Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, December 11, 2009

Applications sought for faculty-focused STEP program

A limited number of teams across U-M will be selected to participate in the fourth annual Strategies Toward Excellent Practices (STEP) in Departments workshop. STEP offers information about organizational dynamics and change, and support for teams of faculty to make positive changes in the work environment within their academic units.

STEP Program workshop

• To apply, complete this form by Jan. 25.

• For more information, contact or call 734-615-8789.

Sample STEP team projects from past programs include topics such as creating more transparent policies, enhancing a culture of respect among faculty, reducing the attrition of students of color, forming a program for mentoring graduate students, and improving staff morale and departmental inclusiveness.

This intensive, three-day workshop — presented by the U-M ADVANCE Program, with support from the National Science Foundation — will be offered May 3-5 at the Rackham Building.

The deadline for applications is Jan. 25.

“STEP is designed to assist small groups of faculty in thinking about how to make a change in their academic units,” says Teresa Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “The STEP program offers an unusual opportunity to step away from the everyday demands on your time to reflect with a small group of colleagues on how to realize a goal you value for your academic program.”

The program offers small groups of faculty an opportunity to take ideas on how to improve their departments, then develop and implement a plan to actually make it happen, says Abby Stewart, director of U-M ADVANCE, which promotes faculty excellence and diversity in all fields.

“It’s been wonderful to watch groups of faculty feel that they have new tools — conceptual and practical — that help them accomplish goals they have, not for their scholarship but for their department,” Stewart says. “Many faculty carry around longstanding frustrations about things they would like to see be different, and STEP helps them figure out how to actually change them.”

STEP invites small teams of faculty (two to four individuals) drawn from a single academic unit to develop ideas about how to make a positive change in that program, department, school or college. These positive changes may be focused on the work lives of faculty, staff, and/or students and can include a wide range of goals, from change in the curriculum, mentoring programs, or the departmental climate to policies and procedures in a particular domain.

All team members must be able to attend the full three days of the STEP workshop and be committed to full participation in the team’s change project for the 2010-11 academic year.

Like other programs sponsored by ADVANCE, STEP is guided by social science literature on organizational change as well as unconscious bias, accumulation of disadvantage, critical mass, demographic and career issues facing women and underrepresented minority scientists and engineers, and the dynamics of effective cross-gender and cross-race alliances. The goal of the project is to equip teams to lead efforts within their home departments to improve departmental effectiveness and the environment for faculty, staff and students.

For this program STEP collaborates with the CRLT Players, an interactive theatre program. Workshop topics addressed include: organizational change principles, being strategic about change, and assessing incentives and challenges.

At the workshop, each team will develop a plan of action to implement in their departments that will take place within one academic year. Each team individually will determine the details of that plan and the level of effort required.

“I hope to see STEP become an opportunity for U-M faculty to make the changes they really want to see in their everyday work environments,” Stewart says.