By Suzie Kim, Communications Team
On October 11th, 2018, the Innovation Hub partnered with the SLP network to host a research event entitled SLP Presents: The Future of SLP. SLP is a network of staff who work directly with students across at the University of Toronto’s three campuses. The partnership between SLP and the Innovation Hub commenced last year to explore two questions: What should the future of the SLP Network look like? and how should this community of practice be redesigned to better serve the needs and wants of all its members? After conducting a number of empathy interviews with staff in a variety of positions and career stages, insights were generated. These insights reveled that supporting staff to develop institutional knowledge, mentorship and networking, senior management involvement and career development support are areas where there are opportunities for SLP to provide support. This event sought to gather additional data to inform next steps of the process.
The event featured an inclusive and welcoming environment, where colleagues with similar motives, skills, and responsibilities came together to share ideas and struggles that appear in their work on campus.
After an opening introduction and a brief presentation of past research insights, the event focused on encouraging participants to engage in activities and discussion. Various booths around the room focused on different topics, like career path, professional learning, connections, community and supporting students.
Within this friendly atmosphere, participants had both formal and informal conversations about what it is like to work to support students, whether it be within the Department of the Registrar, Career Exploration and Education, or others. Many were able to relate to each other and even brainstorm possible solutions.
For example, a participant brought up an issue involving upset students who had to repetitively explain their academic problems to multiple departments. The students did not know the exact place to get help in the first place. This has been an obstacle for both students and professionals. The participant expressed that this kind of issue could be solved through efforts in making services clear and recognizable for students.
The connections booth led participants through a network mapping activity. The photo on the left is an example of a map that illustrates networking systems, which incorporate some obstacles and barriers. The activity made it easy for participants to investigate the bigger picture of their own network and discuss possible improvements that could be made in the future.
For me, the most enriching part of the experience was being able to listen to personal stories about managing time (by focusing on things that are more relevant to core interests) and confirming effective referrals for students by checking in with how others refer. Participants were able to understand the value of learning from others and the value of investing time in these opportunities.
It felt like participants were able to find comfort in sharing personal and professional views about work, and even the students present at the event were able to take a look inside the lives of Student Life Professionals, as they both face and recognize the struggles involved in helping students. The event was uplifting and made it easier to see a positive outlook on how to cope with work-based difficulties.
Our research team is now working with the data and artifacts collected at this event. We will analyze and synthesize the data and insights for the future of the SLP Network. Stay tuned for our results, to be posted on this blog in the coming months!
Note: a copy of the Innovation Hub’s SLP research report is available to UofT staff by request at firstname.lastname@example.org