MSU President's column for Traill County Tribune

August 13, 2016

Pre-service activities help faculty and staff gear up for a new academic year


The first sign of fall and a new academic year is the return of the athletes. A close second is the pre-service workshops for faculty and staff. Pre-service workshops generally take place during a three-day period the week before the fall semester classes begin. This year’s pre-service workshops are planned for Aug. 17-19. This will be a time to meet new faculty and staff, learn about new policies and procedures, and become acquainted with new programs and initiatives.

The 2016 fall pre-service activities will kick off with a breakfast for faculty and staff Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 7 a.m. Breakfast will be followed by my annual state of the university address. This will be held in the Classroom Building Auditorium, beginning at 8 a.m. The public is welcome to join us and hear the latest from Mayville State University. Then the university vice presidents will share their updates, and a number of other informational topics will be shared with faculty and staff. Budget and retention are two important items that will be covered.

After lunch, faculty from the various academic divisions will participate in a variety of discussion topics. They include Title IX, strategic planning, Moodle, Student Snapshot, and Starfish. Starfish is a data-tracking system that helps monitor student persistence. The purposes include holding enrollment levels stable, advising, and providing information for use by counselors, faculty, tutors, and other support resources. Starfish has been adopted by all of the institutions of the North Dakota University System. It will help us to track multiple factors that we can’t track by hand, and it lets us identify risk factors we may not have noticed – like classes that, when failed, cause students to completely drop out, not just change majors.

Workshop topics on Thursday, Aug. 18 include Importance of Accessibility, Grant Writing 101, Academic Advising, Diversity, IT Questions & Answers, and more. The day will be capped off with a picnic supper for all faculty and staff and their family members at Island Park.

Friday’s activities will be highlighted by various committee meetings, and the Child Development Programs have invited all faculty and staff to participate in a presentation, “Bridges Out of Poverty,” by Jodi Pfarr. This workshop is a comprehensive approach to understanding the dynamics that cause and maintain poverty from the individual to the systemic level.  Bridges Out of Poverty uses the lens of economic class and provides concrete tools and strategies for a community to prevent, reduce, and alleviate poverty. Participants will review poverty research, examine a theory of change, and analyze poverty through the prism of the hidden rules of class, resources, family structure, and language.  Throughout the workshop, participants will receive specific strategies for improving outcomes for people living in poverty, but the focus of the workshop is to provide a broad overview of concepts.

Because the days prior to a new semester are so intensely busy for staff and it is often difficult for them to participate in the pre-service workshops, we decided to try something new this year. Staff members were invited to participate in professional development activities on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Staff members could choose to attend one of two identical sessions, planned for the morning and afternoon of Aug. 10.

Each of the sessions began with a Happy “Half” Hour, where there was time for socializing.

Two one-hour assemblies followed. “You want me to do what? By when?” was led by Robert Jones of the Village Business Institute. The discussion focused on work-life balance and how time management impacts everything a person does. In today’s fast-paced world, the ability to achieve work-life balance and time management is key to success.

The second workshop, “Take a break (it’s okay)!” was led by Whitney Klindwoth from Sanford Health. During the presentation, staff explored the science of why mental and physical breaks at work are so important. They also learned about what to do on hard-earned breaks.

The days before a new academic year begins are always exciting. I look forward to welcoming our veteran employees, as well as all of those who are new. It will be great to have everyone back on campus as we work to make a difference in the lives of students in pursuit of their educational goals. Classes for the fall semester begin at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22. The first full day of classis is Tuesday, Aug. 23.