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Elissa Keim, professional development and learning manager at the University, prepares a class that will help cultivate a respectful culture on campus.

While already an established goal of the University, the Cultivating a Respectful Culture Strategic Innovation Initiative is blossoming out of a foundation that was set more than two years ago.

“This is work that is culminating because of this innovation initiative, but the momentum started before the request for proposals went out,” says Jeanne Christiansen, vice provost for academic affairs. “We are fortunate a lot of the ground work was already covered, and we are eager to move it forward.”

About two-and-a-half years ago, seven people formed a task force – led by Christiansen – to develop a sustainable plan for professional development at the University, including goals and an implementation plan. In addition to the work group, a steering committee was invited to provide insight and recommendations.

The result is a new professional development policy that was developed this spring and scheduled for review and action in fall 2010. This last action completed the work of the Professional Development Task Force and the Professional Development Steering Committee.

To facilitate and manage the plan’s goals, the next step, Christiansen says, was to hire a professional development and learning manager to lead and support the implementation of the University-wide initiative. Elissa Keim was appointed in April to begin working on professional development programs.


“Our mission is to establish a functional and sustainable professional development system which encourages all employees to be actively engaged and grow personally and professionally at the University,” says Keim. This effort supports the president’s vision of an effective and efficient institution.

Keim’s development of University core competencies and common knowledge shared by faculty and staff will help build a cohesive and resourceful University community. Keim is currently collaborating with departments, such as Risk Management and Environmental Health and Safety, which already have established training programs to broaden their training presence in the University community.

Enhancing these key pieces, Christiansen says, will support a more respectful workplace, encourage a uniform University training format and familiarize employees with areas in which they might not be knowledgeable.

 “We can help faculty, staff and student employees learn skills that will increase their success and satisfaction in their jobs at the University,” says Christiansen, adding Banner training, supervisor training and sexual harassment prevention training are good examples. “University employees can expect to see new technology and new approaches to engage people in their own professional development.”

She adds that learning and development is not “one size fits all,” and her committee and Keim are working to decide which employees should participate in specific programs, though some will overlap.

“We have strong employees at the University, and we want to ensure they are getting the best training opportunities to do their jobs effectively,” says Christiansen.