The University Record, April 12, 1993

Management Institute solves mysteries about areas of the U

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Going off for a two-day retreat, even with the most venerated world leaders, won’t solve the mysteries of the world. But a two-day retreat with the Management Institute can help solve some of the mysteries of the University of Michigan.

For the second time, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Farris W. Womack invited staff to apply and attend the Management Institute—a commitment of one or two days each week for nine consecutive weeks to learn about the University, how it fits within higher education, the relationships between major divisions within the University and managing people to achieve quality service.

Of 77 applicants, 35 were chosen to participate in the Jan. 15–March 12 institute, including seven staff members from non-business and finance units.

Virginia R. Wait, adminstrative manager in the College of Engineering, was one of the seven.

“You get a bird’s eye view of everything,” she says. “There are things you would never see otherwise. You see all the different responsibilities that the University has and the role it plays.”

For nine Fridays, the group attended presentations on different facets of the University, learning about areas from the undergraduate experience to operation of the Power Plant. A group project, to be completed during the nine-week course, also was a major part of the program.

To build team interdependence, the institute began with a selection from the challenge program. The challenge is a physical act that requires everyone in a group to work together to be successful.

“I had no idea what to expect,” says Margaret A. Bethel, senior accountant in Financial Operations. But she was ready to meet any challenge. “I wouldn’t wear my best sweatshirt, just in case I got blood on it,” she laughs. “But it was a really good experience. We learned that there are a lot of people to rely on who know different things. I will probably remember that forever.”

Michael T. Aksamit, an order specialist for Purchasing and Stores, found many of the presentations “real eye-openers.”

“In purchasing, we didn’t have any idea of what they were doing in research. I had no idea how much money research at the University brings in,” he says.

Aksamit says he was surprised by not only how much money the University is awarded for research contracts, but also how many government regulations the University has to follow.

But what was most important, he says, was meeting upper-level managers and finding that they were easier to talk to than he had expected.

“It was nice to have all management participate in the challenge with us,” he says. “It’s not often that you get to lift the vice president through the ropes [in the Spider portion of the Challenge Ropes program].”

Participants agreed that the Management Institute experience was hard work and required a large time commitment, but were glad they had attended and thought more people should go in the future. There was always at least one place in the University that is a mystery to them, participants say, and getting an overview of the whole University increases their understanding of how they fit into the whole.

The Management Institute is held at no cost to either the staff members who attend or their departments, according to organizers Jill S. Blythman and Sue E. Burnett. They hope to have more applicants next year from both business and finance units and other areas of the University.

Applications are distributed in September and reviewed by a committee that chooses participants according to their interpersonal abilities, organizational skills and organizational perspective while keeping in mind the “diverse character of the University community and the need to provide enlightened leadership as we go into the next decade,” Womack notes.