One of the reasons that I liked MyU when I visited as a prospective grad student was that the support staff was amazingly competent and friendly. This past week has been a mess of frustrations for a variety of reasons, and I’m grateful for the way that the department support folks helped smooth out the problems within their control. (It would be amazing if there were a support person who helped me deal with the ex, but I know that’s asking too much.)
So here’s a big thank-you to our admin, who helped me sort out the mess I’d made with accounting/purchasing. She’s so knowledgeable about procedures/people to talk to/you name it that she’s had an answer for every bureaucratic question I’ve come up with–or known who to talk to in order to sort out the mess.
And a round of applause and a slap on the back to our equipment repair guy: one of the only people I know who can walk into a room, ask what a piece of equipment is/does, and have the thing fixed before you finish giving him an answer.
If you are trying to decide between two grad schools, I highly recommend looking at the support staff rather than just the professors. A department that doesn’t run smoothly is going to interfere with your research–no matter how cool your advisor is.