By David Goll
Whether they traveled across the country, 60 miles up the road — or never left their desks — employees in Academic Affairs made the most of the Staff Professional Development Grant program in 2017.
During the 2016-17 academic year, Academic Affairs Division awarded more than 50 such grants to staff members, which can range up to $1,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a group proposal. Designed to promote employees’ professional development and enhance effectiveness, the grants are primarily used to participate in training programs, in-service activities and team-building exercises, or to attend conferences and staff retreats.
April Gilbert, Institutional Repository Coordinator for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library at SJSU was one of those who traveled cross country. In March, she used her $1,405 grant to attend the biennial Association of College and Research Libraries National Conference held in Baltimore.
“It was a very valuable experience,” Gilbert said. “It’s a great place to find out about best practices in the industry; how to deliver better services and create better work flows; how to help researchers produce, publish and disseminate their work; how to better communicate with your faculty.”
Gilbert said she was especially interested in speaking with librarians from other universities nationwide to get additional ideas on how to promote her library’s collections, attract more people to use them, as well as how to encourage more SJSU faculty members to utilize the material in their own classes. Gilbert said she works closely with Emily Chan, interim associate dean for Research and Scholarship at the university’s library, to accomplish those goals.
“This conference was really great,” Gilbert said. “And I wouldn’t have been able to attend without the grant. It definitely made the trip possible.”
Lin Sao’s professional growth opportunity was a bit closer to home. Sao, who works as an academic advisor for undergraduate business students at the Jack Holland Student Success Center, received about $400 through the program to attend the annual conference of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education, a 30-year-old organization that champions the success of Asian Pacific American college and university students, staff, faculty and administrators. Sao attended the April event held in Oakland.
“This is an organization helping students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent deal with the struggles and challenges facing them in higher education,” said Sao, who previously worked as an admissions communications counselor at SJSU. “At the conference, I learned about new and interesting ways to aggregate data on the Asian Pacific Islander student population. Asians may appear to be doing well when ethnic data is not disaggregated, but that’s not necessarily true of all Asian populations. Some Asian ethnicities such as Southeast Asians struggle in a college environment.”
Dave Daley’s grant-fueled travels were a bit further away. In January, he traveled to Las Vegas to attend the annual Consumer Electronics Show to get the latest on cutting-edge technology for possible application at SJSU. The Information Technology Analyst at the SJSU library used his $1,500 grant to attend the sprawling electronics industry extravaganza — centered on the Las Vegas Convention Center — but held at venues all over the city. The library covered the gap for his $1,711 trip.
“CES is a great place to go to find out about state of the art, cutting-edge technology,” said Daley, a 14-year employee of SJSU. “IT is usually the department frequently viewed by other departments as the place to go for new ideas.”
Daley said the panel discussions at the show can be just as helpful and informative as checking out the latest products being displayed by tech companies. He was particularly intrigued by industry representatives discussing the possibilities for 5G — or fifth-generation wireless systems — that, unlike current 4G technology, promise to operate at real-time speed, no delays and be fast enough to accommodate high-resolution videos on cell phones, he said.
“There are no (5G) products yet, but it’s so important to hear about the latest technology, and see what manufacturers are working on,” Daley said. “It’s good to hear the latest straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Daley’s colleague, Klaus Trilck, didn’t have to travel anywhere to participate in the intensive, two-day online presentation known as the Educause Learning Initiative. Educause is a Colorado-based nonprofit collaboration of colleges and universities that promote advances in education through the application of innovative technology. He received $400 through the staff grant program.
“Technology changes so rapidly it’s important for me to keep abreast of it. The students certainly do,” said Trilck, an eCampus instructional designer since January who has worked at SJSU for five years. His job is to help faculty members develop creative and relevant classroom presentations. “Participating in Educause helps me keep pace with hardware and software development.”
Trilck said he found the Educause online presentation helpful and informative through its dozen or so speakers and interactive format that allowed Web participants to ask questions in real time.
“This is very effective for professional and personal development,” he said. “And it keeps me active and viable as a university employee.”