A&M-Commerce Professional Development Series Helps Employees Grow

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May 7, 2024 – COMMERCE, TEXAS: This spring, Texas A&M University-Commerce embarked on the second semester of its transformative Investing in Us employee development program, which has met with high praise from faculty and staff across the university. The innovative program features eight-week courses designed to help employees learn, grow and thrive in their careers.

According to Dr. Carrie Klypchak, senior director of Academic Investment, while other universities offer various forms of professional development for employees, A&M-Commerce is unique in its delivery of credit-bearing, academic master classes taught by colleagues. Participants receive one credit hour for each course they complete.

Nearly 130 employees registered for the spring offerings, which covered topics from Adobe Creative Cloud to active learning and personal leadership.

Value of Employee Development
The Investing in Us series aims to utilize the university’s experiences and resources to help employees build on their talents and strengths to best serve A&M-Commerce students.

Several positive benefits are associated with employee development programs, including improved employee retention, increased engagement, boosted productivity and a stronger employer culture and brand.

Data from the Fall 2023 Investing in Us courses indicate that faculty noted a nearly 21% boost in their perception of the working and learning environment on campus, with administrators marking an 18% increase and staff notching nearly 10%. Additionally, all three groups showed improvement in self-actualization and leadership scores.

Basics of Creative Cloud and Us
George Swindell, instructor and program liaison for the College of Innovation and Design at A&M-Commerce, signed up for Basics of Creative Cloud and Us, a class covering several Adobe Creative Cloud applications. He commended instructor Cathy Li, manager of creative design in the Office of Marketing and Communications, for her thorough coverage and ability to relate the lessons to employees’ roles at the university.

“Cathy made the course feel like an open learning space. It felt less like a high-pressure classroom and more like a low-stakes workshop,” he said. “I can easily say this class helped me gain skills and confidence in the Adobe Creative Cloud applications. I have already used several things I learned in class to create materials for my colleagues and department.”

Promoting Active Learning and Us
Dr. Belinda Rudinger, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Special Education, participated in the Promoting Active Learning and Us course. Taught by Dr. Theresa Sadler, College of Innovation and Design instructor, the course was offered in partnership with the Association of College and University Educators.

“As a newer faculty member, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about teaching adult learners in higher education settings,” Rudinger said. “The class confirmed some strategies I had already put in place while offering multiple new options for active engagement. Best of all, everything was grounded in research on best practices!”

Personality, Strengths and Us
The Personality, Strengths and Us course taught by Jennifer Hudson, an instructor for the College of Innovation and Design, gave participants access to the Gallup CliftonStrengths Talent Assessment. After students completed the assessment, Hudson guided the class through exercises and discourse to understand and develop their natural strengths and to apply them to their personal and professional lives.

Maria Garcia-Hidalgo, an advisor in the College of Innovation and Design, said the course inspired her to pursue her doctorate.

“This was an eye-opening experience that reaffirmed my strengths and helped me discover how to grow them,” she said. “I love knowledge and learning. What better way to move forward than to further my education? I’m grateful to A&M-Commerce for investing in us.”

Other spring courses included Designing Us II, a follow-up course utilizing insights from Stanford University’s design thinking principles, and Leadership, Career and Us, which provided tenured associate professors with practical guidance for connecting personal leadership development with career goals.

More Investing Ahead
Klypchak said the next slate of Investing in Us courses will include more topics that help employees build on their strengths, talents and skills.

“We are excited to continue offering classes that help our faculty and staff serve our students and thrive in their careers,” Klypchak said. “Our university community’s eager participation in the Investing in Us series reinforces that we are a progressive university of lifelong learners.”

Due to overwhelming demand, a Zoom edition of the Personality, Strengths and Us course will be offered in early June. Registration for the fall classes will open in mid-June, including another offering just for alumni.

A&M-Commerce employees may register for the summer course and explore upcoming fall classes at the provost’s webpage.

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