Spotlight: Program manager values the artist inside

When she was hired by the U-M Health System Marietta Van Buhler thought she would be intimidated by the hospital setting. But a walk through University Hospital public areas made a powerful impression on Van Buhler, program manager of research for the Nursing Administration.
(Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services)

"The very first thing I was struck by ... was the beautiful art on the walls. I felt instantly relieved and wanted to know how these collections landed in the hospital," she says.

Alumna Van Buhler had returned to the University to manage two grants involving nurse retention for Margaret Calarco, associate dean and senior associate director of patient care and chief of Nursing Services. She has been working in the field of talent management for 20 years, recruiting, developing internships and managing career service centers for various organizations.

The focus of Van Buhler's day-to-day work is attracting nurses to the field and increasing retention at UMHS. "Right now talent management is a huge focus because it's tied to our economic stability," Van Buhler says.

Van Buhler describes her boss as "incredibly supportive and a mentor."

"Dr. Calarco is well thought of as a visionary, which is why she pursued these two grants. Her purpose is to elevate the profession of nursing. I feel honored to have been brought into this," she says.

But before that, Van Buhler grew up in an artistic family. Her mother was an art instructor at Wayne State University and her father was a designer for General Motors. Unlike her parents, Van Buhler passed on formal art training to pursue a business-related career.

These days she makes time for art, especially now that she has a job that encourages artistic expression. "It's very rare to find an organization that supports this level of art access for its employees. Gifts of Art (which promotes art activity at UMHS) allows me to honor my artistic spirit and allows me to engage in the hospital environment," she says.

She also has become an advocate for an employee art show within her department, encouraging colleagues to submit their work. "It's not a matter of being good enough; it's about having a venue to express yourself," she says.

As a labor economist, Van Buhler knows how important art and culture are in the workplace. "Having art and culture is significantly correlated to talent. If you have this 'bohemian index' as it is sometimes called, you're going to attract the workers you want," she says. "On an individual level, the ability to express art is so important. Gifts of Art has done exactly what research has shown."

Van Buhler dabbles in acrylic paint, paper art, oil pastel, graphic design and photography. The first piece she submitted to the employee art show, titled "fireflies," won a best of show award for pastels. She hopes to donate the piece to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, as it was originally designed for a children's T-shirt.

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