By Becky St. Clair
Let’s just start with the whole point of this blog post, so if you don’t make it past the first two sentences, you’ll at least leave with the one thing I want to make sure you know: Things feel good here at PUC.
Now, what prompted this statement (and this blog post) was the pleasant surprise I experienced during last week’s Colloquium. Because here’s the truth: PUC administration pulled off one of the best all-employee meeting sessions I’ve ever experienced.
For those of you who don’t know, Colloquium is a two-day series of meetings before classes start fall quarter, intended to bring all faculty and staff together in one place to engage in professional development and get a sense of what’s happening on campus as we prepare for another academic year.
And this year, these meetings were truly fantastic on multiple levels. The presentations were informative and, in some cases, quite entertaining, and I felt like they built on each other as the two days went on. The order of the presentations seemed very intentional, making sure we all felt comfortable in our groups before asking us to discuss philosophical realities and ideals as a team, and so we would walk away inspired, with action steps to move forward.
I will take a moment here to explain the groups. When we arrived Monday morning we were given name tags with numbers in the corner corresponding with table numbers, meaning we couldn’t sit just anywhere; we had to sit at our randomly assigned tables. So right off the bat, the introverts were freaking out, and the extroverts were bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t all just gather at a table together and talk the whole time. (Don’t argue—you all know I’m right!)
I’m not gonna lie—I went into the meetings that morning with trepidation. The emails reminding us about these meetings in the weeks leading up to them mentioned things like “team-building” and “bonding” and “activities” and “comfortable shoes,” so I was…hesitant.
But, after a couple of hours of listening to presenters, laughing at well-placed one-liners from various presenters, and whispering with members of my table comments or questions about what we were hearing, I suddenly realized something: I was enjoying myself.
I was loving getting to know the people at my table, which included individuals from eight different departments on campus, both staff and faculty, most of whom I’d never spoken to before). I learned that Cesar, who works in facilities, has a great sense of humor, in addition to his fabulous mustache. I learned that Lorenzo, who teaches theology, puzzles deeply over recruitment and retention and looks for ways to contribute to those efforts whenever he can. I learned that three years ago, Abraham, our cross-country coach, couldn’t even run a mile, and now he has the personal experience to empower other runners to improve, too. I learned that Erwin, who works in the career center, has a cheerful, comfortable smile that makes you feel at ease. I learned that Bakil, a biology professor, has a passion for getting prayer groups together and truly believes in (and acts with) the power of prayer.
And then Monday afternoon came. The hour of reckoning. The moment we’d all been simultaneously intrigued by and terrified of: “The Amazing Race: PUC.”
In those first few moments you could sense the hesitancy as administrators stood in front of the room and explained the activity. Honestly, it felt a little like high school when the teachers had prepared an icebreaker the students actually thought sounded fun, but until the “cool kids” admitted it sounded fun, no one was willing to jump in.
And then the Cool Kids (aka: Lindsay Morton, associate academic dean) stood up and asked, “Okay, which team is the most determined to win? Because I’m going to join you!” Cheers rang out from several teams, and Lindsay hurried over to one of them.
The ice was broken. A sea of faculty and staff streamed out of the Fireside Room doors, rushing to their team’s first location. It was truly beyond anything I think any of us had imagined—in the best way possible. And I’ll admit: Seeing the Student Life AVP running up the Clark Hall steps in dress slacks was fantastic. Noticing the associate director of facilities getting a break from being on call 24/7 and having fun made me so happy. Racing to the president’s office next to an executive assistant from across campus as we playfully heckled each other (“You’re goin’ DOWN!”) was a hoot. Also, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a group of eight college employees each shoving Big Franks in their mouths in tandem.
The overall feel of these two days of meetings was incredibly positive. Though yes, there are still challenges PUC is working to overcome, I left after the last session feeling optimistic about the college’s future (and my place in it) for the first time since those rose-colored “new job” glasses came off a few months after I started here. And I’m not the only one who felt that; in chatting with a fellow employee after the meetings, they expressed that they, too, felt positive about the direction of the college for the first time in years. I suspect there are far more than two of us who felt refreshed, reset, and re-energized.
It was a huge feat administration accomplished at Colloquium—building team camaraderie and school spirit, while inspiring us to do our best going into this new school year after the last several difficult years.
So to President Trecartin, Academic Dean Mariano, Associate Academic Dean Morton, and Associate Vice President of Human Resources Stacy Nelson: Thank you. Thank you for inspiring hope, encouraging joy, and building community. Thank you for giving us the chance to learn and grow, for reminding us of the value of play, and for reconnecting us as a community. May you and your fellow administrators have the strength and courage to continue to lead PUC charging full force with optimism and determination into the coming year.