Strategy for Excellence, Equity & Enrichment in Service (SEEES)

SEEES

As Queen’s largest faculty with 30 departments of varying size and complexity, and in light of fast-growing and diversifying demands on staff that cannot always be accommodated within units, a more equitable and consistent approach to service and support is increasingly essential for the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Under the guiding principle of maintaining current staffing levels, solutions to this emergent issue will be developed in close consultation with departments to align with the FAS Strategic Plan. Specifically, existing structures and resources will be collaboratively reimagined to:

  • Enrich the student experience by ensuring equitable, consistent access to critical services
  • Enable a dynamic teaching and research environment by providing faculty members with appropriate and consistent resources and support
  • Maximize organizational efficiencies and effectiveness
  • Increase staff support and career-path opportunities
  • Provide units with equitable levels of support to meet key, emerging functions (eg: accommodations, remote learning support, research support etc)

This approach will be rooted in fairness and a strong commitment to supporting our people as departments collectively strive for excellence in teaching, research and service.

 

In addition to the concepts outlined above, these guiding principles will be employed throughout the project. All activities will:

  • Ensure staff feel valued, recognized and connected to the faculty through ongoing professional development and career pathways while maintaining current staff levels.
  • Adhere to our commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigeneity.
  • Gain departments’ cooperation and collaboration through clear identification and articulation of optimal organization design, including service level improvements, productive resource allocation, and other benefits.
  • Engage students, faculty, and staff in decision-making and be open and transparent with regard to how decisions are made.
  • Identify and update position summaries to reflect the skills and abilities needed to move the faculty forward to achieve our strategic priorities.
  • Think and act using an evidence-based approach with ambition, creativity and teamwork on behalf of the Faculty of Arts & Science.
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As with any large-scale project, this will take time, patience, and teamwork. Below is a summary of the four primary project phases, and how you can expect each to unfold.

For details on specific, upcoming opportunities for your voice to be heard, see “SEEES The Day! Help Shape Your FAS.” In the meantime, if you have questions or ideas to share, please contact Maryanne Wainman, Project Manager, Organizational Design.

Nov 2020 – Feb 2021: DEFINE (Complete) 

Through preliminary consultation with Dept. Heads and Mangers/Administrators, we have begun to define and understand some of the greatest challenges and opportunities currently facing our faculty.

The following functions have been identified as having the greatest potential to alleviate strain, increase staff/faculty support, and enrich the student experience if resourced appropriately:

  • Student Accommodations
  • Academic Integrity
  • Remote & Online Learning Support
  • Experiential Learning Support
  • Marketing & communications (including website design, and Social Media)
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • IT Services
  • Facilities Management
  • Advancement
  • Research Support 

March – June 2021: DISCOVER (Complete)

This phase of the project was all about discovering and learning more about the experiences, perspectives and needs of current staff, faculty, and students. Information collected via surveys, small group discussions, and strategic data analysis has been used to expand our shared understanding of emerging challenges and opportunities. 

At the same time, we have uncovered best-practices at comparator higher-education institutions through benchmarking research.

Survey Summary of Results

July - Dec 2021: DEEPER DISCOVERY & PRELIMINARY DESIGN (Complete)

Using the information and insights collected in the discovery phase, we collaborated with stakeholder groups (via multiple workshops, focus groups, Thought Exchange etc.) to explore challenges and opportunities in more depth and began to imagine possible solutions.

Discussion Highlights: Focus Groups and ThoughtExchanges

Jan 2022 onwards: DESIGN & DO!

As part of a phased approach to solutions design and implementation, Faculty Office units began introducing recommendations related to their core functions in January 2022, including a Joint Training Series in response to staff desire for enhanced - and more consistent - training, education and resources related to Faculty Office functions.

Summary of Faculty Office Recommendations

At the same time, based on key learnings from Summer/Fall 2021 focus groups, we will continue to work with Dept. Heads, Managers/Administrators, the SEEES Advisory Group (see FAQ's), and staff to design (and refine) additional solutions and associated processes/policies. This will be an iterative process that will take place over many months; solutions will be tested on a smaller scale with clearly articulated success measures before eventually being employed more broadly.

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The section below summarizes key stakeholder engagement to-date, as well as upcoming occasions when we will be seeking FAS staff/faculty input and involvement as we develop a Strategy for Excellence, Equity & Enrichment in Service (SEEES). Please note that this list will be updated on an ongoing basis, so continue to check back for the most up-to-date information.

The planning team is committed to providing timely, relevant updates, and we look forward to working with you and learning from your perspectives!

June 2021

All FAS staff were invited to participate in a survey to help the SEEES Project Team better understand emerging challenges and opportunities from the staff perspective, and to indicate their interest in contributing to solutions development.

Survey Summary of Results

July – Sept 2021

Focus groups were hosted to explore emerging challenges and opportunities in more depth, and parallel ThoughtExchanges captured asynchronous feedback and allowed flexible options for those who wished to participate but were unable to attend live sessions.

Discussion Highlights: Focus Groups and ThoughtExchanges

Oct - Dec 2021

Additional, role-specific focus groups with Undergraduate & Graduate Assistants/Administrators and Research Support Professionals shed further light on emerging challenges and opportunities and helped to kick-start key communities of practice.

A new SEEES Advisory Group (see FAQ's) was also convened to provide departmental insight and advice on key elements of project strategy and solutions design. This group will continue to meet every 1 – 2 months for the duration of the project.  

Jan – Aug 2022

Individual department consultation will continue through August, 2022.

  • Objective 1: meet with Department Managers/Administrators and/or key staff to better understand department needs, resource capacity, and staff responsibilities related to emerging challenges and opportunities.
  • Objective 2: as solutions begin to emerge, work with Department Managers/Administrators and staff to develop and refine associated processes/policies and related training and development.

Ongoing

Updates from the project planning team

  • Objective: ensure all FAS staff and faculty are informed and aware of key developments, actions needed, and upcoming opportunities for input/participation.

Additional staff feedback & idea sharing

  • Objective: provide FAS staff and faculty with opportunities to share feedback and ideas at key junctures throughout the planning process (via Thought Exchange, focus groups, one-on-one conversations etc.)
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Why is this a priority for the faculty? 

In recent years, demands on departments for increased and customized student support have grown significantly, including academic accommodations, academic integrity, support for experiential learning opportunities, and (due to COVID-19) remote learning support.
 
Many departments have found it increasingly difficult to keep up with these ever-diversifying demands. The pandemic has further compounded these issues, adding additional capacity strain that cannot always be accommodated within individual units. All of this has led to inequities in administrative support, as well as an inconsistent student experience between departments.
 
Faculty-wide, staff are managing heavy workloads and managers have noted increased levels of stress, burnout, and challenges with ensuring adequate vacation/medical coverage within their teams. Staff have also voiced concerns about lack of career-path opportunities and mobility.

This project will address these challenges by developing a more equitable and consistent approach to service and support. In alignment with the FAS Strategic Plan, we will assess current service and support, examine opportunities to streamline service delivery, improve communications, more effectively harness technology, and develop new processes.

Why now?

As part of the FAS Strategic Plan (2019-24), the faculty has committed to “supporting our people” by building and sustaining transparent and fair learning and working environments where continuous learning and professional development can flourish.

This project will help to realize these goals and address ongoing challenges for departments that have been further amplified by the pandemic (eg: remote learning support).

What is the “SEEES Advisory Group”, and how were its members selected?

Composed of FAS Department Heads and Managers/Administrators, the SEEES Advisory Group’s purpose is to provide vital departmental insight, collaboration, and advice on key elements of project strategy and solutions design in accordance with the SEEES guiding principles.

Members were recruited to represent a diverse cross-section of FAS disciplines (and department sizes) based on a combination of departmental knowledge/experience, demonstrated leadership, and/or demonstrated interest in contributing to SEEES solutions development. Current members:

  • Denita Arthurs, Department Manager and Graduate Program Administrator (Black Studies and Gender Studies)
  • Matthew Colby, Department Manager (History)
  • Alex Fox, Department Manager (Economics)
  • Robert Knobel, Department Head (Physics)
  • Scott MacKenzie, Department Head (Film & Media)
  • Kyra Pyke, Director (School of Kinesiology & Health Studies)
  • Donato Santeramo, Department Head (Languages, Literatures & Cultures)
  • Robin Tippett, School Manager (Computing) 

Note: The Advisory Group does NOT replace the need for further department consultation and/or input from individual staff/faculty members. Please see “SEEES The Day! Help Shape Your FAS” for details on specific, upcoming occasions to contribute.

What does “developing a more equitable and consistent approach to service and support” look like in practice? 

The short answer is, we’re not sure yet! The broad scope of the project, combined with our approach (ie: one that’s dependent on stakeholder input to shape solutions) makes it challenging to know or anticipate clear, specific outcomes up-front. 

That said, we anticipate outcomes could include enhanced processes, refined relationships, and/or modified organizational structures. Essentially, we need to ask ourselves if existing processes, relationships, and/or structures are optimally set-up to achieve FAS’s strategic priorities, and if the answer is no, what needs to change?

In July 2021, we began to work collaboratively with departments to brainstorm and develop solutions based on shared interests and opportunities. Conversations to-date have identified the following functions as having the greatest potential to alleviate strain, increase staff/faculty support, and enrich the student experience if resourced appropriately:

  • Student Accommodations
  • Academic Integrity
  • Remote & Online Learning Support
  • Experiential Learning Support
  • Marketing & communications (including website design, and Social Media)
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • IT Services
  • Facilities Management
  • Advancement
  • Research Support

How will the SEEES project help to “increase staff support and career-path opportunities”?

As noted above, outcomes of the SEEES project could include a combination of enhanced processes, refined relationships, and/or modified organizational structures. By reducing procedural redundancies and simplifying key workflows, the goal is to not only achieve greater consistency between similar staff roles, but to allow increased opportunities for staff to hone specialized skills and experience, rather than being pulled in too many competing directions.

Additionally, models and solutions will be designed with a view to creating clearer, more varied and organic pathways for career progression and mobility across the faculty as a whole – both for those wishing to progress as specialists and those looking to gain experience in new/different areas. 

It sounds as though this could mean structural changes; should I be concerned about job security?

Maintaining current, overall staffing levels is one of the guiding principles of this project. Solutions will be developed in close consultation with departments, with a strong commitment to increasing staff support and career-path opportunities. Indeed, we will continue to support staff as a top priority and invest in meaningful and impactful learning and development opportunities.

Will my role, responsibilities, and/or reporting relationship be impacted?

In order to maintain current staffing levels, it’s possible that some positions may require adjustments to align with new opportunities and emerging solutions. Wherever possible, changes will be made with a view to increasing overall staff support and enhancing career-path opportunities.

Any staff whose positions require adjustments will be provided with plenty of advance notice and appropriate training, support, and/or peer-mentoring as needed to succeed in their revised roles.

Will I have opportunities to provide input?

Absolutely! The success of this project is largely dependent on your input; your insights, perspectives, and collective expertise will be essential to understanding common challenges and opportunities, and eventually developing solutions.

We plan to reach out numerous times over the coming months for your feedback. For details on specific, upcoming occasions for your voice to be heard, see “SEEES The Day! Help Shape Your FAS.”

The planning team is committed to providing timely, relevant updates, and looks forward to working with you and learning from your perspectives! In the meantime, if you have questions or ideas to share, please contact Maryanne Wainman, Project Manager, Organizational Design.

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