Staff Networking Group

Four UR divisions come together under the umbrella of leadership

December 19, 2011

When you think of the offices of Advancement, the Chaplaincy, Enrollment Management, and Student Development, the similarities between the departments may not be apparent. But when Nanci Tessier, vice president of Enrollment Management, met with her cohorts — Tom Gutenburger, vice president of Advancement; Craig Kocher, University chaplain; and Steve Bisese, vice president of Student Development — about the inner workings of their teams, the commonalities became quite clear.

From these discussions emerged a new networking group, bringing together employees from all four divisions to help foster a better understanding of what individuals do within these various departments and build stronger relationships across the divisions.

"Looking at the information from the Higher Education Workplace Survey, we thought it would be nice to bring our four divisions together as a way to see commonality in our work, which intersects quite a bit," Tessier says. "We wanted to create a networking opportunity in a social setting."

As the speaker for the event, University President Edward Ayers talked about what he calls an unconventional road to becoming a college president and lessons learned along the way. His talk inevitably gravitated toward leadership, as he spoke of the opportunities that had crossed his path, and how he took on new roles with the expectation that he could grow to fulfill them. "You let each moment take care of itself and honor the people you're with, and good things will happen," he says.

"We thought Dr. Ayers would be a wonderful speaker because many people in our divisions would appreciate the opportunity to learn more about him," Tessier says. Attendees were inspired after hearing Ayers' story. "Learning that the challenges in my role exist in the role of the president was very helpful," says Jasmonn Colemann, major gift officer for the Department of Athletics.

Ayers' message, combined with his great sense of humor, created an enriching experience that strongly resonated with the audience. "He was funny and insightful," says Holly Blake, associate dean of women's education and development and director of the Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL) program.

Members of different divisions sat together at each table and facilitators helped introduce attendees to one another. Some had worked for their respective divisions for many years while others were brand new, but many of them said it was fulfilling to connect faces to the names they'd worked with, but had never met. "It was great to meet as a group," Blake says.

Following the president's talk, members of the audience had an opportunity to socialize, as Tessier hoped they would. "A social atmosphere is important in building relationships," she says. "And leadership is a great topic, because we're all leaders in one way or another."

A follow-up meeting will be scheduled in the spring, and the agenda will reflect feedback from surveys taken at the initial networking event.