The #sachat “Effective Staff Trainings” took place on Thursday, May 29th and my final thought was “Be Open to community, collaboration, and your campus. Know the needs and expectations of your trainings. What’s their purpose?”
What the College Experience Should Really Be…
As I write this Final Thought, my mind flashes back to our spring 2013 Student Government Association (SGA) training at Valencia College, Orlando. My department invited all of the SGA Executive Board members from all five Valencia campuses to participate. The training’s purpose was to explain their role in SGA, specifically, their goals and mission for the year, and ultimately, to create a networking and professional development opportunity. The training was run by our Valencia College Student Development Team.
For our SGA training, I, as a Valencia Student Development Advisor, East Campus, presented on a concept I came up with called the three C’s: Campus, Community, and Collaboration. And Bingo! As soon as I thought of this concept, I knew I was on to something that would help our students and staff create a connection, a spark, an understanding of their work on our Valencia campuses.
In this piece, I will write about two types of training – one for staff and one for students. Staff training is important as it provides our Valencia College Student Development Staff Professionals with time to regroup and rethink about their role as student advisors and leaders on our campus. Similarly, student training is essential to help new and returning Valencia College Student Leaders learn more about the Valencia campus and their vital role in making the upcoming academic year (2014-15) a success for only themselves, but for the entire Valencia College student body.
Valencia College Staff Development
Our Valencia College staff development training took place last December (2013); it was called “Winter Solstice.” Our development training was themed around the 5 components as defined by Kouzes and Posner’s Exemplary Leadership Practices. The 5 components are: modeling, inspiring, challenging, enabling, and encouraging.
The retreat was led by our Director of Valencia’s Student Development and it included team-building activities, staff presentations on duties and responsibilities, and personal growth workshops. The retreat’s purpose was to explore our own self-development as leaders – what we want to improve upon for ourselves as student advisors and what we want to teach our student leaders. For me, our retreat was a breath of fresh air. As everyone participated and shared to the ‘max,’ I was able to reconnect with my colleagues and to feel as an essential part of a team of Valencia College Student Development Advisors.
Valencia College Student Development
As we have development training for our staff, we also have development training for our incoming student leaders.
Currently, we are in the midst of our campus based Valencia College Summer Student Leadership Training and, naturally, the ‘three C’s’ – campus, community and collaboration – play an important role in our planning and instruction. We meet every Friday with our four student leadership teams – our Valencia Welcome Team, Valencia Volunteers, Valencia Wellness Ambassadors, and Valencia Student Government Leaders. Our theme for training is “Lights, Camera, Leadership,” because as student leaders, we remind our Valencia students they are always ‘in the spotlight;’ they need to know when to take direction, action, and produce fantastic content.
When training Valencia student leaders, my first objective is to bring ‘the campus to them!’ For example, for this summer’s training, we have had Valencia campus administrators engage in ‘speed interviewing’ with our student leaders. This means student leaders can meet with our campus administrators for a few minutes before moving onto to a new administrator. This way, the student leaders spend ‘one on one’ time with many of our campus administrators – when ordinarily, they might only see them in large group settings. For this quick get-together, many of Valencia’s campus administrators – including our Director of Students with Disabilities, Academic Counselors, and even, our Campus President, participated.
Another summer student leadership program for our students is learning about ‘event planning.’ Our students have the opportunity to create a ‘mock event’, a program designed for student and to be held during the academic year! Basically, our student leaders plan an event that they would like to see happen during the year and if approved by our Valencia staff, students actually put the plan into action. I look forward to their presentations in a few weeks to see what creativity and new initiatives will come into play.
Training and Development
Clearly, both of these trainings – for staff and students – are similar and yet, focused on the needs of a specific group. They target two different audiences, but they both have many things in common.
As demonstrated, knowing the needs and expectations of our trainings is important. In both instances, we, as student affairs professionals do not want to be ‘talking heads with power point slides’. Instead we naturally want our trainings to be a teaching environment where our participants – both staff and students learn, grow, and reconnect with each other.
Fortunately, for our staff trainings, our director set the expectations from the beginning of the day. She clearly stated that this training will be a chance to grow, reflect and learn. Our training, she stated repeatedly, would be a conversation – not a lecture. And that’s what it proved to be. We shared, laughed and discussed what matter most to us as staff members. And from that, we grew to become a cohesive student development team, professionals committed to bringing the very best to our Valencia College students.
Similarly, for our students, we wanted them to develop a rapport with our Valencia Student Development Administrators and Staff. We want them to learn about their positions, about how the student development office functions, and how best they could contribute to making our program a success. We also wanted to set the expectation that they are student leaders and therefore, they need to follow our office policies and procedures, adhere to a regular work schedule, and to recognize the rule and responsibilities of their positions.
Thus, the purpose of our campus-based trainings – for both staff and students – is to engage ourselves in making our campus experience exemplify the 3 C’s – we wanted to create a campus that had a real community and which demonstrated collaboration among all its participants. Our trainings provided the means to make this happen. And for me, personally, our trainings for both our staff and our students were essential to making me feel more connected to my institution, my staff and my students.
And isn’t that what college should really be about?