Professional development opportunities abound for university employees
In five years, Virginia Tech employee Jon Couch moved from an entry-level accounting position to his current job as a grants specialist in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering.
“I’m doing what I enjoy and I feel so much better equipped to do it because of the professional development opportunities I’ve had here,” said Couch, who spent 35 years working in the private sector. “This is really a neat aspect of working at Virginia Tech.”
Housed in the Department of Human Resources, University Organizational and Professional Development (UOPD) is one of several campus organizations that provide professional development training to employees, including certificate programs, workshops, cohort programs.
“Ongoing participation in professional development activities is critical to ensuring that our employees develop and maintain the skills necessary to support both individual and organizational success at the highest levels,” said UOPD Assistant Director John Massey.
Couch, who has earned leadership and supervisory excellence certificates through UOPD, said he also takes advantage of the other opportunities available to him on nights and weekends when he logs into lynda.com from his iPad.
The website offers a library of instructional videos in software, creative, and business skills taught by industry experts. Virginia Tech provides free access to its students and employees.
The website makes it possible for anyone to take advantage of the opportunities provided, Couch said.
“In every class, I’ve always learned something that would help me immediately, something I could take back with me that day and put into use,” he said.
Annabelle Fuselier, administrative assistant in the School of Education, has completed three of UOPD’s four professional development certificate programs.
“The programs have also given me the opportunity to better understand what managers want from me so I can be a better employee,” said Fuselier, who’s day-to-day responsibilities include managing the finances for 29 faculty members across the state.
She’s finished programs in customer service excellence, leadership excellence, and office software skills, and she’s working on the fourth certificate in supervisory excellence.
Fuselier, who has been at Virginia Tech for 10 years, is also taking classes toward her master’s degree through the university’s tuition assistance program.
“We are surrounded by learning opportunities at this great university,” said Hal Irvin, associate vice president for Human Resources. “It is tremendous to see how much our own employees want to learn and how strong our institutional commitment is to support their professional growth.”
UOPD hosts about 120 workshops each year that cover a variety of topics, such as “Collaborative Problem Solving,” “Critical Thinking Skills,” “Leading Change,” and “Project Management.” About 1,850 employees attended the workshops offered during the 2012-13 academic year.
Historically, classes such as “Time Management,” “Management Skills,” and “Leader as Coach” are full within days of being open and have waiting lists.
Tracy Newton, office manager for Multicultural Programs and Services, has earned several certificates and taken numerous workshops. She was one of the first Virginia Tech employees to earn a Diversity Ally certificate through the Virginia Tech Diversity Development Institute.
The value of those opportunities, she said, enhances the skills she brings to her job.
“This training also translates into our personal lives and improves our ability to live and work well with others in general,” she said. “These opportunities are part of what makes Virginia Tech a great place to work.”
UOPD’s cohort-based learning experiences are designed to provide participants with the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and develop the key skills necessary to effectively perform. Participation in these programs requires nomination by, and a letter of recommendation from, the dean or vice president of the respective employee’s department.
The Management Academy is a cohort-based learning experience designed to assist managers with the development of skills to effectively lead, manage, and support teams, processes, and projects.
The Executive Development Institute was created in 2007 to identify and prepare current Virginia Tech employees to take on leadership roles at the university in the coming years, as current faculty and staff retire.
About 23 percent of university employees are expected to retire annually during the next five years, making the recruitment of new employees and the development of current employees critical. Since the institute was established, nine of the participants have been promoted into leadership positions at Virginia Tech.
- For more information on this topic, contact Laura Neff-Henderson at 540-231-7643.
The university makes a on-campus professional development opportunities available to employees, including the following:
- University Organizational and Professional Development provides high-impact training and performance consulting solutions.
- Free foreign language conversation courses for faculty and staff are organized by Virginia Tech Language and Culture and the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
- The Faculty Development Institute provides training, support, and resources to faculty.
- Employees have unlimited access to online tutorials and training via lynda.com.
Future leaders graduate from training
The Executive Development Institute was created in 2007 to identify and prepare current Virginia Tech employees to take on leadership roles in the coming years. In May 2013, it graduated 21 up-and-coming leaders.
Virginia Tech provides ongoing assistance to veterans returning to the workforce through a one-of-a-kind program that pairs retired veterans with unemployed veterans.
In true embodiment of the university’s motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), thousands of Virginia Tech faculty and staff devote their time, talents, and resources to community organizations and the university.
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Tracy Newton, office manager for Multicultural Programs and Services, has earned several certificates and attended numerous professional development workshops.
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