Liberal Arts Staff Advisory Committee keeps staff engaged remotely

Kirsten Schlorff
June 23, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced an abrupt shift to remote work and permanently altered the sense of “normal,” the Liberal Arts Staff Advisory Committee has increased its programming and outreach to provide support and educational opportunities for College of the Liberal Arts staff.

The Liberal Arts Staff Advisory Committee (SAC) represents the interests of the college’s staff to the dean. It makes recommendations that aim to enhance the work environment, improve processes, develop best practices, better utilize resources, promote professional development and growth, and encourage interunit communications.

“In partnership with our college’s human resources team and the impeccable support and leadership of Dean [Clarence] Lang, the Staff Advisory Committee has remained committed to keeping all of our college’s staff motivated since the start of the COVID-19 teleworking period,” said Stacey Hoffman, SAC chair and program coordinator for the college’s Career Enrichment Network.

Beginning in April, the committee collaborated with the college's human resources team to sponsor a monthly all-staff meeting focused on topics such as financial literacy, gratitude, and mindfulness. Future sessions will focus on career and professional development, healthy habits, and diversity and inclusion.

The first meeting featured Blake Colaianne, a doctoral candidate in human development and family studies at Penn State, who presented “Becoming Present: Mindfulness Tips for Difficult Times," providing advice on how to stay mindful during difficult and stressful times.

In May, Allie Probst, an education program associate for the Penn State Sokolov-Miller Family Financial and Life Skills Center, presented “10 Principles of Personal Financial Literacy.” Jeremy Engels, Barry Director of the Paterno Fellows Program and professor of communication arts and sciences, presented "The Art of Gratitude" on June 23.

At the end of May, SAC expanded its offerings by holding a virtual coffee chat via Zoom. This family-friendly event, which included breakout sessions hosted by committee members, gave staff an informal opportunity to check in and connect with colleagues. It was so well received by all who attended that SAC plans to make the coffee chat, which was formerly held quarterly in-person, a monthly virtual event. Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, said he plans to join SAC for the next virtual coffee chat in July.

“Students and faculty have multiple outlets for providing feedback to the dean's office,” Lang said. “It is important that staff employees have a vehicle for engaging the college, as well — not to mention a formal social network for building community across units. I've been grateful for SAC's work, the dedication of its leadership, its partnership with the college's human resources team, and the growing participation in the committee's activities.”

Also, in conjunction with the dean's office and the college's Office of Diversity and Inclusion, SAC plans to host bi-monthly cultural competence sessions for all college staff. The sessions are made possible through an Equal Opportunity Planning Committee diversity grant received for fiscal year 2020-21. The first session will feature Shakoor Ward, professional development coordinator for Penn State’s Affirmative Action Office, scheduled for 10–11 a.m. on July 23.

“SAC continues to meet every month and will continue to plan for the future on behalf of all staff in the College of the Liberal Arts,” Hoffman said. “We look forward to events — whether virtual or in-person — like our quarterly coffee social hours, annual fall tailgate potluck, and other all-staff events. In addition, we will continue to recognize and honor unusual dedication and outstanding contributions by staff members through our monthly You Rock! Awards.”

You Rock! Award nominations are still being accepted online, and SAC will announce and congratulate award winners during one of the weekly Liberal Arts All-Staff meetings.

For more information about the Liberal Arts Staff Advisory Committee and how to get involved, like and follow the committee’s Facebook page, visit its website, or email Stacey Hoffman. The University Staff Advisory Council also provides a full list of the committees and councils for each campus and college at Penn State for staff who are interested in joining.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 24, 2020