McGill leads the way

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McGill Reporter
August 25, 2005 - Volume 38 Number 01
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McGill leads the way

MUNASA prepares for university management symposium

McGill is not the first member university to host the annual symposium of non-academic managers of Quebec universities. But, in September we will be the first to do so during the academic year.

"It has been an extra challenge to organize the event three weeks into the school year with 18,000 students on campus," said Robert Stanley, vice-president of MUNASA (McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association). He is one of the key organizers of the fifth annual symposium of the Conférence des associations de cadres et professionnels des universités québécoises (CACPUQ) — a coalition of seven similar organizations from campuses across the province. Traditionally, the event is held in May, when the students are gone. Stanley thinks the symposium will help show the university off to its best advantage to the dozens of professionals expected to attend. "It will add vitality and vibrancy to have students here."

MUNASA president Trevor Garland said that McGill's bid for the conference was made in May 2004. Each host university presents a theme relevant to its interests, be it stress management or the replacement of retiring staff. Garland's team proposed Leadership. "I was worried about our proposal because I was afraid that it would sound elitist," Garland confessed, "but reaction was very positive."

"It's the ideal theme for McGill because leadership is a prime concern at the university, and a priority for the principal," said Garland.

Garland hopes the final panel, which asks what role non-academic managers can take as leaders in academic endeavours, will lead to a "spirited discussion."

"I hope that we will be challenged by people in other universities," said Garland.

He described the principal topic of the conference as "engaging vs. heroic leaders." In short, "understanding leadership as other than operating for your own best interests."

It's a matter he finds McGill uniquely suited to address. "McGill is strongly decentralized and staff have a lot of responsibility," he said. It is a strength when "imbued with a sense of engagement, but can be destructive if people follow their own responsibilities to the exclusion or disadvantage of others."

With the theme accepted by CACPUQ, a keynote speaker was needed. "McGill management professor Henry Mintzberg was our first thought," said Garland of the executive education expert with more than 10 books to his credit. He is a recipient of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Quebec, and has spent over 35 years as a member of McGill's faculty. Mintzberg was pleased to participate, but his schedule required holding this year's symposium on September 22 to 23.

In addition to Mintzberg, panelists include former McGill chancellor Gretta Chambers and historian Desmond Morton. "The theme really struck a chord with everyone we talked to," said Garland.

Guy Berthiaume, vice rector of public affairs and development at the Université de Montréal, will also be among the panelists. It marks the first time that a panelist has been invited from another institution. "When we were casting around for appropriate speakers, his name came up," said Garland. "He's a fascinating personality."

Garland and Stanley have been working with a team of about a dozen MUNASA members (including some retirees) to handle the logistics of the event. The conference will be held plenary-style for the first time. The format will encourage communication and also facilitate simultaneous translation, another first.

Organisers expect about 300 managers from CACPUQ's eight member universities to attend the event, which will be held in the New Residence Hall on Park Ave. Garland said that attendees from other universities are eager to see the McGill campus and several tours are being organized for the first afternoon.

MUNASA is holding 120 spots open for McGill managers. Forty of those are already taken, and promotion is being geared up as the academic year begins. Morty Yalovsky, vice-principal of administration and finance, has offered to subsidize 80 percent of the registration of McGill attendees, dropping the cost from $130 to $25.

"We've been able to do all this because of the active support from the Principal and from Vice-Principal," said Stanley, adding that the symposium will "improve McGill's presence among professionals at other universities."

MUNASA currently has 400 members and Stanley hopes the event will encourage other non-academic managerial and professional staff to join. The association has been instrumental in negotiating pay equity and other improvements in working conditions.

Stanley also said that the event provides an opportunity for administration and staff to work together. "It consolidates our place within the university."

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