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Adam Pagel and Sarah Kussow

U employees Adam Pagel and Sarah Kussow have taken advantage of the Regents Scholarship for their master's degree programs on the Twin Cities campus.

Retool or refresh

Faculty and staff can take advantage of professional and personal development options on campus

By Dee Anne Bonebright

Brief, Oct. 10, 2007

For many people at the University, fall is a time to think about professional development. Students are returning to classes, the marching band is practicing on the mall, and parents are sending their children back to school. Some faculty and staff members are sending themselves back to school as well.

"There are tremendous educational opportunities provided for people at the U," says vice president for human resources Carol Carrier. Many campus units offer training on a wide variety of topics.

Whether you're interested in completing a degree or in taking advantage of the many workshops offered around campus, fall semester is a good time to think about professional development goals. No matter what you're interested in, University resources can help you get there.

Regents Scholarship

Last year, more than 2,000 faculty and staff members across the University attended classes through the University Regents Scholarship program. According to program coordinator Susan Cable, that represents more than $7.5 million in tuition benefits.

"The Regents Scholarship is a phenomenal benefit for our University community," says Cable. "It provides an opportunity to develop professionally, explore higher ed options, or complete a degree."

New Regents Scholarship information

In February 2007, the Regents Scholarship and Academic Staff tuition programs were merged into one streamlined program. One new form should be used by faculty and staff requesting tuition benefits through the program--old forms will not be accepted beginning in spring semester 2008.

It's not necessary to be admitted to a college participate, but those who use the program must follow the University's normal registration process. Registration information and the new form can be found on the One Stop student services site. Review the new Regents Scholarship policy and find answers to frequently asked questions.

Sarah Kussow is a coordinator in the Office of Classroom Management. Four years ago, she started taking classes toward an M.Ed. in work and human resource education. After completing an internship this fall, she expects to graduate in December.

"This is a huge benefit," says Kussow. "We have the opportunity to take classes for free. How can I pass it up?"

Kussow says that education has always been important to her, and the graduate degree is already opening new doors.

"In this environment, people value higher education," she says. "It's already given me confidence to try new things and go new places."

Adam Pagel completed an M.A. in strategic communication through a cohort program in the School of Journalism. While doing full-time graduate work, he was also working full time as a University employee. He says that using the Regents Scholarship helped him both personally and professionally.

"The program was a good option for me because it was designed for people who were already working professionals," he says. "I was able to take courses in the evening and apply what I learned during the day." Rather than being a distraction, taking classes made him more focused at work. "I had to be attentive to managing my time and getting my work done."

Both Kussow and Pagel found supervisors very supportive of their coursework. In their experience, the University recognizes the value of professional development and supports employee's educational activities.

"I don't think you find that same level of support in the corporate sector," says Kussow. Pagel adds that it can be tough to work full time and also take classes, but departmental support helps, and the rewards are worth it.

Training and development workshops

In the Office of Human Resources (OHR), the Organizational Effectiveness division offers workshops for faculty and staff. Employees can learn about the new financial management system, take a class on situational leadership, or explore ways to renew their work life.

New this year is the Personal and Professional Development unit. Its goal is "to promote the University's culture of excellence by helping people at all levels of the organization develop their skills and capabilities." This means that individual contributors now have a resource for skill development on a wide range of topics, from professional skills such as leading effective meetings to personal and group skills such as enhancing creativity and problem-solving techniques.

"We think that professional development activities benefit both the participant and the University," says Rosie Barry, assistant director of organizational effectiveness.

The University of Minnesota-Duluth provides an extensive program of training for staff and faculty. UMD Human Resources sponsors workshops in both professional development and personal enrichment areas. In addition to topics such as effective supervision and providing excellent service, employees can attend sessions on wellness, health, and safety. Director of UMD human resources Judith Karon says employees appreciate the work/life focus.

"They feel supported in their personal issues, not just in making more widgets at their desk," says Karon.

Professional development for faculty and instructional staff

The Twin Cities campus Center for Teaching and Learning is designed to enrich the professional growth of faculty, instructional staff, and teaching assistants. The center offers programs that aim to promote significant learning experiences for students. The center wants to be a partner in shaping and sustaining a university environment where teaching matters, says director David Langley.

In addition to existing programs for early and mid-career faculty, the center is expanding its services for early-career faculty to include a semester-long series beginning in spring 2008 and a classroom observation program that allows new teachers to learn from a small group of model teachers. See early-career faculty services.

At UMD, Instructional Development Services (IDS) provides educational resources for faculty and teaching staff. Services include individual consultations, classroom observations, and workshops. An early-career series is offered each semester for new faculty.

Shelley Smith, associate professor and teaching consultant in IDS, is particularly pleased about providing opportunities for collaboration across units.

"People get 'siloed,'" she says. "We can provide an opportunity to interact and build community across disciplines."

Upcoming IDS projects include a writing support group for faculty and a partnership with the international education office to create a program on bringing an international focus to the curriculum.

Dee Anne Bonebright is a consultant in the Organizational Effectiveness division of the Office of Human Resources on the Twin Cities campus.