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December 2, 2002

Student Affairs offers tips on excellence through diversity

By Jennifer McNulty

Several leaders of the Student Affairs Division gathered for a workshop in November to offer tips on achieving excellence by recruiting a diverse workforce.

Deana Slater, college administrative officer for Colleges Nine and Ten,
reminded participants to think beyond race when they consider the goal of a diverse campus workforce.

Student Affairs was asked to lead the workshop because the division has one of the most successful records on campus for recruiting a diverse staff, according to Patricia Hiramoto, director of the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Office (EEO/AA), which sponsored the session. About 35 people attended the workshop.

Hiramoto credited Vice Chancellor Francisco Hernandez's leadership of the division with following through on the campus's goal of creating a diverse workforce. During the November 21 workshop, Hernandez described his own commitment to diversity and the role his expectations have played in inspiring his staff to work toward diversity.

Alma Sifuentes, director of residential and dining services for Student Affairs, echoed Hernandez's comments, saying the "tone from the top" is critical. She, too, works within her own unit to create an environment that is comfortable for people of all backgrounds. Sometimes, she said, that includes exercising what she called "active supervision," which can involve setting clear charges in searches, monitoring applicant pools through the hiring process, and intervening when pools lack diversity. Not to be overlooked, though, is the importance of tailoring job descriptions and searches to be inviting to diverse pools of applicants, she said.

Alex Reveles, college administrative officer for Crown and Merrill Colleges, said he rewrites job descriptions to be inclusive, makes sure search committees are diverse, and provides clear direction to hiring committees.

Other steps that aid the diversity effort are encouraging current staff to apply for open positions, supporting staff professional development at all levels, and enrolling staff in campus fair-hiring workshops, said Reveles. Continuing to provide promotional opportunities for current staff members will further bolster the campus's diversity effort, he said.

In lean budgetary times, managers need to work even harder to create a working environment that is appealing to other campus employees, said Reveles, noting that being open to new ideas, making an effort to thank staff members when they "go the extra mile," and encouraging teamwork can make the workplace desirable to outsiders.

In Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), Director Max Camarillo sees a critical need for staff with what he called "cultural competencies in working with diverse students." At the heart of the CPS mission is a desire to provide a broad range of high-quality counseling services to UCSC students to help them achieve their personal and educational goals. CPS strives to help foster an "inclusive, multicultural campus community in which differences are respected and valued," which requires a staff that is ethnically and socioculturally diverse, said Camarillo.

Deana Slater, college administrative officer for Colleges Nine and Ten,
reminded participants to think beyond race when they consider the goal of a diverse campus workforce. Skin color is sometimes the most visible sign of diversity, she said, but diversity comes in many forms, including physical abilities, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Class and educational background should be factored into the mix, urged Slater.

"Our custodial staff currently is Spanish-speaking, first-generation immigrants," she noted. "What does that say to our residential students?" Many students, she added, have said the person who made the biggest difference in their life at UCSC was the custodial staff member, the proctor, or the cafeteria worker who took the time to learn their name and listen to them.

In addition to taking steps toward diversity during staff recruitments, Slater discussed issues that can influence the retention of staff once they join the campus community, including whether current staff portray the campus community "honestly" during recruitments, "culture shock" new staffers may experience and ways to support new staff through the transition, and the need to continually "educate and sensitize ourselves" about issues of diversity and ways to build community among staff.

Slater urged the audience to reflect on activities within their own units that build community while allowing staffers to share "the uniqueness of our identities and to understand our differences."

Elise Herrera-Mahoney, administrative officer of the Student Affairs Division, provided an overview of staff development programs that are sponsored by the division. The division began offering its own programs after staff development emerged as a priority and because the programs aid in the retention of staff, she said.

Programs for "front-line" staff include classes on communication and conflict management, organization and time management, teamwork and collaboration, and customer service. The pilot program was so successful it is now being offered campuswide by Staff Training and Development.

On the technical side, free classes are offered to divisional staff in word processing, spreadsheet and database management, Powerpoint, web production, and Pagemaker. For managers, the division is in its third year of offering monthly sessions that cover topics ranging from leadership development to campus budget updates. Finally, a diversity education program is being developed jointly by the Colleges and University Housing Services, the campus Hate/Bias Advisory Committee, and EEO/AA to address issues that surfaced after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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