Alumni Affairs and Development Training and Education

May 7, 2018
EVP eNewsletter May 2018 Profile

Performing a critical function that supports the entire University, staff in Alumni Affairs and Development (AA&D) need to keep their skills in top form, while fitting in training around their busy schedules. Anne Melvin, Director of AA&D Education and Development, Julie Warsowe, Associate Director, and Kelsey Rose-Sinclair, Coordinator, discuss how their team focuses on education so other staff can focus on Harvard’s needs.

What do you do and what is your team's biggest contribution?

Julie Warsowe: I create educational opportunities so Alumni Affairs and Development staff can learn on the job. I focus on programs for onboarding new hires, managers, and support staff, as well as engagement and inclusion efforts. It’s easy to neglect your own professional development when you are busy trying to get your job done, so I think our team’s biggest contribution is helping people see the value of investing in their own learning, in their career growth, and in our office community.

Kelsey Rose-Sinclair: As the team coordinator, I do the behind the scenes work to make sure our classes run smoothly. Each quarter I create a course guide to inform our staff of all the upcoming professional development trainings offered around campus and at AA&D. From there I manage registrations through the Harvard Training Portal, coordinate class logistics, and manage communications to make sure students and instructors have all the information needed for a great program.

Anne Melvin: I’m the Director of Education and Training so I lead the team. Julie and Kelsey have done a great job of describing the team’s function. I’d say my biggest personal role is developing and teaching modules of our new Manager Training Program including the four-part “Four Core Skills of a Manager” series.

What don't people know about you and what your team does?

Julie: We are one of the few in-house learning and development programs at Harvard. The Center for Workplace Development is an amazing University-wide resource, and other Schools provide training opportunities, but there aren’t many Schools or units that have a team dedicated to the professional development of their staff.

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Anne: The most challenging – and fun – part of my job is developing new training modules. It’s a terrific opportunity to use my creativity to generate learner-focused activities where the learner is front and center, actively engaged in his/her subject, and ‘doing’ instead of listening. One of the mantras of our profession is that “the person doing the talking is doing the learning.” This means the teacher needs to find ways to get content across, and then immediately step back to allow the learner to jump in pretty quickly, engage with the material, and explore on their own, with classmates, in order to make new discoveries and make the material relevant to their lives and jobs. When that happens, it’s really satisfying. But there’s a constant tension between the amount of material you can convey and cover, versus the amount you need to let the learner take charge and engage directly with the material.

Julie: AA&D staff have such high standards and are incredibly motivated to engage alumni and raise money to support Harvard’s research, faculty, and students. It can be hard for staff to justify anything that takes their eyes off those goals. So, we try to make programs short, interactive, and directly applicable to the work. And we try to get managers and senior staff involved in order to infuse a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Harvard is an educational institution – that means that staff should get to learn, too!

Kelsey: Our team manages HUIT’s largest SharePoint site, the Source, as the Alumni Affairs and Development intranet. It can be difficult managing such a large resource but it’s important the information stays up-to-date. Working with colleagues across the University to make sure content stays relevant and accessible is definitely challenging, but it’s worthwhile to manage something that helps people collaborate across schools and departments.

What are the professional backgrounds of your team members?

Anne: Team members bring a mix of backgrounds to our work. I was originally a real estate lawyer here in Boston, then when my firm closed, I went to HSPH (now the Harvard Chan SPH) to do a succession of jobs in the development office (stewardship, alumni fund, Harvard AIDS Institute). From there, I went to the UDO to do University wide planned giving for two years, then spent 14 years as a planned giving fundraiser with FAS, before taking my current position.

Kelsey: I started at the University shortly after graduating from UConn. While I’ve been working at AA&D, I took advantage of the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree from the Extension School. I’ll be graduating this May with my master’s in management. I am very much looking forward to participating in Commencement Day!

Julie: My background is in public garden management. I worked at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University doing visitor education for seven years, and before that worked at Brooklyn Botanic Garden as well as brief stints at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Cornell Plantations, and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Horticulture and fundraising don’t have much in common, but the best practices for adult education, program design, and learning outside of school are the same.

What does success/your best day look like?

Kelsey: I really enjoy maintaining our class schedule and registrations within the Harvard Training Portal. We transferred to the portal this year and it’s rewarding to see how much easier the process is for our users and instructors. Success right now is having the data showing how many of our colleagues are taking advantage of our classes to continue their professional development. It also helps us plan how we can best meet the needs of our staff as we look towards next year.

Julie: Of course, it’s nice when 20 people sign up for a program and all 20 show up. But it’s even better when I can see from the questions people ask and the conversations they have together, that staff are fired up about learning something new and relevant – whether that’s how to establish clear expectations with their manager, understanding the functions of our complicated office, or taking a risk to have a conversation about implicit bias.

See also: Profile