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Community Conference Kicks Off Academic Year for Faculty and Staff

The day-long event focused on the core values of the college reflecting on questions like, “What do we value?” “Why do we choose to do the work we do?” and “How do our values influence our choices?”

President Brock Blomberg framed the day in his opening remarks, stressing the focus of new core curriculum, the four questions and the important role our values play. Mark Schneider, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, and Heather Lobban-Viravong, special assistant to the president, hosted the day and moderated large group discussions. Members of the college’s new core values team led morning break-out discussions.

As a student representative, Margot Robbins ’21 said was thrilled to be participating. “Now I understand more about all of the work faculty and staff have to go through to give students the best experience possible,” she said.

This was the first time that student government has participated in the conference, and Robbins felt it was “particularly meaningful given the topic of core values.”

The morning sessions focused on topics of relevance for staff and faculty with a short reading as a form of case study. The afternoon session concentrated on the implications of institutional values for faculty—in the classroom, in interactions with students outside of the classroom, and in their own scholarship.

Nathan Rein, assistant dean of the college and associate professor of religious studies, described the importance of investing in the core values of the college.

“In order for any institutional value to be meaningful, we have to be prepared to make sacrifices for it,” he said. The informal, yet substantial, conversations focused on personal and institutional values as well as the four open questions in the new core curriculum.

The examination of the core values of the college will continue during the academic year. Lobban-Viravong described the day as “the beginning of the beginning,” saying that the discussions would continue and that the process would be developed with input from many campus constituencies.

During the annual faculty and staff picnic luncheon, President Blomberg presented two annual staff awards: the Flora A. Tortorelli Staff Service Award and the Laughlin Distinguished Administrator Award.

The Tortorelli Award was presented to Margie Connor, an administrative assistant for the English and history departments. This award is given annually to a staff member whose level of work performance, professionalism and commitment to the college is described as exemplary by their colleagues and supervisor, and as someone who goes above and beyond in their job every day.

Connor “is referred to as the administrative nerve center for Olin 3,” Blomberg said in his remarks. “She is someone whose positive outlook, dedicated work ethic, and friendly demeanor embody the Ursinus spirit.”  

Annemarie Bartlett, director of institutional research and effectiveness, received the Laughlin Award, presented each year to an Ursinus employee in recognition of their extraordinary efforts, quality of work, dedication and service to the college.

Blomberg said Bartlett “has a talent for taking the fear out of terms like ‘self-study’ and ‘accreditation,’ as well as keeping us on track for our Middle States visit. She works tirelessly to make sure faculty and staff feel supported with assessment and institutional effectiveness.” —By Monique Kelly