There are few things I love more than a good cooking-themed reality television show. Combining my love of cooking with the creativity of rising to assigned challenges, these shows inspire me to kick things up a notch in my own kitchen… and even in my office. Inevitable, each season competing chefs are challenged to reconceptualize the classics. Faced with staples like pigs in a blanket and tuna noodle casserole, they are forced to refine them to meet today’s palates.
The campus resource scavenger hunt has been a staple of staff training for years. While it can be a fun way of ensuring that staff members are able to locate appropriate offices and departments on campus, it can quickly become redundant and dull – you know, the same casserole you had for dinner every Thursday night as a kid.
When I pulled out our training schedule this year, I immediately began dreading the resource scavenger hunt. If I was dreading it, how did our student staff (particularly our returning staff members) feel about it? I looked at the learning outcomes that I first wrote for the activity on this campus in 2008 and wondered if those outcomes were still relevant. We can broadly assume that many of our staff members have already encountered most student services offices or, minimally, could find the location of an office by looking it up on the university website. What I really hoped to accomplish is that student staff are able to make appropriate referrals and better understand the services offered by other departments.
And so I’m changing the recipe this year with the support of the involved departments and my supervisor.
Instead of being handed rhyming clues that will lead them from office to office where they would simply take a brochure, the Resident Assistant staff will participate in a more practical application of the activity.
They will be escorted by a professional staff member who will lead them through a series of short case studies. During the case study debriefings, they will discern which campus office is the most appropriate referral for the students involved. It may be one office or several offices. After the group collectively decides which offices and departments are most relevant, they will be introduced to the staff of the departments they choose. Departmental staff members will explain to the Resident Assistants what their role in helping the student will be. In some cases, they may be the best choice for immediate resolution. In other cases, they may refer the student elsewhere. It’s my belief that this will also help educate student staff that what they sometimes perceive as “getting the run around” or “red tape” is simply helping students find the best place to assist them.
Our scenarios will take them everywhere from parking services to the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. I’m optimistic that face time with staff combined with decisions of making actual referrals will lead to more confident use of campus resources throughout the year. Our post-assessment will ask factual questions about offices, but also include opportunity for staff to rate their comfort level with referrals after the activity.
How are you reconceptualizing the tuna noodle casseroles on your training schedule this year?