Vassar establishes new Professional Development office

Above is a photo of Senior Associate Dean for the Office of Professional Development Ed Pittman ’82, taken from the Vassar Alumnae/i Quarterly. Pittman began his new role as the Dean nine months ago. Courtesy of Vassar Alumnae/i Quarterly.

In response to President Bradley’s vision for more opportunities for personal and occupational growth for employees, Vassar initiated the Professional Development Office last July. Located within the Dean of College division, this office works to promote inclusion on campus by providing support and resources for employees, particularly those working in student-interacting offices.

Dean of the College Carlos Alamo-Pastrana indicated that this new office serves to implement resources for employees, including a curriculum for bias training.

This emergent curriculum will guide administrators in improving their job performance and better supporting students. Alamo-Pastrana summarized in an email interview, “It ensures that administrators in the Dean of College area are continuously developing skills as administrators and in their respective areas, and…enables us to continue improving how we engage with students.”

Senior Associate Dean for the Office of Professional Development Edward Pittman ’82 began his role in this office nine months ago. In his time at the College, Pittman has engaged primarily with students in the student life division and campus life and diversity. “I’ve worked very intentionally to build inclusive environments for students and oversaw several student resource centers,” he explained. “The transition into this work for me is an extension of the work I’ve done.”

This office seeks to create a sense of belonging among employees, as well as to offer workshops and retreats on issues that promote equity and inclusion for students. While administrators often discuss student well-being, this office ensures it for employees as well.

“We created the office because we learned from some administrators that the College offered very little by way of professional development for administrators and support staff who work at the college,” Alamo-Pastrana said. “Professional development within the College was a crucial gap that needed to be addressed.”

The office focuses on the on-boarding process—the orientation process for new employees—viewing it as integral to ensuring that new employees become a part of the campus community. It also assists new administrators in accomplishing their professional goals. For example, Pittman holds a lunch and dialogue for new student life administrators three times a semester to orient them to campus.

Further, the Professional Development Office organizes retreats and workshops to encourage learning about important issues related to campus life, as well as providing opportunities for self growth and reflection.

One of these retreats, titled “The Power of You: Women Taking the Lead,” offered attendees the opportunity to reflect on female leadership. Associate Dean of the College for Student Growth and Engagement Wendy Maragh Taylor facilitated the event.

“My intent was to give women-identifying, as well as non-binary and gender non-conforming, administrators the opportunity to go on a journey that would provide them some self-discovery, professionally and personally,” she shared over email.

Maragh Taylor feels that these sorts of retreats are important for employees, as they encourage them to explore their identities in relation to their new position. “We spend far too much time as human doings and not human beings,” she said. “These administrators were given a chance…to gain insight about how they lead and how they tap into ‘power’ to do the work they’ve been hired to do here.” Director of Safety and Security Arlene Sabo participated in anti-bias, leadership and conflict resolution workshops. She felt that these experiences influenced both her personal and professional life, observing, “[They] gave me practical skills…relating more deeply to others helps me to dig into problems and find the best possible solutions or better yet prevent issues altogether,” she explained.

She hopes that this work will persist for years to come, anticipating that it will have a positive impact on the campus community. “I think if we continue developing ourselves professionally, we will look back in ten years and be able to see the large impact continued education had on our outlook, our job performance, our relationships, and overall life in general,” she reflected.

The future goals of The Professional Development Office include developing a curriculum for bias training and new workshops. Pittman expects the work to be enduring.

“One of the problems with inclusion and diversity work is that sometimes it’s presented as okay we’ve done it and now we’re finished, and it’s never that way. The work is ongoing,” Pittman said. “Our goal is to build a curriculum that will extend through the first [year], second year, and beyond.”

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