Launched by the Undergraduate Council of Students at the end of February, the Celebrating Staff at Brown Facebook page highlights University staff members “who we interact with and who keep the University running” as part of an effort to show staff appreciation, said UCS treasurer Yuzuka Akasaka ’18.
The project is also meant to “enhance student relationships” with staff members and ensure that students treat staff with gratitude and respect, said Yvonne Diabene ’19, UCS communications director and chair and organizer of the initiative. In the 2016 Staff Climate Survey, only 70 percent of respondents felt they were treated with respect by students.
“Because one experience with a student can shape (a staff member’s) opinion of all students … a positive experience where they see that students want to highlight them (and) want to know about them” is powerful, Diabene added. The Facebook page helps students get to know staff members beyond the “cursory interactions” that take place in dining halls or on shuttle rides, Akasaka said.
The inspiration for Celebrating Staff at Brown came when UCS President Viet Nguyen ’17 encountered Georgetown University’s Unsung Heroes Facebook page and suggested pursuing a similar initiative at Brown, Diabene said. The staff members initially profiled were chosen because they are known by many students, but UCS has now posted a nomination form on the Facebook page for community members to recommend staff to be interviewed, she added.
The council formulated a set of 10 interview questions designed “to be broad enough that they would elicit stories of (staff members’) own personal experiences,” Diabene said, adding that she and other UCS members currently conduct the interviews. “I ask them about students: Is there any memorable experience you’ve had with a student … (or) something about Brown students that you particularly like or don’t like,” she added.
After an interview has been completed, Diabene or another UCS member listens to the recording and selects portions that best represent the staff member or elicit surprise or emotion, she said. Diabene tries to include a section focused on the staff member’s experience of growing up, as well as the story of how they got to Brown, their experience working at the University and their advice for students, she added.
With staff members’ permission, their profiles will be posted alongside their photos on the Facebook page, Diabene said. Students sent Gail McCarthy, a Brown University Dining Services cashier, a link to the Facebook post of her profile, which currently has 1,500 likes, McCarthy said. “It made me feel very pleased, very humble, because I know there (are) a lot of good workers,” she added.
Luke Francis, a staff member in Brown University Mail Services, said seeing his profile made him feel appreciated by students.
“For me, it was great because I saw that students care about the workers, and it’s a good thing to know that the students notice what we do for (them),” said Jose Barros, a BUDS cashier.
Akasaka said that she hopes Celebrating Staff at Brown will be a permanent project overseen by a UCS member. One short-term goal is to begin releasing two profiles per week instead of one, she added.
“One of my goals is to set up a solid committee of people” to conduct the interviews and create profiles faster, Diabene said. The staff nomination form also asks respondents if they would like to help conduct interviews themselves, she added.
If a staff member does not feel comfortable speaking English, a UCS member may be able to conduct their interview in a different language, Diabene said. The council is also considering translating the 10 interview questions into multiple languages, she added.
The Staff Advisory Council helped UCS organize Celebrating Staff at Brown and hold a staff appreciation lunch as a launch event for the Facebook page, Diabene said. The launch coincided with Brown Employee Appreciation and Recognition Month, which goes from late January to late February, Akasaka said.