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President Sterk praises Emory employees at Leadership Social

“We couldn’t be what we are if it weren’t for the work each and every one of you does,” Emory President Claire E. Sterk told attendees at the recent Employee Council Spring Leadership Social, who then had an opportunity to mingle with Sterk and members of her leadership team. Emory Photo/Video

“We don’t take enough moments to say we couldn’t be what we are if it weren’t for the work each and every one of you does,” Emory President Claire E. Sterk told attendees at the recent Employee Council Spring Leadership Social.

The social, held April 23 at the Goizueta Foundation Center, featured remarks by Sterk, followed by a “tabling event” where members of Sterk’s leadership team moved among the groups of attendees, answering employees’ questions about the university, its goals and processes, as well as questions that had been submitted ahead of the meeting.

“What amazes me over and over again are all the different offices and all the different responsibilities that are held by our staff,” Sterk said. “I’m not the only one who takes it for granted that everything will work well and fall into place because of the work that you do.

“Emory wouldn’t be a special place if it weren’t for the fact that we have all of you we can count on,” she added.

Sterk and members of her leadership team circulated throughout the room and answered questions on a variety of topics, including what makes Emory distinctive, favorite things about the university, leadership strategies, priorities and more. 

Team members who were able to attend included Steve Sencer, Emory senior vice president and general counsel; Chris Augostini, executive vice president for business and administration; Dwight McBride, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; Paul Marthers, vice provost for enrollment management and interim vice president of Campus Life; Robert Franklin, senior adviser to the president; Susan Cruse, senior vice president for development and alumni relations; and David Sandor, senior vice president of communications and public affairs. 

Even at this “amazing place,” Sterk said, “there’s always room for improvement. What I like about today is that you will get an opportunity to talk together and figure out what can we do better.”

Sterk noted that she is often asked what it feels like to be president of Emory. “I go through my 3 ‘C’s, asking how would you feel to be at a place that has healthy competition, incredible collaboration — and it’s the staff that really are role models for that — and has a lot of compassion.

“I’ve learned there are all these people I can count on, and to celebrate and be proud of the things Emory does well,” she said. 

Sterk also said she often gets asked about Emory’s annexation into the City of Atlanta.  “Folks have been intrigued about why are we doing that,” she said, explaining there are two key factors: “It gives us a seat at the table. With new businesses, new initiatives, [annexation] provides us an opportunity to have much more input than we had before. 

“It also opens a window of opportunity that we would not have had otherwise for public transportation to come to the Clifton Corridor,” she noted, citing the logistical difficulties people have coming to Emory for health care, for learning and for jobs. 

Candid conversations 

Marlon Gibson, director of Greek Life and immediate past president of Employee Council, summed up the feelings of many who attended the event. “I thoroughly enjoyed the leadership social, especially the interaction with President Sterk and her team,” he said. 

Denise Holliday, who works in Libraries and Information Technology Enterprise Applications, called the format “thoroughly engaging.” Each leadership team representative moved between four stations. At each station, an Employee Council representative presented questions submitted beforehand, then the attendees asked questions of their own.

Holliday, who presented the questions at one of the stations, said she appreciated the “relaxed” format, “where leadership team members could just talk about their history and role within the university and how they embarked on the journey to get here.”

“Everyone seemed to enjoy the direct contact,” Holliday said. “I feel these types of events give employees a voice in what is happening in their careers and how we can make things better at Emory. It was great to hear about what each person on the team is working on to move the university into being a major global academic powerhouse.”

Melissa Morgan, manager of wellness programs, agreed. “The Leadership Social was a very enjoyable event as it provided a forum to get to know our leaders better, especially as there are several new leaders at Emory,” she said.

“I appreciated the openness with which each of them spoke — they shared not only what makes Emory great, but were also candid about where we have opportunities to grow and be better,” Morgan continued. “It was great to hear their perspective on where things are and where they hope to go in the future.”

The social drew attendees from across the university, who filled the room to hear from Sterk and mingle with other university leaders. 

Karen Summers, executive administrative assistant to the dean at Oxford College, noted that it was her first time to attend a meeting of this sort, and said it was “such a wonderful experience to hear from President Sterk's leadership team.

“I found that while their areas of expertise are varied, their main focus and future, strategic planning goals align well and are in sync with one another,” Summers said.

Helping Emory employees prosper and thrive

The Leadership Social served as the culmination of the academic year for the Employee Council, which has one more meeting scheduled — on May 21 at the Oxford Organic Farm — before it adjourns for the summer.

Under the leadership of Employee Council President Deena Keeler, the group, which includes representatives from all organizational areas and employee levels throughout the university, has focused this year on the theme “To prosper and thrive as an Emory employee.” 

To that end, monthly meetings have explored topics including health, wellness, mindfulness and movement; purpose and vulnerability; resilience and adaptability; creativity and aptitude; happiness, compassion and benevolence; Emory as place; diversity and inclusion; and nourishment as “food for life.” 

“I have always felt fortunate to work for a university that believes in investing in its people. Emory has many opportunities to teach the core components that allow employees to flourish — some of which we have covered in our monthly meetings,” Keeler says.

“Emory has great academic minds and resources for these rich discussions on thriving as human beings; our monthly meetings have brought those minds together with our representatives, which has allowed for extremely rich dialogue,” she says. 

Keeler serves as assistant director of auxiliary services in Campus Services, and will mark 10 years in that position in September. She first joined Emory in 2002 as a subcontractor with Emory Dining, serving as director of special events and director of retail business operations. 

Employee Council meetings have been held in a variety of locations over the last year, including Winship Cancer Institute, Goizueta Business School, Whitehead Research Building, the Michael C. Carlos Museum, the School of Medicine, Candler School of Theology and Rollins School of Public Health.

“I have always felt lucky to have a position at Emory that allows me to interface with a campus-wide contingency,” Keeler notes. “My hope for the Employee Council was that our representatives would have those same opportunities to see areas of Emory that are outside of their daily routines and interface with others that they may not normally come into contact with in their designated departments.

“Having our meetings in different venues with speakers from all over campus has afforded our representatives those opportunities,” she says. 

Paul Ficklin-Alred, a program coordinator in the School of Medicine, will serve as Employee Council president when the council reconvenes for the 2018-2019 academic year.

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