Fall 2014 Convocation Speech
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate
Fall 2014 Speakers
August 18, 2014
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Chair of the Faculty
Chapter President, California Faculty Association
Associated Students President
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate
Good morning. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. I am so pleased to see all of you here at the Fall 2014 Convocation. I especially want to take a moment to acknowledge all of the staff in the audience, who have taken time out of what, for many of us, is the one of the busiest weeks of the year to attend.
I would like to further thank the staff of Sonoma State University for giving me such a unique opportunity to deepen my understanding of academic policy-making by electing me as your new representative to the Academic Senate. I will endeavor to live up to the responsibility of the position of Staff Representative, and I am committed to performing this important service to the university to the best of my ability.
My experience, working directly with faculty and students in an academic school, has made me confident in my ability to represent staff within the context of shared governance, but I recognize that my specific interactions and experiences are inevitably different than yours.
The sheer variety of positions on this campus that fall under the umbrella of “staff” is daunting. I am only one person and I may not always know how topics discussed in the academic senate impact you. So I may be reaching out to you in the upcoming months, and I would like to invite you to contact me with your questions and concerns.
I would like take a moment to acknowledge my predecessor, Marybeth Hull, from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, who served for two years as staff representative to the Academic Senate. Thank you, Marybeth.
As a side note: When I was first elected for this position I actually forgot, or perhaps had blocked, the fact that I had to give a speech at convocation. So right after the announcement went out that I had been elected, I was sitting at my desk excited, and someone pops their head into the office and says, “Congratulations, you know you have to give a speech right?” Let’s just say it was a deer in the headlights moment. I think my response was “ummm…oh yeah… I do, don’t I.” This was in May, which gave me all summer to stress out about what I was going to say to you today.
Fortunately for me, pretty early on in the speech writing process, I figured out that the transcripts of the last 4 years of convocation speeches have been archived online, thank you Susan Kashack, which gave me the opportunity to “consult” with my predecessors; an experience I found both insightful and a bit humbling.
As I mined the speeches for ideas, I found that I kept returning to Marybeth’s Fall 2012 speech, in which she stresses the importance of getting back to basics and quotes a statement posted on the SSU Faculty & Staff audience webpage. Here is the quote:
A Common Goal: Being a relatively small campus with fewer than 1,000 employees and 9,100 students allows for the types of relationships that foster success for faculty, staff and administrators. Sonoma's mission is to serve students and prepare them to be learned men and women. This is accomplished through daily work done by Sonoma's highly dedicated employees.
What I like about this statement is that it succinctly touches on three concepts that are key to success. The idea of building relationships, the idea that we have a common goal, and the reason we are all ultimately here, to serve and prepare students.
The first concept, the importance of building relationships and developing connections, is at the foundation of successful collaboration. I find that there will be months where I do not interact with faculty, staff, or administrators outside of those who impact my day-to-day activities. Some, I only see once a year when we work together at commencement or bump into each other at Staff Appreciation Day.
I am sure many of you share my experience. In a way this kind of limited interaction is almost inevitable given how diverse our jobs are; however, that is also why it is so important that we recognize that we do work on a small campus, where we do have unique opportunities to build relationships and collaborate with our fellow employees. So talk to each other, share what is working and what is not.
The second concept, that we share a common purpose, is a reminder that we, as individuals and as a society, believe that higher learning is a goal in and of itself. So how does that translate to the day-to-day activities on campus?
Communication is key. I know it is an overused statement, but clichés don’t become clichés by not being true. Think outside the box regarding communication. If you have a new form, website, procedure, or insight into a situation, please share that knowledge with those who may be impacted by it, even if it seems redundant. Trust me, someone will appreciate it. If we see ourselves as a campus community, we can bridge gaps, and find new innovative ways to work together as faculty, staff, students, and administrators.
The third concept, the glue that binds the other two, and the reason we are here, is for and because of the students. Education does not just happen in the classroom. Every interaction a student has with this bureaucracy is a learning experience. We are here to prepare them for the world, whether that is through academic pursuits, teaching them how to fill out paperwork, be student assistants, or even just meet deadlines. Even if you do not interact with students directly, the work you do still impacts them, because everything they see, do, and experience on this campus influences their perception of the world.
And education is a two-way street; just as we educate the students, the students educate us. We provide them with guidance. They bring new creative ideas to the workplace as well as inspiration and innovation to the university.
If we work together, build relationships, and always keep in mind the students, I am optimistic that things will get better, flow more smoothly, and generally improve.
I know, what I am saying sounds a little “pie in the sky.” I know there have been challenges in the past and there will be challenges going forward. As with any bureaucracy, change is often painfully slow. But, I cannot help but be optimistic, because “pie in the sky,” ideas are what inspire down-to-earth change.
On that note, I would like to take a moment to talk about some of the exciting staff development opportunities here on campus:
- If you have not yet seen it, Human Resources has a new website dedicated to Staff Training & Professional Development.
- The CSU has a new Learning Management System called Skillport, which provides endless learning options for employees.
- The Staff Development Committee, funded by contributions from SSU staff and off-campus supporters, holds a variety of workshops ranging from physical and mental wellbeing, to campus area tours, to musical concerts, dance lessons, and more.
- And I, for one, am very excited to hear that the Staff Development Committee and Human Resources are building a closer relationship and that they are dedicated to bringing even more classes and workshops to promote employee growth and development and share best practices across the campus community.
Which brings me to the importance of events such as Staff Appreciation Day. Staff Appreciation Day is an opportunity for staff to get to know each other and be recognized by the campus and I would like to thank Employee Services, Dining Services, and everyone who participated and contributed in making such an important day possible.
Staff Appreciation Day is also the day that we recognize the outstanding work of the Staff Excellence Award Nominees and the two Staff Excellence Award winners are announced. I would like to congratulate this year’s Staff Excellence Award recipients, Kathryn Teixeira from the Office of the Dean Education and Antoinette Boracchia from the Student Health Center. Congratulations.
The staff of Sonoma State University have a wealth of knowledge and are often the keepers of institutional memory on campus. We provide a unique and important perspective to discussions at the Academic Senate, in campus committees, and beyond.
As staff, sometimes our contributions to Sonoma State University are invisible. Our work often happens behind the scenes, out of sight of the students, faculty, administrators, and even each other. Sometimes our work is only acknowledged when something does not happen, or breaks, or the paperwork does not go through, while thousands of near misses and last-minute saves, go unsung.
But that is what we do; we perform the day to day operations of the campus. So I ask you to take note when tables, chairs, food, or data projectors get delivered for your event; when your Change of Major Form goes through; and when the class schedule goes live each semester and registration happens, because there are dedicated people behind all of these things and more.
And staff, I encourage you to get involved and participate in staff development opportunities, because they are a fantastic chance to connect and communicate with people from all over campus; share your experience with others and listen to their views; get to know your neighbors; and reach out to others when you are faced with difficult questions. Let’s share our insight and make sure our contributions to this campus are communicated.
As faculty, staff, administrators and students we will always face challenges, but as a small campus, we have a unique opportunity to face those challenges together.
So collaborate and value each other contributions, find ways to communicate and work together, keep the students in mind, and remember that we all share a common goal, education.