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Antonella Corsi Bunker and ICI group

U staff member Antonella Corsi-Bunker met with her master's program cohort at the ICI in Portland in July 2007.

Even a little helps a lot

Civil service employees can get financial support for career enrichment

By Dan Farrar

Brief, Oct. 17, 2007

Many professional development opportunities for University staff members on campus are free. But others, from on-campus workshops to professional conferences to longer-term education and training, cost money. To support the professional development of civil service employees, the Civil Service Committee (CSC) allocates funds to give them a boost.

Employees can apply to use the funds for many options. For example, they can sign up for computer classes to advance workplace skills from departments like Academic and Distributed Computing Services. They can take advantage of programs on leadership and organizational issues from the Office of Human Resources' Organizational Effectiveness division or the Center for Teaching and Learning. Outside the U, they can use the funds toward countless programs, training, and seminars to enrich professional skills in their University positions.

Antonella Corsi-Bunker is an adviser for international students in the Office of International Programs. In July, she started a master of arts in intercultural relations program through the Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI) based in Portland, Oregon, and the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. The ICI is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to increasing awareness of cultural differences and to decreasing conflict among ethnic and cultural groups, both domestically and internationally, through education and training.

The program requires several intensive weeks in Portland throughout the year. Corsi-Bunker applied for the CSC funds--a modest amount--to help with her program costs--which are large. But even a small amount helps.

The skills she seeks will be beneficial in a community as diverse as the University of Minnesota--and beyond. Participants focus on their own culture and its impact on an international level. The training would benefit anybody, she says.

"In today's world, the rapid changes of the global economy, technology, and immigration policies call for our increased understanding of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds," Corsi-Bunker says. "We are confronted with various cultures anywhere we go, and we need to learn how to manage differences in a way that will harness their power and create an environment conducive to effectiveness and well-being."

The program helps participants learn how to solve complex issues in multicultural settings and construct appropriate interventions for fostering social change. Being culturally sensitive goes far beyond simply working with people from various cultures or traveling abroad for a semester, Corsi-Bunker says.

"Also it means having and using the flexibility and mindfulness to be able to negotiate any aspect of life successfully with our culturally different neighbors," she says.

Corsi-Bunker demonstrates just one example of how the CSC professional development funds can be used effectively to help build a résumé and career at the University of Minnesota. It's also an example of how the University is striving to maintain a workplace that gives faculty and staff members many opportunities to advance.

Guidelines and an application can be found on the CSC Web site.

Dan Farrar directs the Security Monitor Program at the Twin Cities campus and is a Civil Service Committee member at large.