Connect U staff conference breaks work silos

- Sarah Grindlay

Connect U workshop. Photo: Zheqi Fu

Have you ever felt disconnected from your coworkers in other departments across campus, or wished you knew more about UVic’s research and initiatives? As a former UVic student and current staff member, this university has been an influential part of my life for the past decade—but as formative as UVic has been for me, I am still finding my place in the UVic community. On May 22 and 23, I was excited to attend my first Connect U staff conference. Founded in 2011, Connect U is a professional development opportunity that takes place every two years with the aim of connecting staff and faculty and showcasing the remarkable work taking place at UVic.

This year’s Connect U events were aligned with UVic’s strategic initiatives, and ranged in topic from cultural experiences, research initiatives and campus tours to sessions on the development of technical and practical leadership skills. One of the workshops that continues to resonate with me is the Experience Cube workshop, run by Cara Jones and Sarah Hood of Human Resources Organization Development. The Experience Cube concept was first written about by Gervase Bushe in his book, Clear Leadership. The concept is simple enough—before you pursue a conversation with someone, think about what you want to say, and break down the components of the conversation into four parts: observations, thoughts, feelings and wants.

Expecting a lecture-style workshop, I went with pen in hand, ready to take notes. I was apprehensive of the masking tape square stuck to the carpet at the front of the Clearihue classroom. It was divided into four quadrants—labelled O, T, F and W—corresponding to the four components of the Experience Cube. My anxiety grew as soon as we were asked to join the presenters at the front. I had not been expecting to be asked to participate. But just as quickly as my guard rose, it dissipated as Sarah Hood, director of Organization Development and Learning Services, began hopping from quadrant to quadrant. She shared a personal struggle to help us understand the cube’s format, so we could use it to connect with people who view the world differently than we do. Her ability to be humble and sincere in this moment put me at ease. We were in this together.

Interconnection became the theme of my first experience at Connect U. Whether it was collaborating on the painting of a mural in the Campus Bike Centre, bonding over yogurt and green initiatives at the progressive breakfast, or tromping the grounds of the Campus Community Garden to learn about their edible gardens and community programs, at every event I attended I formed a bond with someone I hadn’t expected to meet. As a former UVic graduate, I thought I knew this university. But spending two days at the Connect U conference showed me just how many projects are happening here—and how many amazing people are behind them. My takeaway is this: the conference may happen every two years, but we can work beyond our departmental borders every day.


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Keywords: administrative

Publication: The Ring

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