employed, to a degree
U.Va. Staff Join Traditional Students In Walking Down The Lawn
May 11, 2004 --
As many as two dozen University of Virginia employees will leave this weekend
with something even more significant than a paycheck: a U.Va. degree. When they
walk down The Lawn, each will be cloaked in not just caps and gowns, but in their
own personal stories.
Wilkinson manages a computer lab in the Health System these
days, but his path toward the Lawn started when he
was the first band director at Sutherland
Middle School. The brand-new Albemarle County school was outfitted with the
latest computer technology, and Wilkinson immersed himself
in it, eventually becoming
the unofficial resident expert.
mindset for music is the same as the mindset for computers,” he
explained, involving decoding and putting things in a logical order.
came to realize that he enjoyed the computer work more than
music. He took a computer lab job at U.Va. in 1999. Soon
after, he began taking
one class per semester toward his master’s degree in education,
which he completed this spring.
was kind of a personal thing. I wanted to do it for myself,” he
said. But the degree also will aid him in his job, as he helps others
incorporate technology into their work. “A lot of things
I learned in my classes apply to what I am doing now,” he
University officially encourages employees to seek more education,
and offers to pay for it in two ways: tuition
waivers and tuition reimbursement.
the tuition waiver program, full- and part-time faculty, classified
Medical Center employees may take
one for-credit class
at U.Va. each semester,
free of charge. Employees must receive a passing grade, and make
arrangements with their supervisors for time lost if the class
is not job-related.
The tuition reimbursement program allows employees to be reimbursed
for taking job-related courses at any level of education, from
high school to technical schools to graduate programs.
benefits are a tremendous value to employees,” said
Emily Bardeen, director of faculty and staff career services
in Human Resources. She notes that the first $5,250 of educational
benefits an employee receives
each year are tax-exempt. “You can just add that to your
bottom line. … Considering
that you might get your U.Va. degree at no charge, that’s
a tremendous deal.”
has been preaching the employee-education gospel since arriving
in June 2001, and her message is finding
spring, approximately 175 employees took advantage of the
tuition waiver program,
while another 96
took advantage of tuition reimbursement or assistance programs.
calls her annual “Back to the Books” workshops “probably
my favorites.” They are designed to encourage employees
to resume their academic careers, even long-abandoned ones.
She brings in officials from Piedmont
Virginia Community College to come talk about their programs.
She brings in peers who are enrolled at Piedmont, or in
Bachelor’s of Interdisciplinary
Studies program, or other schools. She invites attendees
to ask any questions they want. “It’s all about
possibilities,” she said.
fear entrance exams, particularly in math, she noted. The “Back
to the Books” panelists are reassuring, Bardeen said;
any math tests are for placement purposes, not entrance
her first year, about 30 people attended the workshops. Last
year, the number doubled, she said. This
151 employees attended
a series of
on educational benefits.
Friedman came to U.Va. three years ago as a marketing and admissions
assistant at the McIntire School of
already had an
degree from Appalachian State University, but her
supervisor, assistant dean of admission Cyndy Huddleston,
her to go for a master’s degree
to further her career.
jumped on the opportunity and earned a master’s from
the Curry School of Education, accumulating 30 hours of credit
in just three semesters.
“I have a very, very understanding and flexible supervisor,” Friedman
said. “I took a lot of night and evening
classes. I tried to take as many 4 p.m. classes
“She really made it work by being dedicated, flexible, and very conscientious,” Huddleston
will walk the Lawn this weekend with her husband, Dan, who
wrapped up his Ph.D.
supervisors are important, Bardeen said.
are reluctant to allow employees to pursue further education,
the wrong way to look at it.
real role of the supervisor is to help develop employees to
their greatest potential,” she said. “Sometimes,
people think the goal is no turnover. No turnover is arguably
worse than too much turnover.”
University Library, in particular, has been a leader in employee
Cooper joined the library staff in December as associate university
librarian for organizational development.
found a culture that
was different from that
of her previous employer.
estimates that as many as three-quarters of the U.Va. library
210 employees pursue some additional
training. She noted that supervisors
routinely include learning
programs as part of the performance
process, and that
the library has a training
she worry about training employees
who will end up leaving fora
better paycheck somewhere else?
response is that it is important to train the staff and not
take that into consideration,” she said. “If people
move on, it means they’ve
grown while they’re
here. We’re not afraid
Miller Ferneyhough works in Human Resources
crank out the
payroll. Back in 1999 — before
she came to the University — she
had just wrapped up an
at PVCC and was looking
for a four-year degree
just so happened to be at the exact right time the BIS program
was going to be implemented,” she said. “It was
Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program,
under the auspices
School of Continuing
Studies, is the
for adult learners.
joined the original
and will graduate
in business and
did it with three
9, 11 and 16. “I
study on every
from here to
Northern Virginia,” she
BIS program opened in fall
of coursework at regionally
colleges, to be eligible,
are few limits
on the age
of those credits.
students receive the
was hard getting the message out initially because people absolutely
did not expect the University to take this step,” said Donna Plasket,
who directs the BIS program.
weekend’s graduation will more than
double the ranks of BIS alumni. Before now, 19 people had earned degrees;
this weekend, 28 — including
current U.Va. employees — will pick up their diplomas.
and went with
he left to
go into private
he later took
an out-of-town job,
a bit “overly obsessive” about her
studies, even with two teen-aged sons at home. But she
also found Darden faculty eager
to answer her questions, sometimes shifting conversations
from their offices to classrooms in order to illustrate
finer points on whiteboards.
had the whole building to talk to, and they were always open
to what I needed,” she said. “I owe a lot to the
faculty at Darden.”
Batten Institute’s Batten Fellows program, bringing
in business leaders from all over the world to work with
Darden faculty and students.
new group, “You
need some college,” she said.
doesn’t mean employees are looking to walk
down the Lawn and into a new job. Many grads-to-be
stress that they like working where they are
and expect to remain. Their additional education
will only help them do their jobs
better, or enable them to take on new responsibilities.
learning’s sake, that makes the University
special, Bardeen said, and there’s
no reason to reserve it only for 18-year-old
high school grads.
Dan Heuchert, (434) 924-7676