By Jane R. Elgass
New College of Engineering employees will receive a warmer welcome that they might have in the past thanks to the efforts of some of their colleagues. This Thursday, the College will host an inaugural orientation session for the its approximately 100 new staff members.
The need for such a program was identified during a quality management brainstorming session in July 1991 by the College’s 15-member Work Training and Professional Development Action Team.
Four members of that team took responsibility for developing an orientation program. Led by Pamela G. Derry, academic services secretary in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, the other members are Linda Mae Cox and Marie E. Stalnaker, both academic services secretaries in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and Lisa F. Payton, academic services secretary in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
Payton says taking on the task of developing an orientation session was a personal goal.
“I felt it was really needed. The College is big. It’s hard to feel a part of the whole. Now I’m in the administration. When I was in a department, I had no clue to what was going on, no idea of the resources available to me.”
Cox agrees. “I didn’t know buildings. I felt paralyzed. The EECS building is so big.”
Stalnaker says the orientation program is an “excellent way to make new staff feel that they are welcome.”
Beyond the feeling of pride in developing a program that will meet the needs of new staff members, Derry and her team have benefited from the process of creating the orientation program.
“We’ve had the opportunity to visit all the departments and learned a lot of new things about the College. The quality approach also has given us tools to work with, and they are good tools. We found that when we didn’t use them, we didn’t accomplish very much,” Cox says “Quality is really an optimistic way to look at things.”
While the group did not follow total quality management processes to the letter, they say some aspects of the quality approach, such as the rules of conduct, have spilled over into their daily work. The rules call on team members to respect one another; to share responsibilities; to criticize ideas, not individuals; to keep an open mind; to question and participate; to attend all meetings; and to listen constructively.
When asked “How do you find the time to do this?” the four agreed that “it’s an attitude toward your job. It’s part of your work, not an add-on.”
Payton adds that “the importance of [this project] outpaces other things. The outcome provides satisfaction. In the life of a secretary, there’s no product.”
The four also note that they received “full support from the College.”
“This is something Dean [Peter M.] Banks wanted,” Payton says. “That was positive pressure. He was aware of the needs of staff. It was important to him. His support made it possible for us to follow through on our ideas.”
They also praise Bernadette Malinoski, assistant director of personnel, who served as the team’s facilitator and “provided a good sounding board.”
The team’s work won’t be finished after this week’s orientation session. They will recruit new members to help with next year’s program, and begin exploring the possibility of a similar program for long-time staff, many of whom expressed interest in attending the new staff program.