Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Collegial Staff - Entry #19

I work at a small commuter, regional campus of the University of Connecticut.  We have a great administrative staff.  In my view, the most positive aspect of the group is our collegiality.  We have very few “silos” at our location.  If the Admissions Counselor needs assistance skirting tables for the Fall Open House individuals from the Registrar’s Office or our head librarian will assist—no questions asked.  When we host our annual 5K road race through the streets of downtown Waterbury everyone pitches in—from staffing the registration table to handing out cups of water to parched runners to setting up the post-race refreshment tables.  No grousing.  No complaining.  The varied staff gladly volunteers.  It’s just the culture of our campus.

I have tapped into this all-for-one attitude the last few years for our Parents Orientation.  Most schools organize this function with, what I term “The Talking Heads,” where a plethora of staff take turns presenting information to the assembled parents.  I take a different turn.  The thrust of our 90 minute program is staff facilitated discussion.  Our Multi-Purpose Room is set-up with 10 person round tables—eight or nine parents and one administrative facilitator per table.  The focus of the activity is twofold.  First, to give the moms and dads a chance to have their questions answered in a more comforting setting.  Second, to engage them in conversation about their thoughts and feelings having their son or daughter enter the ranks of higher education.  There are few opportunities for parents to be introspective or reflective when they visit.  Our normal modus operandi is to just feed them information.  My role in this environment, in my best Phil Donahue impression, is to bop from table to table, wireless microphone in hand, answering questions, prodding the discussions, and addressing the assembled crowd.  I have found this interactive approach to be beneficial for a number of reasons including keeping their attention more pronounced during the evening; less head-drops.

I could not possibly succeed with the program unless I have buy-in and participation from our campus staff.  So, over a ten day period I sent handwritten notecards to my colleagues that assisted me.  I told each of them that they are the backbone for the program’s success.  They are the face of our campus and their enthusiasm and knowledge base are the reason the evaluations for the night are so overwhelmingly positive.  I know a simple email thank you or verbal appreciation would have sufficed, but I wanted them to feel as special as the parents did that early September evening.

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