Lillian Iannone: Honourary Social Worker

Lillian was recently recognized for her dedication and exceptional work as the recipient of the Arts Award of Excellence for Administrative and Support Staff.

Lillian Iannone has been a member of the McGill community and School of Social Work for 45 years. At the age of 17, straight out of high school, Lillian interviewed for a position at the School and has been there ever since. She is currently the Administrative & Student Affairs Coordinator. 

Aside from the number of administrative tasks she takes on, Lillian is most recognized for her compassion for students. As one of her colleagues writes, “There is no problem too complex for her to unravel, no hurdle she won’t climb (or breakthrough) when a student’s welfare or future prospects are at stake. Her patience for sitting with faculty Program Directors and students alike in the service of problem-solving is seemingly endless. And her heart is as big as her knowledge base is deep.”

Professor Sharon Bond, who was on hand to present Lillian the award, said, “over her 45-year career, she has supported programmatic changes, and introduced new strategies to handle recruitment, streamline admissions and all aspects of program development. She is always available to attend to the most detailed requests from students and from faculty alike, supporting everyone through periods of anxiety and stress. She represents the collective memory of the department over almost a half-century span.”

Here is what Lillian had to say on this recent accomplishment and what it means to be recognized by her colleagues from the School of Social Work – the place she calls her “home away from home”.

Tell us how your journey at McGill began.

Fresh out of high school! I applied for the position of Administrative & Student Affairs Coordinator, and the rest is history. The Director at the time said that since I had just finished high school, I could take my final summer vacation, which was special. I started on September 4, 1973 and 45 years later, I am still here. It’s a great place to work and I could not be happier.

Explain your role as Administrative and Student Affairs Coordinator.

I handle so many things, like front-line inquiries to graduation. I currently handle five graduate programs: Master of Social Work Non-Thesis, Master of Social Work Thesis, Master of Social Work with Integrated Bachelor of Civil Law and the PhD program. In a nutshell, I answer vast quantities of program inquiries by phone and email, process applications, process admission decisions, and prepare registration materials. As the Senior Student Affairs Coordinator, I do degree audits for all programs, verify and submit names for graduation and assist with setting up the PhD Oral Defenses.

What is your favourite aspect of the job?

There are many great aspects of my job! If I were to choose, it would the sense of satisfaction I get when I am able to help a student successfully resolve their academic issues and navigate the various university policies. It is nice to know that I made a difference in their student life. It’s a good feeling to know the students appreciate my help, and that I made a little difference. It’s a wonderful feeling.

I have been here for so long, that at times I feel like I am a social worker! I have seen it all, I have dealt with it all, including assisting students with every imaginable problem they may have. I once stayed after work to help one of our incoming international students find a home. She had nowhere to live so I assisted her in finding a rooming house for the night so she could lay down and have a place to sleep. I have sisters all over the place. Well, we call each other sisters! I have sisters in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and really all over the place. I feel I am making a difference in students’ lives and that makes it all worthwhile.

How has the School of Social Work changed over the past 45 years? How about the students?

It has changed quite a bit! When I started, there were only three programs – Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work, and an Interdisciplinary PhD – and all of our work was done on typewriters! Now, we have seven programs and hundreds of weekly emails to answer. I have seen many faculty members come and go. I must say, it is wonderful to see former students come back as professors.

Perhaps this is a sign of the times, but students seem to have more personal issues to deal with than they did when I first started. Luckily, there are also more resources at their disposal to help them.

I think students can have more of an impact because of social media. They have a platform to voice their opinions and raise awareness.

How does it feel to be recognized for your contributions to the School of Social Work?

I am grateful and honored to have been selected for this award. When I was initially told I had won, I was overwhelmed to say the least. But I am so very thankful to everyone for this recognition. I have the most incredible colleagues. It makes all the work I have done over the past 45 years worthwhile. Thank you again.

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