Staff members graduate from new skill-building program
Princeton NJ -- On Dec. 18, President Tilghman presided over a different kind of commencement ceremony at Maclean House.
The early morning event, in which other key administrators also participated, recognized the 26 biweekly staff members who have completed the pilot program, "Excelling at Princeton."
The program is intended to make the employees more effective in their current positions as well as to provide the participants with additional skills that will allow them to be more competitive candidates for lead and supervisory positions at the University.
"Your commitment to education reflects so much of what is important in this great University," Tilghman told the graduates. Each received a certificate and a leather-bound writing pad.
Last February, 32 employees selected from departments such as building services, dining services, housing, grounds, maintenance and the Art Museum began taking classes through Mercer County Community College. They gathered for 90 minutes twice a week for 11 weeks each during the spring and fall semesters at the Armory on Princeton's campus. Supervisors arranged work schedules so that employees could take release time, and the University covered the cost of the program and course materials.
"Our goal was to provide our own staff with opportunities for advancement within the University by assisting them in developing their skills so that they can make an even stronger contribution to Princeton," said Joann Mitchell, vice provost for administration, who spearheaded the effort. The program was supported by the offices of the provost, the senior vice president for administration, and the vice presidents for human resources and facilities.
Kathy Goldberg, an MCCC instructor, taught participants how to use computers to send and receive e-mails, to write memos and letters and to search the Internet for University policies and procedures. In addition, she focused on improving other important workplace skills, including: oral and written communication; math skills needed for estimating, budgeting and other work-related functions; and presentation skills such as conducting meetings, managing performance, interviewing and developing a resumé. Participants praised Goldberg for the individualized attention she gave them.
"The program has given me the information and knowledge needed to accomplish my goals in a new career search," said Pat Brown, a building services staff member who plans to enroll at MCCC for additional classes. "I realize now that education is one of the greatest tools one can obtain in this life. I feel that the program has given me a new beginning or a second chance."
Master plumber Cindy Keith said the math and computer skills she acquired are particularly important for her. She intends to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.
"The program gave me a feel for going back to school and keeping up with homework and classes," said Julia Leach, a security guard at the Art Museum who also is hoping to go back to school. "It was the perfect solution to jump-start my education."
Painter Ed Brzoza said an added benefit of the program was getting to know people from other shops and now seeing familiar faces as he goes about his work on campus.
The planning committee met with participants over the summer and incorporated their feedback into the design of the next program. A new group of 28 participants has been selected for the second cohort and will begin classes in February.