Clemson University’s marquee staff development program, CU Grow, graduated its second cohort during a ceremony in the Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Complex on October 26. The 25 graduates hailed from a broad spectrum of University divisions, colleges and offices, including CU-ICAR, Advancement, Facilities, Clemson Fire & EMS, Historic Properties and many others.
CU Grow is a rigorous one-year program that aims to raise the levels of leadership, engagement and professional growth in its participants. The program is unique because its mission includes impacting the University in tangible, positive ways through developing original individual projects. The new iteration of projects was as diverse as the participants, and many CU grow cohort members were already making an impact even before the graduation ceremony.
For his project, Paul Alongi, writer, editor and social media manager for the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, chose to create a social media campaign for CECAS as a recruiting tool for underrepresented groups in STEM. The campaign has already boosted engagement across CECAS social media pages, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
“CU Grow underscores why Clemson University is rated among the best employers in the country,” said Alongi. “Jaz Hamilton-Allen and her team have put together a transformational program that supports employees in their personal and professional growth. Jaz and her team’s programming brought the cohort closer together and helped prepare us to play greater leadership roles as Clemson deepens its imprint as a major research institution. Thanks to CU Grow, not only is the program’s second cohort better prepared to make an impact in the future, but the University is too.”
Alongi’s fellow cohort member Lacy Spearman Randles ’06, events and engagement manager for the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs, said her year in CU Grow helped her advance in her position and gave her goals for future growth.
“During my time in CU Grow, I was promoted within my office to a new role with more responsibilities,” she said. “The CU Grow program is vital to Clemson University’s desire to cultivate and develop its staff. It has led me to be a more knowledgeable member of our office, which benefits us all in the Office of the Provost.”
Spearman Randles’ project focused on maximizing the return on investment in the Provost’s Suite in Memorial Stadium. During the year in CU Grow, Spearman Randles discovered multiple ways to enhance engagement and improve the suite’s usage, which the Provost’s Office is currently implementing.
Regina Taylor, director of performance analysis for the CECAS dean’s office, said she decided to apply to the CU Grow program because she felt it would give her an opportunity to explore her capabilities and step outside the box.
“The program is important because it brings the realization that no matter what role you play at Clemson, you are contributing to the success of the University,” said Taylor. “CU Grow allowed me to be the best version of myself. It allowed me to showcase my abilities and the things that I contribute to make a difference in the success of Clemson. I would strongly advise anyone given the chance to participate in such a worthwhile program not to let the opportunity pass them by.”
Taylor’s project is an innovative, interactive dashboard that tracks trends for grant proposal submission, awards, research expenditures, funding sources and the grant library. The dashboards can drill down from the college level, department, principal investigator and job title and are designed to help administrators make sound decisions for the college and University. The program takes the data and organizes it into easily understandable graphics.
Jaz Hamilton-Allen, CU Grow founder and lead, said Taylor’s project could be a game-changer.
“CU Grow projects have a tremendous impact on the University,” said Hamilton-Allen. “Staff members integrate technology in progressive ways and address inefficiencies by redesigning processes, among other things.”
Phillip Addington, project manager for University Facilities capital projects, not only graduated in the first cohort last year, but because his last name starts with an “A,” he was the first person ever to receive a CU Grow certificate. At the time, he was a project manager for facilities in the construction and renovation group. A year later, he was promoted to his current position and credited his experience in CU Grow.
“My CU Grow project was based on one of the main missions of the University, which is to identify inefficiencies and improve on them,” Addington said, noting that his project focused on an inefficiency in Facilities for getting approvals for projects through the University Planning Advisory Committee. The solutions he found helped streamline the process and showed his problem-solving capabilities, which led to the promotion.
“That changed my life a good bit,” he said, downplaying it with a laugh. “I’m now the official off-site project manager, so I’m currently handling 57 projects in 13 counties worth roughly $45 million.”
In her first year as CU Grow training coordinator, Caliyah Parker said stories like Addington’s showcase precisely what the program was designed to do.
“The participants’ projects speak to everything under the sun: savings, innovative processes, increased efficiencies, and even addressing staffing needs – but it’s improvements in how people tackle their positions and problem-solve that make this program the life-changing experience that it is.”
The 2021-22 CU Grow Cohort:
Paul Alongi (Writer, editor and social media manager, CECAS)
Brian Bolt, Ph.D. (Livestock Specialist, Co-operative Extension)
Derek Ekaitis (Staff Relations Manager, Office of Human Resources)
Lauren Gaulin (Director of Major Gifts, IPTAY)
Nicole “Nicci” Hanewald (Executive Assistant, Office of the President)
Sierra Holland (Engagement and Retention Analyst, Office of Human Resources)
Benjamin Houston (Associate Director Event Operations/Championships, Athletics)
Lisa Jackson (Associate Director of PEER and WISE, CECAS)
Donna Jervis (Administrative Coordinator, CBSHS – Dept of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice)
Sarah King (SNAP Education Program Coordinator, Youth Learning Institute)
Lori Kinley, Ph.D. (Associate Director Online Development, Clemson Online)
Lizza Muszynski (Program Assistant, Risk Services and Insurance)
Miriam Mari Noorai (Curator of Education and Interpretation, Historic Properties)
Ross Phillips (Building Condition Assessment Coordinator, Facilities)
Lacy Randles (Events and Engagement Manager, Office of the Provost)
Robert Robinson (Fiscal Manager, Global engagement)
Rob Seay (Student Services Manager, CURI)
Cristina Shorts (Operations Manager, Automotive Engineering, CU-ICAR)
Kesha Smith (Administrative Coordinator for Corporate and Foundation Relations, Advancement)
Caitlin Stanton (Project Manager and Operations Coordinator, Center for Advanced Manufacturing)
Janine Sutter (Senior Extension Agent, Extensions)
Regina Taylor (Director of Performance Analysis, CECAS Dean’s Office)
Jennifer Thackston (Sgt., Community Risk Reduction, Fire & EMS)
Rebecca Towe (Administrative Assistant, The Graduate School)
Chelsea Waugaman, Ph. D. (Faculty Affairs Project Manager, Office of EVP for Academic Affairs and Provost)