Staff make engagement a priority in the Faculty of Education

By: Elan Paulson
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

RECS Engagement

About a year ago, Western University commissioned the “We Speak Faculty and Staff Survey” to hear from its community about working at Western. The results from the We Speak were positive for the Faculty of Education, with some organization and work “engagement” ratings higher on average than other faculties. But, with the strong support of Dean Vicki Schwean, at the We Speak debrief meeting the staff decided that they could do, and should do, more to improve engagement within the faculty.

Over the summer staff volunteers formed the RECS Committee. (“RECS” stands for Respect, Engagement, Communication/Community, and Skill development, four drivers indicated as areas for improvement). The committee members decided that the purpose or mandate of RECS would be to provide activities and events, developed primarily for and by staff, that promote professional development and community engagement within the Faculty of Education.

After conducting a series of staff surveys and round-table discussions of their own, the RECS Committee decided on four ways to promote staff engagement: monthly lunch & learns, holiday “open houses” (which would be hosted by different faculty units), bi-annual outreach initiatives, and professional development meetings. All events are based directly on the ideas and feedback from the staff.

In early October, RECS held its inaugural Lunch & Learn event on cross-cultural communication. In September, Western’s new English Language Centre (ELC) welcomed 85 new international students to the J.G. Althouse building. Consequently, RECS’ first Lunch & Learn planned to offer some timely tips for supporting these new students.

The Lunch & Learn session, which was facilitated by Rose Aquino and Sandra PehIlj from Western International’s International and Exchange Student Centre, encouraged about 20 participants to understand the unique circumstances of students from abroad. “International students have much to teach us,” notes Matt Bazely, Administrative Director of the ELC. “When we have the opportunity to be more skillful in our interactions, everyone's lives are enriched.”

The Dean’s Office staff recently held Education staff’s inaugural “open house,” which included not only holiday treats but also a surprise visit from a Thanksgiving Turkey. Patricia McLaughlin explained that “The success of our fun ‘turkey’ event is proof that ‘no agenda’ get togethers for staff are well worth the time and effort. Everyone took 40 minutes out of their day to be silly together. Conversations buzzed around the room, some of those chats around work issues being resolved in a relaxed and friendly space. The Dean’s Office staff were proud of their effort, and the upcoming hosts confessed they have a high bar to meet with future RECS events.”

RECS has more in store this fall to engage the Faculty of Education’s staff members. On November 4 from 12pm to 1pm in the Community Room, RECS presents a Lunch & Learn on Having Difficult Conversations, facilitated by Dr. Jason Brown and Dr. Susan Rodger. On November 7th, the Faculty of Education will participate in the United Way Stair Climb. Contact Leesa Cooper for details. 

The results of the We Speak Survey, by faculty and department, are available on Western’s HR pages. http://www.uwo.ca/faculty_staff/wespeak/

For a video about the International and Exchange Student Centre at Western University, please visit this link, http://www.sdc.uwo.ca/int/index.html?IESCWelcomesYou .