President’s Conversation with Staff-October 17, 2017

President's Conversation with Staff-October 17, 2017

At the October 17th DSA General Meeting the guest speaker, President Baenninger, opened her remarks by mentioning how often people have approached her to ask about her vision for Drew’s future. Thinking about it she dug deeper and asked herself “What do I, and the Drew community, see for the future of Drew?  Are the basic needs of our students, academic and professional, being met?  How can we build on the increase we’ve seen in student retention during the last couple of years?  What does it mean to be the lone liberal arts university in NJ that offers only BA & BS degrees?  What can we do to make this fact meaningful to others and draw new recruits here?”

To the audience President Baenninger asked “What does a singular liberal arts education mean to you, as a staff member of Drew University?” and an interesting discussion followed.

  • Julie Gill  in Advancement: After listening to a recent speaker at Drew Julie came away thinking there are so many opportunities are open to students with a liberal arts education; students can pursue not just something but anything!
  • Paul Coen in UT: a liberal arts education means that one can not only do anything but can build anything.
  • Steph Pelham in Res Life: a liberal arts education means not only going to do but doing it now, right here, while attending Drew.  Preparing, building skills and knowledge regarding issues in the real-world now.
  • Marybeth Tamburro in Admissions:  She met a student recently who identified her/himself as a computer science major but with a passion for studying history.  A liberal arts education provides students with an encouraging, curiosity-driven platform for exploration and self-discovery.
  • Ellis Hilton from Concert Hall: liberal arts students don’t have to commit to a linear path; they can safely try, fail and transition into other areas that interest them or where their strengths lie.
  • Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre in Theo School: a liberal arts education instills a global, broader and deeper awareness of the world; it prepares students to become citizens of the world, not just a worker or professional in a one specific industry.
  • Nancy Wentz in HR: students are introduced to and discover a passion for something that, otherwise, would be unknown to them.  They can cultivate these interests in an ‘intellectually’ safe environment.
  • Nick Russo in INTO: students feel nurtured at Drew and have fluid, easy relationships with their professors.

The President later reflected on the word accountability as it relates to our community and asked the audience to consider the three core principles in Drew’s mission statement: customer service, diversity and accountability.  Bearing in mind those three words how could she commit herself, on a deeper level, to the professional well being of her staff?  What does accountability really mean as Drew’s President, to staff?  A definition that once resonated with her goes as follows: Accountability is a clear commitment that, in the eyes of others, has been met.

In relation to staff’s encounters with students and their superiors, the President asked the audience what accountability meant to them.

Rich Klein in Student Accounts: The Student Accounts office  introduces students to the real world financially; regularly they must face their financial obligations and commitments.

Sunita Bhargava in CEA: Never should a student leave Admissions, or any office/department at Drew, feeling that they’re irritated or they’ve somehow irritated staff, that staff is impatient to conclude a meeting or they were unhelpful.

Carolyn Parelli in Career Center: wants students to leave her feeling well assisted to pursue their professional goals, that they understand the rigors and processes of a job search yet mindful the students don’t leave feeling overwhelmed or that it’s all so difficult.  If they’re troubled about the future, they can’t focus on the present and why they’re here.

Michelle Brisson in Student Engagement: create visuals throughout campus identifying and reinforcing who/what we are culturally.  This visual or phrase would need to rise up and be accepted/embraced by the community, that we’re all behind the same principle(s).

Staff   What can a supervisor do to encourage accountability from their staff?
Don’t know who said this: concerning decision making – trust that those who work for you can make good decisions and use sound judgment to avoid going and waiting through several higher-level approval processes; know and trust that having confidence in one’s staff saves a lot of time and avoids delays.

Pat Tagg in UT/LIB: it’s hard and often takes courage for many people to go to their boss with a mistake or problem they think they should have figured out on their own. For me a neutral, fair and accepting office environment lightens my fearful/regretful mind and opens the professional space around me; I don’t mind saying I made a mistake, I don’t know, etc. because my self-esteem isn’t at stake. I can see my boss as a problem-solving partner and guide.

It’d be great if new supervisors spent several hours with staff to learn something about them, the work they do, the projects they’re working on, the other offices/departments/people their work supports and the priorities within their work. Finally, discover what’s working/not working for the individual and the job(s) at hand, what excites and what frustrates them? Of the problems they face what do they think can/cannot be solved?

The President is hoping that at her next DSA meeting (check the DSA website for more information) the discussion will be about diversity, especially among staff and faculty.  Finally, she encouraged us to write her with additional comments concerning October 17th’s meeting and if we’d like to have more conversations like that or in that format.