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If you haven’t heard about the Staff Innovators Program, I hate to say it, but you have sadly missed out. Like the wise Tony the Tiger once said: It’s Grrrrr-eat! In fact, take a second and read a bit about it here so you’re prepped to hear about my experience as a member of this program. Don’t worry – we’ll all be here when you get back.

…Oh, hello there again! Welcome back!

So, pretty cool, right? The next time it’s offered, you should apply with your team. You’ll love it! Plus, we’re already hard at work on improvements and expanding the program for faculty for the next round, so we hope it’s an even better experience by the time you sign up.

Getting back to this last round: most of the teams were self-selected, but the team I was on came from many staff groups across various campuses. We were charged with looking at how the services available to online students at Perimeter College could help with student success. Recognizing that no classroom is an island we sought to show that the best way for a student to succeed is with the full help of all of our university community. Our team included representatives from a number of services, but was in no way exhaustive. The members were:

  • Caroline Anderson – Career Services
  • Katrina Hunter – Project RAISE
  • Mikyta Dougherty – Counseling Center
  • Stefanie Wright – Advising
  • Theo Tate – Tutoring and Learning Center

During the course of our project work, we interviewed numerous students, faculty, and administrators; explored and discussed all of the different ways that we interact with faculty and students; introduced each other to many facets of the university that will forever change our ability to do our own jobs; and most importantly for this article, we partnered with PR MarComm to develop a web portal for online students at Perimeter, so they can quickly access all of the resources that are available to them, no matter where they are. 

We wanted our students to feel like they have a campus and community, even when they are miles away.

We just recently went live with our site, in no small part, because of the miraculous work of Cody Benson’s team of web designers and strategists including Susan Gast and Steve Blutstein. They moved from our initial concepts to a fully fleshed out site in a matter of weeks – gathering data, testimonials, and creating visuals that we think truly reflect the needs of online students. 

In case you missed it at the top of the page, here’s what it looks like (and feel free to go peruse as you so choose)

We’re all very proud of how the site currently functions, and are looking forward to features that we continue to work on and will announce when completed. We think that these tools will help prospective students get a better understanding of what online education is all about at Perimeter, and also to help our current students get the help they need at the very moment that they need it from all of the services that are available to them as a member of the GSU student-body. If you do happen to see an error, or have some insight that you think would extend the reach of the new site, please feel free to drop me a line so that we can ensure that we are serving our students with all the resources they deserve. As I mentioned previously, our group was about bringing different people together, but that group could have been much larger – we welcome your participation to continue to help drive student success in every way we possibly can.

The Staff Innovators Program gave us an opportunity to go beyond our individual jobs and to think more broadly about how we solve the large problems for the university. It certainly was one of the best projects that I’ve been on at GSU in terms of expanding my perspective and helping me bring those additional perspectives to bear in the work we do here at CETL. Not only that, but by creating a safe space for exploration of tough problems, we were no longer constrained by the sense of failure being a mission-critical problem. We could imagine what was possible, and just give it a try – to think about the many “what if’s” that often get left aside in the silos of our work world. Lastly, when we continued to look for a product to solve our problem, throughout the process what we found was that most of the problems we were looking to solve had already been solved by someone else, and that solution just hadn’t made it outside of a particular group. We learned, through this, that the greatest way to solve problems here is to figure out who you think may have considered the problem you have come across and just ask them. We’re not in this alone, and the collective intelligence of the GSU community is a deep well of resources that can really help solve many of the problems that we think of as insurmountable. Give it a try, and I’m certain you won’t be disappointed. And, if you’re looking for help in figuring out how to solve your own intractable problem, maybe you should also consider the Staff Innovators Program.