The University Record, May 8, 1995

'Workplace of '90s' features Empatheatre, 47 workshops

By Jane R. Elgass

Presentations by an improvisational theater group and 47 workshops are among the offerings at this year's Workplace of the '90s Conference: "Claiming Ownership: A Balance of Freedom and Responsibility." It will be held May 18 at the Michigan League and, as in years past, repeated on May 19.

Ann Arbor-based Empatheatre, which will give both morning and afternoon presentations each day, is an improvisational theater troupe with a goal of encouraging people to lessen their fears of racism, ageism and other differences by opening lines of communication and teaching the safety of expression.

Through the use of situations that are actual and problematic, Empatheatre performers enact true-to-life scenarios to teach the safety of expression and to guide understanding of the roots of hostilities and fears.

The group is led by Sara Schreiber.

"They are very impressive," says Penny Tully of Conferences and Seminars, who is a co-chair of the conference planning committee.

"They are able to illustrate a great many situations and go beyond the superficial. And they don't always resolve the problem in their presentation, they don't say 'This is right and this is wrong.'

"I've found their work very instructive, and it reaches people in a lot of dimensions, both personal and work-related."

Empatheatre's morning presentations will deal with situations suggested by the conference planning committee. In the afternoon, they will present scenarios suggested by those attending the conference.

Jackie McClain, executive director of Affirmative Action/Human Resources, will give the opening address on her story--rising through the ranks during her career from a secretarial position. She also will share her hopes and dreams for staff development at the University as it relates to the conference theme.

Also featured is a workshop by Larry Spears, executive director of The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership in Indianapolis, Ind. Conference planners hope his presentation will pave the way for sessions next year about how service, in the long run, actually is a form of leadership.

While not broken into segments in the program brochure, Tully notes that the workshop sessions revolve around four topics: University information, health and wellness, skill development, and personal and professional development.

She adds that the format of the program has been changed somewhat this year, with the addition of an afternoon reception and closing session, and a longer day in general.

"This is in response to the increasing interest expressed in flexible scheduling around the University," Tully says. "There's more time at the beginning and end, giving participants some discretion in how to spend their time. It also gives them more opportunities for networking, one of the most valuable aspects of the conference. We want people to feel that they are part of the University and not just alone in their units."

Registrations, $59 per person, are still being accepted. However, those placed now may not receive official acknowledgment in the mail.

Tully prefers that registrations be sent via mail. She asks those planning to FAX registration to duplicate the form on white paper before sending it and to not also send one via mail, thereby preventing duplication problems.

Other co-chairs of the 30-member team that planned the conference are Deb Nystrom of Human Resource Development and Linda Short of M-Quality Training.