a legacy of her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science—Margaret recognizes her love for managing data and filling in the information gaps. She will regularly follow up one student’s question with an email to all students from the same cohort, ensuring everyone is informed. She also helps to fine-tune departmental policy and processes, working closely with the Associate Chair, Graduate.
If she had to define her primary role as a graduate administrator, Margaret would say it’s being an “interpreter”—whether that means clarifying information for students and faculty, or bringing student questions and concerns to the Associate Chair, Graduate. From the perspective of students in Astronomy & Astrophysics, this role is essential. Says a fifth-year PhD candidate: “I can’t imagine how hard being a graduate student here [would be] if we didn’t have someone like her in her position.”
Margaret would encourage graduate students in any department not to “tread lightly” when it comes to asking questions to graduate administrative staff. “It’s a large part of why we are here.”
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