When Financial Services Supervisor Lorraine Hart graduated last month, she didn’t receive a diploma. Instead, she was given a small pin of a bridge attached to a poem that reads in part, “In life and in work, connection is everything.” The gift was fitting for the culmination of the first supervisor cohort of Building Bridges, a six-month professional development program that connects employees from half a dozen local institutions.
Building Bridges began in fall 2008 as a way to encourage non-exempt employees to network and share best practices with their counterparts at other colleges and universities. During the program, five administrative employees from Towson—one from each division—joined colleagues from The College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Goucher College, Loyola University, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the University of Baltimore for monthly professional development workshops held at each of the participating institutions. According to Training & Development Manager Mike Noll, response to the program was so positive that a supervisor version was created.
“After talking with supervisors and their direct reports it was apparent that this type of professional development was needed and desired across the university—for both exempt and non-exempt employees,” Mike said. “We developed a unique program for the supervisor cohort with the theme ‘Managing in Turbulent Times’. The workshops in the cohort centered on giving the supervisors tools and techniques that could be used on the job almost instantly!”
Lorraine was the A&F representative selected for the supervisor cohort. The program kicked off in June 2010, and from then until this past January she and the rest of her cohort attended monthly half-day workshops on topics ranging from situational leadership to project planning and management. Many of the workshops contained elements of reflection, which Lorraine said enabled her to identify her strengths and weaknesses as a supervisor.
“A lot of ideas came to light because we had the time to really think about issues and discuss them in-depth,” Lorraine said. “Things can get so busy in the office that you don’t take the time to think strategically, so it was nice to take a step back and do just that.”
In addition to giving her time to think about management styles and strategic planning, Lorraine says that Building Bridges allowed her to gain new perspectives from colleagues outside the university who have a similar position and often experience similar workplace issues. She says that this interaction—as well as the ongoing camaraderie between the cohort members—was the most valuable piece of the program.
“There was a lot of idea sharing and relationship building,” Lorraine said. “Some of us developed a bond that continues even now that the program is over.”