Date June 16, 2022
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Driven by a mission: Staff Development Day returns to College Hill

More than 1,000 Brown staff convened on campus for a spirited day packed with workshops, tours, community impact projects and more at the 28th annual Staff Development Day — the first held in-person since 2019.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Less than three weeks after orchestrating a double Commencement and Reunion Weekend like no other, more than 1,000 Brown staff members gathered Wednesday, June 15, on a College Green peppered with food tables, drink stations, games and swag bags — and this time, the celebration was for them.

It was a scene absent in 2020, experienced only behind computer screens in 2021, but on full display in 2022: Colleagues laughing, hugging, catching up over breakfast and hurrying to grab a seat in the packed Salomon Center for Teaching to kick off Brown’s 28th annual Staff Development Day, a tradition dedicated to University employees investing in personal and professional growth through workshops, lectures, tours, community impact projects and more.

In a morning address, President Christina H. Paxson emphasized that this year’s celebration was a testament to the inspiring work by employees across campus that transpires behind the scenes every day at Brown.

Whether it’s through event coordination, advancement, communications, dining services or any of the thousands of ways staff contribute, “what you’ve been doing is supporting a university that is truly mission-driven…” she said. “Know that you’re important contributors to the work, and that through your work here, you are advancing the public good. That’s something we can all take a lot of pride in.”

Pride was indeed palpable throughout the day as staff reflected not just on the challenges of the past few years, but on how they were able to face them. Morning and afternoon sessions — punctuated by a staff lunch and farmer’s market and vendor fair, a 26-year tradition at Staff Development Day — tackled an array of timely topics, from adaptive leadership to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

This year’s program also previewed the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity’s Global Day of Inclusion, which will launch formally in 2023. As part of the preview, staff could register for events with a DEI focus, including a keynote by Kennesaw State University social studies education professor Sohyun An on the racialization of epidemics, as well as a scavenger hunt that led participants to uncover DEI-related resources throughout campus.

Making a positive community impact, too, was a big component of the day. One of this year’s service offerings, which in prior years have included activities like park clean-ups, tree planting and even a world record-breaking event, centered on bringing joy to children in the foster care system. In a session that had to have its registration capped because it was so in-demand, staff decorated panels to be attached to brand-new, personalized duffel bags for kids to transport their belongings and crafted inspiring birthday cards and boxes for children who don’t always get the chance to be celebrated.

Chantelle Tangui organized the session in partnership with the YearUp National Alumni Association, where she serves as the board’s Northeast regional representative. Tangui, an instructional technology specialist in University Human Resources, is an alumna of YearUp’s job training program and says she jumps at every chance to make projects like this happen. The decision to fold her community service work into her role at the University through Staff Development Day was an obvious choice.

“I love being a connector,” Tangui said. “Connecting people to resources, opportunities, organizations, other people — I love it. And getting to see the result of all these different connections within our community of staff is so rewarding.”

For some of the participants, the decision to register for that session in particular was personal.

Dawn Browne, a therapist at Counseling and Psychological Services, said that at the beginning of her career, she worked with children in the foster care system and felt compelled to give back.

“As a mom, it’s just heart-wrenching to think about a child not having something special on their birthday or other holidays,” she said. “But I know the weight of their experience and the impact that something as simple as this can have on these kids. Whatever I can do to help — especially children — I will.”

That sentiment was echoed by Tina Botelho, who said she chose the session because she “wanted to do something that would have the biggest impact on the smallest people.” Botelho works in financial and administrative services as a finance specialist and is no stranger to service; in her 32 years at the University, she’s attended every Staff Development Day hosted at Brown and hopes to spend her days after retirement as a hospital volunteer in neonatal intensive care units.

Botelho sat next to colleague Sheena Gilliard, a student account representative whose husband grew up in foster care and encouraged her to register for the session. As they decorated duffel bag panels with stars, butterflies and inspirational messages, the two reflected on the impact that simply brightening someone’s day might have.

“It’s never not worth it,” Botelho said as others gathered around the table, smiling and nodding in agreement.

“It’s never not worth it,” they repeated.