Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Blogger on Responsibility

This month, I asked Jennifer Williams to be our guest blogger. Here are some of her thoughts on our guiding principle, Responsibility. Thank you, Jennifer!

The guiding principles that we embrace within FAS are important components of our culture, and our FAS values: Trust, Professionalism, Respect, Collaboration, and Responsibility set us apart by defining who we are and how we do business.

So this month, we’re talking about responsibility, and in FAS, there is a certain familiarity to responsibility because of the regulatory environment that we work in each day. Being in this division, we recognize the importance of meeting mandates and following policies, laws, and requirements, and we also recognize the personal accountability that comes with being responsible.

In this division, responsibility is centered on taking ownership of our actions and seeking positive solutions. And through focusing on the positive solutions, we are able to maintain our university-first attitudes by seeing how to fix a problem as opposed to blaming others for why the situation exists. In challenging times, such as these, it is important for us to ask the right questions: “what can we do?” and “how can we help?” instead of “why did that department do that?” or “who made the mistake?” or even, “why should I help - that’s not my problem”. Ineffective organizations place blame, but effective organizations focus on the future and how to turn the situation into a success.

It is times like these, when our leaders emerge by finding creative and positive solutions to problems that may or may not be within their purview. It is times like these, when we work together instead of placing blame on others to ensure that we are as effective as possible. It is times like these, when we should recognize how being accountable has led to our many accomplishments. And it is times like these, when we take on additional responsibilities in support of our university’s mission – our student’s success and our organization’s success is reliant on us fulfilling our responsibilities.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “the price of greatness is responsibility”.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guest Blogger on Professionalism

This month, I asked Robin Guidera to be our guest blogger. Here are some of her thoughts on our guiding principle, Professionalism. Thank you, Robin!

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffet

Looks like we’ve come full circle. Last October, VP Hawk asked each of us “Are You A Professional?” As October’s guiding principal for this month, each one of us would like to answer, “Of course I am.” As I look around, and recall some of the hard times we’ve all been faced with this past year, I can only hope that my attitude and character were in check. Was yours? After all, professionalism isn’t always about the clothes you wear or the car you drive, but how you do what you do!

The essence of professionalism is the attitude which someone brings to their job. The title or type of job is not an issue since an unethical physician is less of a professional than a gardener who repairs a sprinkler he broke while mowing the lawn rather than leave it, blaming it on excessive water pressure.

Professionalism and character go hand in hand. A professional does their part in seeing to it that a task is accomplished, sometimes ignoring the clock. They contribute to an uplifting tone in the workplace promoting integrity, minimizing gossip and staying focused. They respect those placed in authority over them and more importantly, those they direct. Ultimately their focus is less on themselves and more on how they affect those around them.

I’ve learned a lot from the people I work with since I am surrounded by such professionals. I hope everyone is (and feels) as fortunate as I.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Blogger on Trust

This month, I asked Candace Bebee to be our guest blogger. I thought it would be interesting for us all to read someone else's perspective on topics from time to time. As you know, the monthly guiding principle for September is Trust. Here are some of her thoughts on this important topic. Thank you, Candace!

Wise men put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trust, as defined by Webster’s, is the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something- one in which confidence is placed.

I don’t know about you, but I place my trust in my mom & dad, my Honda Civic, my riding helmet and Starbucks. These people/items/places have both the characteristics of trust noted by Webster’s, but more importantly, my own personal experiences to back them up.

In times of uncertainty or distress, who can you trust? I know I can always count on a daily bag of peanut M&Ms (OK, maybe a few bags) to pick me up, but what keeps us motivated us work? What holds us accountable? Who can you trust or what can you trust?

Consider our division’s vision and values. I think many of our guiding principles- respect and collaboration for example, are both the foundation for and result of a degree of trust amongst ourselves. I know that I am just one small piece of the bigger picture here and my daily work depends on my trust in the other pieces all coming together. It is a great feeling knowing that the other departments in FAS “have my back.” So at work, I place trust in my co-workers to carry their load and in return, I do my part to lessen that load. All of you come through for me every time. I trust in that.

At several budget forums, President Haynes has repeatedly asked us to “assume good intent.” I think this is a statement worthy of repeating. She is asking us to trust in a time of uncertainty. I trust that we all are here for the same reason— our students. I trust that everyone shares the “University First” perspective. Without a shared goal, there is no trust.

Trust is about doing the right thing, together.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Our Finest Hour

Our guiding principle for July was (yes…my bad, it is July 31st) was FINEST. We define finest as:

“I find and implement the best practices from around the world that add to our positive reputation. I use my knowledge, authority, and sound judgment to contribute to our reputation of excellence. My experience, high credibility, and quality of service generates testimonials that praise the division”

So how can we be our finest during these challenging times that impact all of us? The lives of great people give us interesting clues about how to take care of ourselves, since that is one area we truly do have control over. The daily routines of the great can teach us the following:

· Despite the modern obsession with physical presence at offices, very few of the great worked 12 hour days.
· Taking breaks is healthy; Socrates would sometimes simply stop and hold completely still for several minutes. Beethoven would take breaks in the morning and go outside and walk around. He called these moments “working while walking”.
· Mix it up! Churchill painted, fed his fish, played card games and constructed buildings all over Chartwell farm. He famously claimed that our minds don’t need rest as much as they need variety.
· Don’t schedule every minute of every day. Daily routines are supposed to make things easier, not more complicated. Micro-managing every minute of your day does not work.
· The great all reserved time to relax. Gandhi would often spend time just staring at the horizon. Churchill would sit down to smoke a cigar after lunch. In his recent autobiography, Alan Greenspan mentions that he too makes time to reflect each day.

Make a conscious effort to something for YOU each and every day… deserve it! Switching gears a little while still focusing on finest, I asked my staff here in the Vice President’s Office to share their thoughts and perspectives on what finest means to them:

“If I were to add anything, it would be something to the effect of finest as it relates to 'a fine wine'. Aged to perfection, unwilling to compromise. We have managed to build a division with a group of professionals—that are aged to perfection (not in years). We have set the bar high and continue to amaze others as we move through tough economic times with the finest skills and tact. As independent as many of us are, we all aspire, from each other, to be the finest stewards we can be.”

“To me, finest means of a higher standard. If something/someone is the finest, you would just expect more, better, greater. Along with being the finest or owing the finest comes with a sense of pride, accomplishment and reliability. No one aspires to be mediocre, or have mediocre things. We should not settle for ‘good enough’ but strive for a higher level of achievement—to be or have the finest. “

“When Linda launched the vision for the division, she made several points about FAS being the finest place the work, having the finest people, and providing the highest quality services. She mentioned the following:
· San Marcos’s reputation is well-known throughout the CSU for being one of the finest campuses to work
· More specifically, FAS has a reputation for excellence as demonstrated by our performance on GAAP and FISMA audits; Recyclemania Grand Champions for 5 years in a row; Procurement Award, Parking and Commuter Services’ Diamond award; and of course, our distinguished police force.

Speaking of finest, wasn’t our July FAS division meeting wonderful and filled with fun and useful information? Thank you again, Facilities Development and Management!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


As July 1st approaches, all eyes and ears are on the news reports, editorials and other commentaries centering on the state budget. California’s fiscal condition continues to decline and we are facing yet again another budget shortfall of $24B, which occurred after the state enacted a budget in February 2009.

I hope you all had an opportunity to attend President Haynes’ campus budget forum last week. If you missed it, the transcript is available
here. We are all deeply concerned about the magnitude of the cuts being proposed for the CSU, which are estimated to be in the range of $400 to $700M. I know there are more questions than we have answers to at this time so we will continue to do our best to communicate information as the situation evolves and the details come into sharper focus. Stay informed by visiting Budget Central to get the latest news.

While we recognize budget reductions could make us smaller over the few years and slow down the progress on some initiatives, our resolve to continue to build for the future must not be lost in the shuffle. Even though we are in the midst of what are truly unprecedented circumstances, we have a very important responsibility as it is WE who hold the future of this university in our hands. There are difficult decisions to be made that will affect each of us and our students. The decisions we make today will impact the long term future and if we are strategic and thoughtful, the University will be positioned for the opportunities that await us on the other side of this fiscal crisis. If we work and stay together, I know we will persevere during these uncertain times.

Even though we are facing budgetary challenges, our positive culture is still a priority. We just completed our 5th year of the FAS Values Survey with a 94% response rate which was our highest ever! My heartfelt thanks to all of you for embracing the FAS Division’s vision, mission and values. We heard you—FAS leaders reviewed the results and developed ideas for division initiatives to address areas for improvement. This summer, we will conduct focus group sessions to obtain more input on how we can continue to make this the best place to work. Click
here to view the results of the FAS Values Survey.

Would this be a University you would send your children? Let’s make sure the answer is YES!

Friday, May 22, 2009


Another academic year is behind us…can you believe it? Last Saturday, we celebrated Commencement with the Class of 2009. It was truly a wonderful day and I thank everyone who came out and spent the day ensuring our graduates and their loved ones had an experience to remember. Special thanks to everyone in Facility Services, University Police Department, and the Commencement volunteers from the various departments in FAS. One day, we will have Commencement ceremonies on our beautiful campus as facilities are built to accommodate these types of events.

May’s Guiding Principle is Innovation: I find and implement easier, more efficient ways for helping the team get the job done. I come up with new solutions for getting better end results.

Below are examples to share of some innovative ways that our departments incorporate the division’s monthly guiding principles into their workplace:

· Procurement and Support Services has a Bulletin Board on the 4th floor of Craven Hall and at USB where staff can post ideas in support of the month’s guiding principle. Each board has a box where staff can recognize co-workers for “living the principle”; at the end of each month, they do a drawing for a Starbucks gift card which is a way to try and increase participation. Theresa Ruffolo then sends out an e-mail of all the comments to the entire department. Attached are some pictures of the bulletin boards they have created for the various principles. Way to go, Bella Newberg and team!

· The University Budget Office includes the month’s guiding principle, its definition and synonyms for the word on their weekly staff meeting agendas. The first staff meeting of every month begins with a discussion on that month’s guiding principle. So for those of you who thought all Mary Hinchman, Liz Rojas and Brenda Martin did all day was tinker around with spreadsheets, guess again!

· Student Financial Services begins their first staff meeting of every month with a discussion on that month’s guiding principle. Our very own Nancy Suarez, Director of Student Financial Services, was nominated several times for the Outstanding Leadership Award at Spring Fling. She must be doing something right down there in Cougar Central.
Check out some pictures of the innovative boards by clicking here.

Among those companies in the top ten for being the most innovative in the world include Apple, Toyota, General Electric, and Starbucks. For Apple, the iPod has been more profitable than its line of computers. When U.S. automotive manufacturers are facing bankruptcy, Toyota has worked with its suppliers to find new ways to cut the cost of parts and assembly. General Electric’s 5,000 top managers are rated on innovation-related themes such as “imagination and courage”. Of course, there is Starbucks where some baristas go to trendy European coffee houses where, like anthropologists, they observe trends that they can put into practice at home in the United States.

Do you have the imagination and courage to be innovative? If so, I would love to hear from you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reflections on Communications

Dear FAS Colleagues:

I hear our FAS Division meeting held Wednesday was yet another huge success! My sincere thanks and appreciation to Mary Hinchman and her Brightest, Finest, Stars; Katy Rees, Sara Quinn, Russ Decker, Dan Zorn and the Accounting and Technology Services team. A very wise mentor who guided me in my early days as a leader shared with me the following:

“The test of how well your organization runs is not how it operates when you are there, but how it operates when you are not there. “

I knew the meeting would be fantastic and thought about everyone while I was at the Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. Even though I found the BOT meeting to be an interesting experience (and will share some thoughts later), I did miss everyone and look forward to our next division meeting. J

I would like to congratulate Ed Johnson, Dean Manship and Steve Holbrook for winning the State of California’s energy efficiency campaign “Flex Your Power” award in the category of Peak Demand Response. They recognized the opportunities on our campus to reduce peak power use and protect California’s power grid during times of high demand by shifting loads, shutting down systems and taking immediate conservation actions. The result….a 9% savings in peak demand. Congratulations to Ed, Dean and Steve!

Our MPP Award to Staff recipients for this meeting were Mary Kollmeyer and Yasuko Shirakawa. As a member of the Parking and Commuter Services team, Mary makes sure the financials are in order and as a self-support operation, those pennies count! The leaders in her area commend Mary for establishing a high level of trust with many campus staff as well as the numerous vendors she interacts with on a regular basis. For her professionalism and humor, I congratulate Mary and am proud to say she is “one of us”.

What would life be like if we didn’t understand our benefits? It is easy to calculate your salary; the benefits are a bit more complicated and Yasuko understands it all! Our campus’s implementation of the PeopleSoft module Benefits Administration went live in September 2008 without as much as a hiccup due to Yasuko’s analytical skills to ensure that instead of “garbage in, garbage out”, we had “data in, reliable information out”. Congratulations Yasuko!

I also want to acknowledge Deb Schmidt of Parking and Commuter Services for her recent award given by the SANDAG Board of Directors for her work as the Commuter Coordinator for CSUSM. She has built momentum on campus for carpooling, vanpooling, biking and the use of public transportation by students, staff and faculty. On behalf of CSUSM, Deb will receive SANDAG’s 7th Annual Diamond Award. We are very proud of you, Deb, and keep up the great work!

Switching gears, I would like to share a few thoughts on the CSU Board of Trustees. The meeting this week was my first experience and it was definitely unique. I did get a few stares as I sat in Dr. Haynes’ chair which were both amusing and entertaining. I think I even saw a few individuals put their glasses on to be sure President Haynes didn’t change her hair color or somehow get a little taller.

I can share the following:

- The Chancellor’s Office and the Board of Trustees do care about students, staff and faculty.
- They understand the mission of the CSU and regularly visit campuses to interact with the campus community to learn about the opportunities and challenges we face with growing demand and shrinking state support.
- Campus presidents are present at every BOT meeting to answer questions and share success stories…this meeting focused on services to former foster youth, remediation, and EOP. CSUSM has programs in all three areas that were shared as part of the presentations.
The CSU is facing unprecedented budget challenges; however, we continue to move forward!

Lastly, the BOT approved the schematic design for our future Parking/Police Services building! Congratulations to Russ Decker, Brad Fenton, Belinda Garcia, Chief Hackenberg, Robert Williams and of course, Ms. Dora Knoblock (who will always be associated with Parking) for their leadership in designing a building that will be an anchor for the east side of the campus and a gateway from the Sprinter station.

Happy spring break everyone!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Excitement….Did I Miss Out?

For the month of February, our guiding principle was excitement. So, VP Hawk, where is your blog on excitement? I guess I was so busy participating in exciting events on campus that before I knew it, we were already in March. However, I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to share my thoughts and perspectives on excitement so here we go….

Speaking of exciting activities on campus, the proposed University Student Union project has been receiving a lot of attention from faculty, staff and students. For those of you who were able to come out to an open forum, I appreciate your time and be sure to send us your feedback since we want to hear from all the voices around the table. There is a wealth of valuable information about the project at
www.csusm/usu so please visit the site and provide us with your thoughts using the online feedback form.

How do we create excitement in our work groups? The places most exciting to go visit are those we have yet to see. The questions most intriguing are those to which we have yet to find the answers. This is as true of a departmental meeting as it is of a vacation. The attraction to and avoidance of the unknown excites our energy.

Work groups often rise to the challenge of working together to meet a plan or cooperatively to execute a strategy. In our hectic world, even being able to complete a meeting on time with all agenda items covered can be exciting! However, even though energy is generated, it does not compare to stepping off the edge of our organizational map into unchartered territory. Doing this with a group of committed people can be a life-altering experience. The unknown is a reliable source of individual and group energy—not comfortable, but reliable. Many people respond to the excitement, the mystery, the fear, the possibility that the unknown offers. Our collective challenge is not only to generate the excitement but to release it.

Think about those things around us that have brought excitement….what is it about them that made everyone come alive? Pay attention to those things that bring life to you and your work groups such as a new University Student Union; the potential to build student housing through a public/private partnership; a weekly Farmer’s Market on campus; winning Recyclemania for the 5th year in a row; or participation in the Leadership Academy. Discover what excites you and your work groups by bring those ideas to work and making them a reality.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


In “The Eight Rules of Good Customer Service,” Forbes 2005, author Julie Watson states, “If the Bill of Rights was written today, it would likely include the right to complain.” We all complain- most of the time legitimately, but sometimes we do so to add a little dramatic flair to a situation or story. Regardless, we all can relate to the root of most complaints— horrible, frustrating, plain old, no good, very bad customer service.

Service is about much more than a just a person filling a seat, a voice on the other end of the phone, or even just showing up to work in the first place. It goes beyond the good feeling that comes with making another person happy and the pride of doing a job well. Service is about reputation. Service is about consistently meeting and exceeding expectations. Service creates and maintains relationships that people know they can count on.

I read our FAS Connect newsletters and am always proud at the multiple pages of thank you notes written by our colleagues. The services provided by those in FAS are essential to the very backbone of this university.

Just ask the student who Nancy Suarez helped in resolving a disparity on her student account. In her message to President Haynes, she wrote “I would just like to say that not only was Nancy incredibly sympathetic and understanding to my situation, but she went over and above to in order to fix the problem. As someone who has worked in customer service for years, I know that we need more people with her work ethic in the industry”.

Just ask those who were impacted by the power outage in Academic Hall on the first day of spring semester classes. Thank you to Gary Cinnamon, Ed Johnson and the entire team in Facility Services for not just fixing the lights but taking care of the small things that make a big difference.

Just ask those who have benefited from the new and improved services provided by our Campus Catering crew under the leadership of Roger Stein and Melanie Niedens. The food is delicious and the service is out of this world!

And just ask that person what a feeling it is to walk into our campus Starbucks and get handed your usual drink before even reaching the counter. Thank you to Angela Dawson and her amazing team!

Remember, you are judged by what you do and what you say. Service is everything.

A special thank you to my co-blogger for this posting, Candace Bebee, for her words of wisdom.