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Wellness Committee in LSA Student Academic Affairs
Photo by: Mariam Negaran
Article by: Bethany Christoff
Did you know that those who regularly cultivate gratitude experience stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, and more joy, optimism, and happiness? Imagine having a team of staff in your unit who volunteer their time to remind you of these facts through unique activities and avenues. The Wellness Committee in LSA Student Academic Affairs is bringing this concept to life!
The Committee is comprised of ten academic advisors and administrative staff members: Lara Hamza, Clara Kawanishi, Denise Kozikowski, Jenna Leving Jacobson, Marsha Pumroy, Brynn Arnall, Margaret Elias, and three members who have gone on to bigger and better things: Karishma Collette, Kate Sechler, and Kelsey Szpara. This committee has set out to make their work environment a warm and welcoming space through research-driven techniques, a focus on kindness, laughter, humor, and building human connections. And while their work on this committee is not part of any of their job descriptions, they are willing to contribute to wellness because they understand the value it can have over time in an office as large as theirs.
The Committee first gathered as part of the MHealthy wellness program. Over the years, the committee members started to expand the wellness focus, taking a holistic view of health, well-being, and the nature of positive organizations. The work responsibilities of academic advisors and administrative staff in this unit can be demanding and challenging, especially at peak traffic times of year. The committee plans their programming according, always aiming to improve overall staff wellness and morale. Their creativity is evident by the variety of events and activities that have been presented over time. These have included healthy breakfasts/lunches, classes taught by MHealthy instructors, nature walks to the arb, chair massages, dietician consultations, craft tables, and a zen room for quiet meditation.
The team’s nominators comment that their attention to detail has been amazing. “This committee takes on a tremendous amount of work, that goes beyond the scope of their jobs. They fit this in while still performing their jobs as advisors, auditors, and support staff. They are so committed to this committee and this work, that they give up their lunch hour in order to meet. The team works together to organize these events and activities which not only increase our own potential for staying healthy but also build teamwork and camaraderie.”
Through their positive and persistent actions, the Wellness Committee brings together small acts of kindness that add up into a larger message of support and care. As the group has evolved over time, their presence has become integral to the health and well-being of the unit’s staff, and ultimately has had a positive impact on the students they serve. They set a truly incredible example of how a small group of staff can have a significant impact on the space in which they work.
So, how have been able to do this? The group works diligently to organize and present monthly (even weekly!) activities and events aimed at increasing the sense of community and well‐being in the office. They have developed a varied range of methods and distribute emails that remind staff to take care of themselves, usually with specific tips on how to do so, and the research that backs it up. These events rely on creativity and energy. This has involved taking some risks, because it is not always clear what is and isn’t going to work. The result has been a wonderful diversity of activities allowing different staff members to engage in different ways.
When Committee members were asked how they feel about receiving recognition through the Staff Spotlight Award, they first clarified the way they define their participation on the committee. They noted, “This doesn’t feel like work, it is giving, fun and rejuvenating to make others happy.” This being said, they are thankful that the nominators took the time to recognize their work. It is helpful to know the value people place on their efforts, and this support encourages them to keep contributing in this way.
Photo with Dean Andrew Martin (left to right) Denise Kozikowski, Kelsey Szpara, Jenna Leving Jacobson, Marsha Pumroy, Brynn Arnall, and Kate Sechler
Photography By: Cindy Bourland
Cindy Bourland joined the university in 1998 as the office manager for the Newnan Advising Center, a broadly focused position where she quickly became a Jack-of-all-trades. While she loved the work and the people, Cindy wanted to concentrate on more specific components. “I wanted the opportunity to narrow my focus so I could know a topic well and contribute in more concrete ways,” she explains. Ten years later, the position of supervisor opened in the Academic Auditors Office, and she applied.
Academic auditing plays a unique role for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA). It assists students in evaluating their progress toward a degree, as well as answering a wide array of questions from students, advisors, staff, and faculty—ranging from athletic eligibility to graduation requirements. The Auditing Office also has the paramount responsibility of upholding the standards of the College and the U-M degree.
There is no typical day for Cindy, or her team of five. For example, she recently worked with a former student—last here in 1954—who wanted to finish his undergraduate degree. Cindy researched what that would entail, based on the requirements from the 1950s. Later that day, she spoke with a department administrator regarding training for a new faculty advisor, and followed up with the Registrar’s Office audit team regarding requirements for majors. Her day was peppered with clarifying policy issues, working on the queue of initial audits and graduation audits, and discussing summer graduation with a student.
But her favorite part of the job is the people she works with. “I love having an open office and the energy it generates,” she says. She is quick to acknowledge the great auditing team and strong sense of community they share. “I’m very lucky to have this, not only within the Auditing Office, but also in Student Academic Affairs and throughout the College.”
The nominations echo this sentiment, highlighting Cindy’s effective leadership that respects and encourages staff to do their best. “It is clear that her work and life are motivated by a deep appreciation for every person she encounters as a unique individual,” noted one nominator. But Cindy is always quick to acknowledge her team. “If I’m to be given any credit,” she explains, “it’s that I hire good people -- but even that is a team effort.”
When not on campus, Cindy enjoys time with her husband Glenn, who owns By the Pound in Ann Arbor. They also have two children, one living in Chicago and one attending college in Maine, who they don’t see nearly enough. So Cindy and Glenn tend to spoil their two dogs and cats. She can also be found working in her yard, kayaking on local lakes, or meeting her brother at a local bar for a spirited game of cribbage.
The LSA Staff Spotlight Committee would like to thank Anna Caruso for all her years of service as a Financial Specialist Senior in the Department of Psychology’s East Hall Business Office. According to the many letters of support we received, Anna was known for her outstanding customer service and interpersonal skills, her incredible attention to detail, and her willingness to go above and beyond to help faculty and staff alike.
With all this wonderful praise, it’s no surprise that this summer Anna was offered and accepted a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We wish her the best of luck and are sure that she will bring the same excellence to her new position.
Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS) Advisors: Ebony Ellis, Rebecca Griffin, Kate Lilly, Sarah Pauling and Crissy Zamarron
Photos By: Mariam Negaran
Whether it is sending students to Jordan to complete their Arabic language and culture requirements; to Peru to learn and practice grassroots approaches to hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition; or to Japan to study Japanese art and culture, the Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS) has them covered. CGIS provides undergraduates with a wide array of study abroad opportunities, currently offering more than 90 programs in 40 countries around the world—and plans to add even more! There is never a dull moment in the office, and CGIS advisors Ebony Ellis, Rebecca Griffin, Kate Lilly, Sarah Pauling, and Crissy Zamarron work tirelessly year-round to make the process of studying abroad as easy as possible.
There is no “typical” day for Ebony, Rebecca, Kate, Sarah, and Crissy. While placing students abroad is a large part of what the advisors do, it is not the only thing they do. They are always looking for improvements by constantly seeking and strengthening relationships with other University offices, revising and streamlining internal processes, looking for the most engaging ways to provide students information, stressing access and opportunities to programs outside of their own portfolios, vetting different places to study abroad, and even trying to keep up with the new lingo students use. One day could be full of advising appointments, while the others could be full of informational sessions, Skyping with faculty and institutions abroad, researching new programs, meeting with campus partners, or reviewing students’ applications. With the amount of work they do, Crissy explains that they always have to plan a semester ahead. Sarah shares, “The beauty of it is that our days shift based on the time of year, so it doesn’t get too repetitive.”
Students are the advisors’ biggest motivators. Ebony explains, “Once you’ve done all the planning, orientations, study abroad fairs, you can just think about how the students are going to have a worthwhile experience abroad, and knowing you are able to be a part of that timeline with them is a big motivator.” Crissy agrees, “I love that moment when you get the destroy the ‘myth’ of study abroad and say ‘You can go!’ and they really believe that they can go. It’s always fun to see that moment of excitement from students.” Kate adds that reading applications is often a good reminder of “why are we doing this work and what goals students have and how international education can be a nice compliment to what they wish to do and are already doing.” They all (semi-)joke that they live vicariously through the students and mutually agree upon how rewarding it is when students come back to share their experiences and thank their advisors for helping get them there.
Without working as a team, it would be much more difficult to accomplish all that they do now. Rebecca, who previously worked as the sole employee at a different institution’s study abroad office, states, “Working on this team is really collaborative. We’re always there to help each other out and keep things light and make even the mundane tasks a little fun.” They also keep an “open door” policy, where everyone feels comfortable asking for each other’s help and advice. Sarah explains, “It’s hard to take all of the credit for my portfolio because I’m always seeking advice from the other advisors, so I think it makes sense to be nominated as a team.”
Ebony, Rebecca, Kate, Sarah, and Crissy extend their gratitude beyond the advising team to the whole CGIS Office, acknowledging and appreciating the work that every other person does outside of advising. If they ever have any issues, they know that everyone is always there to offer unquestionable support. They are extremely grateful for the time students, faculty, their colleagues, and their supervisors spent on nominating them for the Spotlight Award. “It’s shocking to be nominated, because you don’t do it for a show or recognition.” Ebony shares. Rebecca adds, “Sometimes we can feel stuck in our little offices all day, and to know that people still notice us, that is definitely an honor as well.”
The CGIS Office is excited for a new cycle of applications for their Winter 2017 cohort of study abroad students. Starting mid-September, the advisors will soon be busy with reviewing applications, and they look forward to helping create new memories for students by placing them abroad.