Fall 2023 In-Person Learning Sessions Bring Faculty and Staff Together to Learn from Each Other and Engage

Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Ceramics Faculty Tiffany Bailey and Music Faculty Rose French reunite at Fall Convocation
The 20 steps involved in hiring a full-time employee at Phoenix College
Xiaojie Li, Cheryl Waltman-Hummer and Marc Surrarrer from Phoenix College's Institutional Research Department
Phoenix College Police Sergeant Ken McWilliams demonstrates use of the ballistic shield to Rose Gilbert and Police Commander Matt Verthein at Safety Days, one of the Fall 2023 Learning Sessions
Phoenix College Operations Tech Ivan Gutierrez explains the monthly safety inspections done on campus to Brenda Starck and Michael Wainscott, presenters of the learning session, Compliance is Fun!

For many campuses across the valley, convocation denotes the return of faculty after their summer break and staff's survival after a four-day work week through Phoenix’s intense heat. Phoenix College's Fall 2023 Employee Convocation brought the largest in-person gathering of staff and faculty to Bulpitt Auditorium since Spring 2020's pre-pandemic convocation. Employees reconnected in the breezeway with coffee and tea and on the steps of Bulpitt sharing warm hellos, hugs, and summer updates. Inside Bulpitt, a renewed energy was evident in the updates from the Vice Presidents of Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, Administrative Services, and President Britt for the standards of excellence being set across campus by faculty and staff.

Staff and faculty displayed that excellence in the hours and days following convocation as they learned from each other in a new campus initiative, The Learning Sessions. Kim Duru, Program Analyst Senior in the President's Office, noted that the Vice Presidents presented the Fall 2023 Learning Sessions idea during a College Executive Team (CET). "The call went out to different departments with information to share with the whole campus population," Kim said. "Because planning happened in the summer when faculty were largely gone, staff prepared presentations on topics important for faculty to know."

What is taking HR so long?!

Indeed, the Human Resources (HR) learning session addressed a question many employees have asked. Melissa McMullen, HR director, visually demonstrated an answer to what takes HR so long when hiring a full-time employee–one slide with twenty steps, boxed and color-coded, each dependent on the previous step. The hiring department (dark blue) is responsible for three steps; other departments are responsible for two (green & pink). The remaining 15 steps (light blue)? All HR! Melissa shared that one of the most disheartening moments for the HR team is to go through all these steps for a full-time position only to have the role remain unfilled. Reasons a successful candidate will turn down an offer are varied, but pay is one. Fixed salary ranges in the MCCCD system make competing with the private sector difficult. Melissa said focus on the other benefits of working for Phoenix College, including generous paid time off (PTO), is critical.

Institutional Research on Strategic Planning Online (SPOL)

Marc Surrarrer, Interim Institutional Research Director, was pleased with the number of people attending the Strategic Planning Online (SPOL) session, with over sixty participants in two one-hour workshops, including five people who had never heard of SPOL. "Now they at least know what it is and the purpose," Marc said. He also acknowledged the benefits of learning in groups: "Normally, we'll meet with people one-on-one or have an open lab with maybe five people, but when you're in a group, you're often more compelled to ask questions when you hear others ask them. You often don't know what you don't know when trying to learn alone." 

Xiaojie Li, Planning and Research Analyst Senior, echoed Marc’s sentiment about the importance of meeting with other people. In her new full-time position for only a few weeks, she spent most of that time isolated in her office door with few people on campus in the summer with whom to connect, but the sessions changed that. "It's great to see people coming back in person," she said. “I'm excited to meet people.”   

Compliance, Accommodations, Marketing, Oh Yeah

Other staff-led sessions included making compliance fun, ADA 101, and supporting students with HOPE (Housing Opportunity Promoting Education) and other resources. Christy Flora, PR/Marketing Manager, and Lynden Partch, Social Media Coordinator, offered tips on how the Marketing Department can help programs make a buzz on campus and in the community. The learning sessions presented "an opportunity to learn what everyone is doing right now to help support each other," Kim Duru explained. "What helps us be excellent." That excellence was evident in the 15-minute Canva video Christy recorded to accompany her slide presentation for employees who wanted a narrated guide to the information following the live session. It might just be the start of a Learning Sessions video library. 

Safety Days

Police Commander Matthew Verthein organized and offered Safety Days, a pass-through information center with tables hosted by campus departments–Information Technology (IT), Maintenance & Operations, Public Safety, and College Police–and the folks at Alertus Beacon to accompany the Learning Sessions. "Overall, this was a campus-wide effort to see more safety-related training and exposure on how to react and respond to an emergency," Matt said. Carol Coleman from IT offered info on Cyber Security, how to avoid phishing attempts, and other tips to keep your digital information safe. EMT Program Coordinator Orlando Alcordo demonstrated how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on campus, and Police Sergeant Ken McWilliams showed some of the tools police have in cases of an emergency, including a ballistic shield.

Ivan Gutierrez, Operations Tech, created a display for all the ­­­­monthly safety inspections performed across campus to keep PC's assets secure and ensure no students, faculty, or staff are injured. Ivan said PC's Safety Manager, Tom Chubinsky, handles the monthly checks for the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) Door Opening Actuators, Automated External Defibrillators (AED), and elevators. However, inspectors from the City of Phoenix regularly review equipment and make sure everything is up to code. Ivan checks the fire sprinkler systems by making sure the fire riser valves are open to allow water to the sprinkler system in case of fire.  

Expertise & Engagement

The Fall 2023 Learning Sessions make clear the tremendous amount of skill, know-how, and coordination across departments it takes to make Phoenix College function. In the same spirit where our students come to campus to learn, faculty and staff attended their colleagues' sessions with curiosity and open mindedness, knowing we have much to learn from each other's expertise. We look forward to the Spring 2024 Learning Sessions!