Assistant to the Dean
To Carla Reeves, retaining stellar support staff members is a primary way to ensure Purdue's campus runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Through her work with the Clerical and Administrative Assistants Mentoring Program (CAAMP), Reeves helps staff across campus learn new skills, meet mentors and deal with the ever-changing nature of their roles. Possessing 17 years of work experience at Purdue, Reeves has worked as assistant to the dean of the College of Education since 2008.
How did you get involved with CAAMP?
In 2009, one of CAAMP's founding members had been hearing from support staff members that there was a real need for more training on campus. Shortly afterward, the Provost's Office and Human Resources provided the support to start CAAMP's steering committee, which consisted of administrative assistants in the Provost's Office and in deans' offices. Adedayo Adeniyi, director of leadership and organizational development, suggested we create a community of practice, where those of us who had experience and expertise could lend support to those who needed to learn what we already knew. Early on, the steering committee formed three subcommittees; I chaired one that dealt with examining the evolving role of the administrative assistant.
Our committee began by organizing panel discussions for administrative assistants and secretaries to attend, with experienced support staff members serving as panel members. Since fall 2010, we've held six discussions consisting of four to six panel members and 30 to 45 attendees at each session. In those discussions, the panel members have discussed things such as how technology has changed their jobs and how to deal with the increasing expectations support staff members have encountered.
This past academic year, we also held four discussions in which panel members were administrative assistants and their supervisors. In those discussions, the panel members talked about how they've formed relationships that have facilitated positive, productive work environments, and they've offered advice for doing so to those in attendance.
How does mentoring factor into CAAMP's work?
Our mentoring program is really CAAMP's flagship. It lasts five months, and in the three cohorts we've had, there have been anywhere from six to 10 mentees and six to 10 mentors, who typically have been CAAMP steering committee members. So far, we've run about 23 mentees through our program.
Mentors coach their mentees in their area of focus, guiding them through analysis of how they can strengthen their skills. They share their insights, and they encourage mentees to network and search for resources needed to strengthen their knowledge base. Our last cohort wrapped up the program in April. We plan to kick off the next cohort in August. Anyone interested in becoming a mentee or a mentor may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They may also view our website at www.purdue.edu/provost/initiatives/caamp.html.
What other professional development opportunities might CAAMP offer in the future?
One of the things we're hoping to do soon is begin a job-shadowing program on campus. It would be for staff members who might be interested in a certain type of position but are uncertain whether it would be a good fit. As part of the program, we would match those staff members up with others who do the types of jobs in which they're interested. For a few hours, the person job shadowing could actually get a taste of the job in question and what it entails on a daily basis. We hope the program will help staff members make thoughtful, informed decisions about their careers. CAAMP also plans to offer advanced computer courses that will allow participants to print a certificate of completion once they have completed the course.
What do you hope new support staff members can get out of CAAMP's offerings?
When mentees first start the mentoring program, we ask them to choose one of four areas on which to focus. Those areas are career advancement, improving working relationships with supervisors or teams, networking and skill improvement. Once they pick what they'd like to focus on, we match the mentees with a mentor who has expertise in that specific area. In this way, we're able to create a very focused program that can help staff members directly reach their goals.
CAAMP's goal is to support, train and retain the best support staff on campus. By offering the kind of training staff members consistently request, we believe we can ensure that the best support staff members stay here on campus instead of taking jobs elsewhere. I think it's important to build and strengthen the workers we have here, so we can ensure we have a highly effective, highly efficient campus while at the same time providing staff members with the skills they need to succeed.