A year ago, nobody would have guessed we’d be where we are right now. But, here we are – living in a world where cats are on conference calls and shoes seem gratuitous. We’ve learned the importance of staying positive, getting creative and working with what we’ve got. And, when you’ve got the College of Charleston community to support you … well, turns out you’re in a pretty good place.

Anastasia Gilpatrick

Anastasia Gilpatrick, SAC chair

“2020 is a unique year for the entire Cougar nation, but our employees have shown their strength and resilience by reinventing themselves around the realities of the year time and time again over these past months,” says Anastasia Gilpatrick ’07, project manager and director of technology for the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, who is the new chair of the Staff Advisory Committee to the President (SAC). “SAC recognizes how hard employees are working during all of this – and so we’re committed to providing all the support we can to make a challenging year an exceptional one.”

SAC was established in 2011 to advocate for the staff of the College of Charleston, to advise the president about staff opinions concerning matters of importance to the staff and institution, to receive the president’s requests for counsel regarding matters relevant to the staff and to increase awareness and promote recognition of the staff’s contributions.

“This year, our initiatives will continue to support our staff, as well as the goals of the strategic plan, while framed around the realities of this pandemic, ” says Gilpatrick. “We are focusing on capitalizing on what we already have, building on the momentum from previous years and connecting staff with one another in new, meaningful ways.”

One of those ways is through its First Friday initiative. The first Friday of every month has traditionally been recognized as Cougar Spirit Day, when staff wear Cougar colors/gear to show their school spirit. Now, First Fridays join Cougar Spirit Day to further connect staff on a monthly basis.

RELATED: Find out more about Cougar Spirit Day at the College of Charleston.

“First Fridays expand on Cougar Spirit Day and really open up the lines of communication between SAC and staff members,” says Gilpatrick, explaining that, on First Fridays, SAC representatives will reach out to the staff they represent to deliver important campus news and ask for input, ideas and concerns. “We are committed to having more communication this year, more back and forth, so that we can truly be advising the president on what our constituents in each unit have to say – especially those most deeply impacted this year.”

That communication is more important than ever, says Sarah Myer ’09, director of operations in the Office of Enrollment Information, and the new vice chair of SAC.

“During these strange times, it helps if we feel like we’ve got friends and allies across campus,” says Myer. “So, SAC really is focused on finding those kinds of opportunities wherever possible.”

Fortunately, those opportunities aren’t too hard to find – you just have to know where to look.

“We are committed to helping staff find mentors on campus and to find internal professional development opportunities as a way for us to have creative and alternative ways to build up our staff,” says Gilpatrick, adding that SAC is working to promote engagement in the College’s LinkedIn Learning series and working with the Office of Institutional Diversity to promote both the Critical Conversations initiative and the related Diversity EDU initiative. “Investing in our own learning – whether it is web design or installation diagramming, implicit bias mitigation or conflict resolution – advances not just ourselves, but our impact on the student experience at the College. So, to that end, SAC plans to continue its holistic wellness programming (mostly online), and grow the College’s allyships and affinity groups.”

RELATED: Find out more about LinkedIn Learning opportunities for faculty and staff.

“We are focusing on what the College already has put investment in and bringing that to light – so, asking, ‘What can SAC do to help staff better utilize the resources we already have access to?’” says Dawn Brandt, senior budget and finance reporting manager in the Office of Budgeting and Payroll Service, who is SAC’s new treasurer/secretary. “Of course, one of the greatest resources we have on this campus is the breadth of knowledge among our employees. We have some great minds on staff here – there’s a lot to offer!”

From Excel and coding skills to dancing and baking skills: CofC staff can certainly learn a lot from one another. And SAC hopes to create opportunities to help staff do just that.

“If we’ve got staff on campus who can teach a skill set within the context of the College’s mission and vision, why not utilize those people?” says Myer, explaining that the idea is to launch a series of employee-led workshops online. “I think we really could not only tap into the wealth of knowledge that we have on campus and shed some light on some of the amazing things that our staff knows how to do that aren’t necessarily part of their profile at the College, but also help connect people across divisions who wouldn’t otherwise have a need for interacting.”

And that kind of interdepartmental interaction is especially important this year, with the pandemic pushing SAC’s annual Celebration of Staff Awards in May online and causing the postponement of many other all-staff gatherings.

“Getting to know our colleagues better furthers our staff morale and our well-being – especially when so many of us are working remotely still,” says Myer, pointing out that online workshops and drop-ins may actually be more accessible to many staff members. “Some people may be more comfortable jumping on a Zoom call, where there’s an instructional purpose to the group getting together, or some other smaller cohort experience, rather than one of the bigger, in-person campuswide staff events. We just have to meet people where they are.”

And so – whether you’re at home, on campus or lost in a crazy world where every day is the same – rest assured: SAC will be there, too.

Connect with SAC anonymously via the Staff Input Form anytime. Check the Faculty & Staff News page on The College Today, the Faculty & Staff News Yammer feed, the @cofcfacultystaff Twitter feed and the SAC Instagram feed for updates about SAC throughout the year.

SAC representatives pictured above: first row (l–r): Anastasia Gilpatrick, Sarah Myer, Dawn Brandt, William Chase, David Aurich, Darcie Goodwin; second row (l–r): Kate Tiller, Lance Laidlaw, Stephanie Smith, Kimberly Gertner, Charissa Owens, Wanda Whitley, Michael Kling; third row (l–r): Pam Grant, Brad Weiland, Tracy Bates, Jeff Woraratanadharm, Karen Jones, Melantha Ardrey, Samantha Pairet