In June 2017, Jenn Calvert, Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, and the dedicated co-chairs of our Future of Student Affairs (FOSA) Working Groups — Dereca Blackmon and Alejandro Martinez (Collective Student Response); Shalini Bhutani and Karen Biestman (Staff Experience); Zac Sargeant and Danielle Wood (Optimizing Resources); and Nate Boswell and Inge Hansen (Communications) — attended All-Hands meetings throughout the Student Affairs division to solicit comments on the strategic-action process. Using a common form, the process resulted in more than 100 staff responses. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback. Your input provided vital information as this work continues.
Here are the highlights of what we have learned from your feedback:
Improving staff members' experience was a particularly important value that staff respondents highlighted most. Efforts such as the Flexible Work Initiative, the Salary Equity Study, diversity in hiring and recruiting and the Staff Experience Climate Survey also were high on respondents' lists. See Chart 1. (Figures in parentheses reflect the number of respondents who indicated that an issue excited them.)
When it came to Communications, what resonated for staff respondents was the Communications Working Group's focus on initiatives and templates for communicating with students. Modifying Student Affairs forums and staff meetings also garnered interest, as did providing resources on the Student Affairs Intranet site and displaying posters and quotes from students and staff throughout the division's offices. There also was interest in the Mission Statement. See Chart 2. (Figures in parentheses reflect the number of respondents who indicated that an issue or initiative resonated with them.)
"Belief in the Process" generated interest as well. Respondents noted that FOSA seemed to be a forward-thinking, transparent process "with bias toward action." They expressed excitement about an approach that was division-wide and collaborative, reflecting the division's diversity and scope when it comes to FOSA's committees and teams. Staff participation in the process and in the solicitation of feedback also was important. See Chart 3. (Figures in parentheses reflect the number of respondents who indicated that an issue resonated with them.)
With regard to Optimizing Resources, respondents were excited by the prospect of that working group's initiatives, which include the creation of an onboarding video for new staff and a space study being conducted by the VPSA Central Office. Several respondents expressed excitement about the Collective Student Response Working Group's efforts to develop initiatives to respond to student activism.
When our staff was asked "What would you like to see added to FOSA?" improving staff members' experiences and promoting growth and development was again at the top of the list. Topics included salary equity, promotions, and an examination of job classifications; staff morale, retention, onboarding and mentorship. Affordable housing for staff and transportation help also were mentioned. Diversity and inclusion, mental health resources and financial literacy assistance were noted as well. See Chart 4. (Figures in parentheses reflect the number of respondents who indicated that an issue resonated with them.)
How do we work with postdocs?
How do we work with faculty?
How well are we doing in our interactions with international students?
How can we do more to support our local neighbors and communities in need?
How will we get tangible results from this process?
How do we balance “thinking fast and acting slow?"
Should we focus efforts proportionally by staff population?
Asked “What would you highlight for a new Vice Provost for Student Affairs?” respondents called for increased collaboration and a breakdown of silos with enhanced communication and the development of collective goals. Staff noted that they hope the next Vice Provost will encourage units to share resources and get to know one another, developing a sense of community. There were suggestions that Student Affairs Forums should be interactive and connection-building, raising up diversity as a key value for the division to promote and develop.
Respondents noted that they value the Vice Provost demonstrating "presence and leadership" by attending events across the division and being accessible when it comes to meeting with units. In addition, they called for the new Vice Provost to be involved in the university's Long-Range Planning process.
Salary equity and retention, particularly of junior staff, arose as another priority for the new Vice Provost. Some respondents expressed interest in flexible work schedules, a well-developed onboarding process and welcome and small-group lunches for new and existing staff. Some sought clarity on career pathways, opportunities to shadow colleagues and other forms of staff development.
Respondents called for the division under the new Vice Provost to have a stronger voice with students and with other departments across campus, as well as more visibility, open and authentic communication, a consistent message and more transparency at all levels. In addition, respondents called for more integration with faculty and an openness to new ideas.
Q. Can we hear regular updates on FOSA?
A. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our communication to the broader division. We have started sending out a monthly email update from outgoing Vice Provost Greg Boardman, and we will be updating the FOSA website as some of the products from our working groups come in. We will also be getting advice from our Communications Working Group on how to best keep in touch as we advance our division’s work. As we transition to our new Vice Provost, Susie Brubaker-Cole, we will be working with her to determine the future of this initiative. We will keep you updated as we know more.
Q. What are the timelines for this work and plans for implementation?
The Student Affairs Leadership Cabinet is up and running and the mission for the division is finalized and currently being implemented. Our working groups (Communications, Optimizing Resources, Collective Student Response and Staff Experience) are working to finalize their projects.
Q. How can staff get involved. Will there be other opportunities?
A.We are confident there will be more opportunities to be involved. We are just not sure what they are yet. As we transition to our new Vice Provost, Susie Brubaker-Cole, we look forward to working with her to define our next set of priorities.
Q. How do people get onto committees and working groups?
A. For our first working groups, the Executive Group (The Vice Provost and Associate Vice Provosts) identified and appointed the leaders of the working groups. They focused on a broad spectrum of leaders from across the division to lead the working groups. The leaders of the groups were then given the “charge” of the group and worked collectively to identify group members. Throughout, we have been working to have broad divisional representation to identify people with skills and talents in the topic area and to build groups that could collectively achieve the tasks at hand.
How will Student Affairs be a part of university Long-Range planning?
A.We encouraged anyone with an idea in Student Affairs to submit it to the Long-Range Planning groups. The President and Provost stressed their desire to have an open submission process as well. We are collecting the submissions that our colleagues in Student Affairs submitted, and will post them on our Intranet site. In addition, the Executive Group worked on four major proposals and submitted them jointly on behalf of the division. These will be posted on our site as well.
Q. Is there a website on FOSA?
A. YES! You are here.
Q. How can we improve communication within and among Student Affairs units? What about communication training?
A. This is a question that we are actively asking and look forward to getting the recommendations from our Communications Working Group. We were glad to see how many people commented on this area of our work.
Q. How will new leadership affect our direction?
A. We believe that new leadership will set the direction for the next phase(s) of these efforts. We shared the progress that we’ve made with Provost Persis Drell and the search committee. We look forward to collectively defining our next steps with our new leader.
Q. Why do we need a unified feel for Student Affairs?
A. This is a great question. We believe that if we want to have a cohesive student experience, we need to work in concert with one another. We also believe that if we want to have a cohesive university, that the work of Student Affairs needs to be clearly articulated and utilized. If we can function as a collective, we believe there can be a more powerful impact for students and that we can make meaningful change for the university.
Q. What will success look like and be evaluated?
A. We are working on analyzing our current metrics and determining how we will measure not only the success of this initiative, but the effectiveness of our work. We will be doing this analysis throughout the 2017-18 academic year.
Q. How will this help staff personally, day to day?
A. Helping in both the big picture and the day to day have been important to us as we’ve worked on this initiative. Some of the ways we are hoping to improve staff members' day-to-day lives were noted in the comments we received about what people liked about our process, and the ideas they had going forward. Thank you!
Q. When will we hear about the space study?
A. The space study is under way and will be completed in the fall. It will be presented to our new Vice Provost and will be widely shared in the division also.
Thank you, Student Affairs – So far we have learned from your thoughts, feedback and insights to:
Additional projects have been inspired by the work above and are being undertaken by the Student Affairs Central Administration. We’ll update the division about these projects in fall 2017 as well.