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Professional Development: It’s Good for You and Good for KU

February 24, 2015

It’s time for a refresher course. At KU we have a mission to educate leaders, and that mission includes educating ourselves. A commitment to learning is at the core of what we do every day. However, with the focus on students, it can be easy to overlook developing our university’s most important resource — all of us.

Professional development that broadens our abilities and strengthens our skills helps advance KU’s long-term goals. And just as importantly, these activities are good for our personal growth and career aspirations.

Carving out the time to take part in these growth experiences can seem difficult, but is a worthwhile endeavor. Professional development — whether focusing on hard skills or soft skills — offers tangible benefits that improve workplace effectiveness and advance careers. It allows us to perform our jobs to our best abilities.

Learn and develop

Across KU there are a number of activities taking place that draw attention to the value of professional development.

On Thursday, February 26, the university will host the 5th Annual Staff Leadership Summit: Your Place at the Table. Topics include cultural competency, mentoring, workplace change, creativity, project management, and more. Because of great demand, the event has reached capacity, although staff can sign up for the wait list online. (Anyone registered who cannot attend is kindly requested to let us know so we can open up spaces for others.)

Opportunities for faculty include the Senior Administrative Fellows Program (which fosters the development of leadership skills among participants), the Department Chairs and Program Directors Program, Lunch and Learn with the Center for Online and Distance Learning, and a multitude of pedagogical offerings available through the Center for Teaching Excellence. There is also a searchable list of awards and programs available across the University.

The Office of Research offers several opportunities, such as Research Administration 101, and there are wealth of resources available for researchers through KU Innovation and Collaboration.

Participants in this year’s Staff Fellows Program are studying project management as they design a new framework for a comprehensive professional development program for KU staff. The fellows are examining best practices at institutions across the nation as well as conducting internal research to identify needs, challenges, and desired delivery methods. The fellows’ efforts conclude with recommendations that they will deliver this May.

In January, Human Resources Management launched the Learning Management System for all KU employees. The site includes access to a number of training opportunities and provides a thorough record of completed activities. Employees can access it through the quick link mytalent.ku.edu.

The time is right

As the annual evaluation process winds down within the KU community, I encourage supervisors to continue conversations about professional development with the faculty and staff members who report to them. Now is a great time for frank discussions about personal goals and aspirations — and how professional development can boost KU employees as well as the university. Faculty and staff can take advantage of an array of no-cost or low-cost offerings through Human Resources, Information Technology, and Continuing Education among others.

As each of us establishes performance goals for the coming year, we should also examine how a little time spent in professional development can make our work faster and more satisfying as well as achieve better results. Personal lifelong learning — in whatever form — should be central to our being at this great university.

Bits and Bytes

  • KU recently hosted an engaged accreditation team from the Higher Learning Commission for our regular 10-year review. By all accounts, the visit went smoothly. I want to thank the HLC Reaccreditation Steering Committee, led by Susan Twombly, professor and chair of educational leadership and policy studies. For nearly two years, committee members worked on a comprehensive self-study to document the strengths and challenges at this institution. I also want to thank members of the larger KU community for their participation and engagement in this important process.
  • KU has a new website that celebrates faculty excellence. The highlighted individuals have received national, international or university-wide recognition for contributions to their fields. If you know of someone who should be featured, please share the good news.
  • As reported last week, KU is among the top institutions this academic year for Fulbright U.S. Scholars. Six faculty members — ranging in rank from assistant professor through distinguished professor — will extend KU’s influence to other areas of the globe. Please join me in congratulating Dave Besson, Randal Jelks, Alexander Moise, Paulette Spencer, Patrick Suzeau, and Nina Vyatkina.
  • In addition to the Fulbright Scholars Program, the federal government offers several professional development opportunities — such as the Jefferson Science Fellowship — that allow faculty to share their expertise and work on issues of public policy. Physics and astronomy professor Alice Bean is a current Jefferson Fellow with the Department of State and would be happy to visit with anyone interested in learning more about the program.
  • Upcoming presentations in the Bold Aspirations Visitor & Lecture Series include
    • Mark Shiflett on Thursday, February 26 at 3:30 p.m. in the Bruckmiller Room of the Adams Alumni Center. His topic is “Ionic Liquids — Phase Behavior to Applications.”
    • Michael Goodrich on Tuesday, March 3 at 3:30 p.m. in the Bruckmiller Room of the Adams Alumni Center. His topic is “Studying Road Networks Through an Algorithmic Lens.”
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  -- Jeff

--
Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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