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Pam Stenhjem, CAPA Senate representative

Pam Stenhjem, College of Education and Human Development, is active in CAPA and a P&A University senator.

Wave 1 colleges collaborating to create a future in common

CAPA forms transition work group

By Pam Stenhjem

Brief, February 8, 2006

Over a lunch hour in early January, about 40 employees who will become part of one new college on the Twin Cities campus July 1 met at Coffman Union. They ate at the Whole music club, talked about their future life together, and then walked down the hall for some bowling.

The event was a big success, and planning as a cross-college team was a positive experience. Coming together to collaboratively plan for the future at the ground level is the way it should be.

The group of academic professional and administrative (P&A) staff members currently work in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), General College (GC), College of Human Ecology (CHE), Department of Family Social Science (FSoS), and School of Social Work (SSW)--units that will form one new college. Altogether, these units employ about 350 P&A staff members.

"Just getting to know one another has been an important first step," says Jerry Shannon, a teaching specialist in GC. "We're collaborating on our vision for the new college and the important role we think P&A employees can play in forming it."

Becoming a top-three public research university is not an easy task. Faculty, P&A and civil service staff, and students must come together through collaborative efforts to create a new way of life at the University of Minnesota. A key part of the effort is realignment and merging of what are called the Wave 1 colleges on the Twin Cities campus.

CEHD, GC, CHE, FSoS, and SSW are facing this challenge now as they move toward a merged future that advances knowledge in the fields of education, family systems, human welfare, and human development across the lifespan. The newly created college will offer academic degree programs in a range of education, individual, social, and family development fields.

For many staff members in Wave 1 colleges, it's a time of concern. How will colleges and their departments successfully weather this transition? Will jobs and valuable employees be lost? How can colleges that have created and are deeply committed to their own identity work with others to create a new, shared identity?

P&A employees representing each of these colleges and departments--240 in CEHD, 56 in CHE, and 52 in GC--decided to take a proactive approach in addressing how their new college will become cohesive. A new Council for Academic Professionals and Administrators (CAPA) Transition Work Group formed and is now meeting regularly to discuss how the separate colleges will create a shared vision for the future.

As part of their work, the transition work group felt it was important to bring their respective P&A staff members together to meet one another, network, identify others with the same job classifications and titles, and hear more about what's in store for the future. Each college provided funding to support the get-together at Coffman Union on January 11.

The meeting gave employees a chance to listen to P&A representatives from each college talk about strategic positioning within their unit. CAPA vice-chair Stacey Doepner-Hove spoke and answered questions about CAPA's advocacy and involvement with the strategic positioning initiative on behalf of P&A staff. Then the group brainstormed about features they would like to see in their new collegiate home. Concerns ranged from job security and benefits to maintaining a sense of community in the new college. Informal networking and conversation continued in Goldy's Game Room and bowling alley.

The CAPA Transition Work Group will use the thoughts generated at the January meeting to identify key areas of concern for P&A staff during the transition. They plan to gather information on policies and practices relating to P&A staff in each college, such as the availability of professional development opportunities, and use them to shape recommendations for the new unit during the coming semester.

The CAPA Transition Work Group plans to pull P&A staff together again as we go through the evolution of our colleges.

Pam Stenhjem, M.S., is an education specialist at the Institute on Community Integration in CEHD. She is an alternate representative to CAPA, a P&A University senator, and a representative on the CAPA Transition Work Group.