Working Alliances

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the main ways in which I have worked with members throughout campus is my membership in the Bias Response Team and Student Life Alliance and as an observer of the Critical Incident Response Team. As a result, I have engaged with faculty and staff members from various departments on campus including but not limited to University Housing and Dining, Public Safety, Counseling and Psychological Services, Disability Access Services, Career Services, New Student Programs and Family Outreach, Intercultural Student Services, Campus Media, and GLBT Services. Having had this experience, I can definitely see the benefit to being a part of and maintaining such cross-campus teams throughout my career.

I think the greatest benefit has been getting to know student needs and university responses to such needs from various angles. At a large university, with many specialized units it can be easy to get comfortable with one’s own area and fail to recognize that others are dealing with the same or similar issues or that they don’t understand every office’s unique contribution to an situation. For example, in this group a professor might observe an incident that they believe is bias motivated. In the bringing the issue to the group, they can learn about whether or not the accused students are violating the student conduct code, what resources would be available to students who were offended or hurt, what if any role student media have played or can play in the situation, etc. These teams also help to ensure that no one needs to reinvent the wheel and provide  incoming professional with a great frame of reference for what has been done in the past and what should be done, based on campus culture in the future.

Positively manage, develop, and engage

I think the key to positively managing, develop and engaging such groups are to:

• Recognize and respect the unique strengths and knowledge that every member brings to the table- if certain members feel lesser than or not as appreciated things will go sour quickly.

• Let members of the team speak from their own expertise, experiences, and abilities- assuming that one person will know how to solve the problem or have the essential information necessary to solve it just because of their position is problematic.

• Facilitate collaboration- if people leave a meeting with a long list of things that they can do alone, it lessens the chance they will rely on one other when they have additional questions, which can lead to less thorough problem-solving and inadequate responses to unforeseen challenges. Trying to create partnerships within the group when addressing smaller scale problems with create greater trust and understanding of the strengths each person brings to the group when it comes to handling larger, more critical issues.

• Celebrate successes and learn from mistakes- teams need to be able to congratulate one another when they do something well otherwise members will get burned out and lose sight of why they are meeting and working together in the first place. Team also need to spend time debriefing things that could have been done better. Brainstorming ways to improve the next time and additional people they may need to consult with if the situation arises again.

• Participate in professional development- There is always room to improve. Workshops, presentations, reviewing case-studies, reading books and articles as a team, etc. will all help to improve the function of the team. It will also make members of the group aware that their best interests as well as the larger community are being cared for.

• Keep detailed records of what the group discussing, what actions it takes, things that work and things that don’t- This will help when similar issues arise and will also help to get new professionals up to speed quicker.

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    The challenges, successes and ideas of a budding (student affairs) professional

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