Why choose to work with Susan?



Changing the day-to-day experience between staff and faculty can set a fresh tone for a whole department.


Click the + to open each response . . .

-— Working with some faculty can be frustrating and discouraging. There’s a pattern to it – Susan can show you.

Sometimes you wonder if you and the faculty are on the same team. You want to help faculty be successful, but sometimes when you ask for what you legitimately need, you get treated like an interruption or a burden. You’ve done everything you can think of to smooth things out, but it seems to little avail. You are pretty sure you are communicating clearly, in a timely manner, respectfully — you are doing your job. Yet some faculty behavior can be baffling, leaving staff feeling misunderstood, discounted, or invisible. Faculty must know that staff is here to help them, right? Why is it so hard to get faculty to follow policies and procedures or respond to your requests? Where are they? What is that all about?

A few staff members seem to partner more easily with faculty. What is distinct about them? What do they do differently? Susan has analyzed these factors and can show you the nuances and approaches that work. Susan articulates how university structures and old assumptions can make staff-faculty relationships challenging. Her insights lead to better ways for staff to approach faculty and establish more cooperative working relationships. Knowing where there may be room for real change can make all the difference in loving your work again.

-— Yes, academia is quite different. Stepping back on campus was Susan’s ah-ha moment.

Your situation is uniquely academic. Corporate management approaches and off-the-shelf trainings won’t fit your higher education culture.

Susan recognizes the mindset of faculty because she was one of them: a tenured psychology professor, juggling the priorities and pressures of building her career in academia. During a sabbatical in San Francisco, she was recruited away into the burgeoning field of corporate communication trainings, where she designed and conducted “people skills” trainings. An invitation to speak at UCSF on “How to Work with Difficult People” prompted her return to higher education. Just stepping back on the campus brought a wave of awareness over her: the campus is such a different world than the corporate environment. The content of her training would need an overhaul. She set about to research the specific nuances of academia. She soon became a consultant, trainer and the “Customer Service” specialist for UCSF, UC Davis, Stanford, and many universities and colleges. Over lunch with Susan one day, Stanford’s training director grumbled about how most trainers and lots of Stanford employees “just don’t understand academic culture.” Susan designed “How to Work Effectively with Faculty” and piloted it at Stanford. It was a hit!

While many of the realities unique to higher education are useful, others create inefficiencies, misunderstanding, and tension. “Working Effectively with Faculty” is tailored to academic environments. On-site trainings are further customized to departments, like Biology or Contracts & Grants; to functions, like student services or research assistants; or to graduate specialties, such as medical schools or law schools. Faculty who sit in on “Working Effectively with Faculty” trainings genuinely appreciate the earnest characterization of their mindsets, work styles, priorities, and pressures. Feedback from staff and faculty who have read the book, attended Susan’s trainings and heard her speak at higher education conferences is continually incorporated into the course content

“Working Effectively with Faculty” has tools to apply today and a systematic approach for long term change.

You want to support and help staff, and this training seems really focused on what staff need… customized for academia. But, a solution needs to show immediate results as well as set up the conditions for long term effectiveness.

“Working Effectively with Faculty” offers specific language, tools and methods to create rapport and ease tension immediately, while putting this information in a context that provides a frame of reference through which to view the broader dynamics over time. “Working Effectively with Faculty“ unpacks real-world situations and role-play examples with observations about the underlying subtle forces and suggests specific tactics that can be implemented in your department within the first hour back at your desk.

There is a way to work effectively with faculty that generates real change.

It is a futile feeling, resigning oneself to the idea that this is as good as it is going to get. It isn’t ideal, but it works as well as it can. Can anything really have a perceptible impact?

Insanity, as they say, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. In the on-site trainings, staff often express feeling beleaguered and alone in working with faculty. Some find themselves vilifying faculty, while others progressively heap blame upon themselves: neither is necessary. Getting staff together on this topic helps. Hearing the stories of others is eye-opening and reassuring. Knowing there is a community with a shared experience and knowledge base is empowering.

Susan has collected insights and best practices from staff members in colleges, universities and higher education conferences across the country. These are tips and techniques that other staff members across the country have found helpful. Year over year, the knowledge base expands, the play book evolves, things improve. Changing the day-to-day experience between staff and faculty can set a fresh tone for a whole department.