'Connecting today, creating tomorrow:' Brown celebrates 30th annual Staff Development Day

Nearly 2,000 staff members enjoyed a full day of activities that included workshops, tours, community engagement opportunities and more.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown’s campus burst to life on Wednesday, June 12, as employees from across the University celebrated Staff Development Day. Now in its 30th year, the daylong event honored staff members’ contributions and offered a vast range of opportunities for professional development, personal wellness and community engagement, both on campus and beyond.

Brown President Christina H. Paxson welcomed and thanked staff during a morning keynote at Alumnae Hall presented by Professor of Political Science Wendy Schiller, who directs the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy. Schiller offered an analysis of the state of the country economically, socially and politically, imploring the audience to look at the big picture even amid daily headlines focused on division and challenges.

“I want to urge us, as Americans, to remember we have more in common with each other than what separates us,” Schiller said. “And that’s a fact.”

The keynote kicked off a day of activities, including Leslie’s Farmers Market on Wriston Quadrangle and 84 different sessions that offered employees a sweeping array of topics to choose from. Among many others, those included sustainability workshops, a leadership seminar with Brown’s executive vice president for finance and administration, an in-depth look at the upcoming presidential election, and a CPR training course with Brown Emergency Medical Services’ community emergency response coordinator.

Workshop organizers embraced this year’s Staff Development Day theme, “Connecting today: Creating tomorrow,” by providing participants with opportunities to build skills — including actual hands-on building experience. At a carpentry workshop, some participants built picture frames, others built birdhouses and some even worked with epoxy resins.

Gianluca Rendina, the structural trades lead in Facilities Management, led the picture frame instruction. “I love this work,” he said. “I’ve been [woodworking] since I was 16.”

For those looking to unwind, activities included an acupuncture clinic. Participants sat in a circle facing each other while five needles were placed into each of their outer ears to reduce stress. Though it may sound painful, Erynn Mills, who works as an animal care technician, was pleasantly surprised.

“I was a little nervous, because I never did it before,” Mills said. However, after participating in the half-hour session Mills said, “I feel great, it was really cool.”

Others walked away with a feeling of calm — exactly the point, said Daisy Ferreira, a registered nurse at Health Services and one of the workshop’s organizers.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to give as a gift,” Ferreira said. “Everyone here works so hard, so to be able to give them a moment of peace is the highest reward.”

Between sessions, staff enjoyed lunch at the Sharpe Refectory and the offerings at the farmer’s market, which featured nearly two dozen local vendors. Staff Development Day was organized by the Talent Development team in University Human Resources, which saw 1,870 registrations for the various activities, both in person and online.

“This is a wonderful way to encourage collaboration,” Vice President for Human Resources Marie Williams said during the morning welcome session. “I hope you recognize and appreciate the value you bring to what makes Brown exceptional.”

In addition to the many workshops at Brown, employees had the chance to partner with any of 10 local organizations. Some volunteered for a children's book drive with United Way and Books are Wings, some participated in activities with kids at Children's Friend, and others helped out at a food pantry in Central Falls.

At the Providence Animal Rescue League, Brown volunteers prepared treats and toys for the shelter’s rabbits and guinea pigs while others helped with landscaping around the facility. Over the din of barking dogs, a group of employees discussed their love for animals while stuffing banana chips into hay for the rabbits to eat.

Volunteers like Melodie Vincenty, an accommodation specialist at Student Accessibility Services, were motivated by the idea of giving back, she said. Alison Buckser, director of corporate and foundation relations in Advancement, organized the event with the animal shelter, noting that she considers her participation in Staff Development Day an extension of her work at Brown.

“My main goal is to make a meaningful difference, and I think I do that every day,” Buckser said.

The power and impact of Brown employees was a theme that resonated throughout the day, including during Schiller’s morning keynote.

“All of you make a difference,” Schiller told the auditorium filled with staff members. “Everywhere.”