By Kate O’Neill
This summer, Mary Knudtson, associate vice chancellor for Student Health and Wellness, and Sarah Woodside Bury, associate director for College Student Life for College Nine and College Ten, each participated in the Global Staff Exchange Program at the University of Sussex, located in Brighton, England.
During their week-long exchanges, which took place at different times, Knudtson and Woodside Bury met with colleagues in similar roles, as well as those in positions that they typically collaborate with on campus. The meetings provided an opportunity for participants to learn from one another, evaluate any similarities and areas of overlap where there are shared best practices and expertise, and acquire a more global perspective on university services, administration, and management.
At Sussex, Knudtson connected with Student Experience, Student Engagement & Achievement, Student Life, Student Wellbeing, Global Engagement, Residential Support, Students’ Union, Counseling Services, and student groups. During these meetings, Knudtson spoke to the university staff, faculty, and students on the similarities and differences between UC Santa Cruz and the University of Sussex.
“What we found was that our campuses were so much more similar than either of us thought,” said Knudtson.
Of the similarities, Knudtson mentioned that each campus was facing a rising number of students with serious mental health concerns, financial challenges, and a more diverse student population that included more first-generation, and low-income students. Additionally, both institutions found demand exceeded capacity for students seeking counseling support and both institutions had large LGBTQ student populations.
During Woodside Bury’s exchange, she met with staff from Student Life, International Programs, and Housing. Upon her return, Woodside Bury highlighted how eye-opening it was to learn about the systems, structures, processes, and best practices within all student affairs realms at the University of Sussex.
“Most importantly, I learned their international ethos, one that is based on inclusive and holistic practices and brings to light social justice concerns while globalizing the campus,” Woodside Bury noted. “From my vantage point, this ethos is one that is culturally different than our model and my hope is that we are able to infuse UCSC with this type of climate.”
Equipped with new knowledge from Brighton, Knudtson and Woodside Bury have returned to UC Santa Cruz to share what they learned with campus. Both participants will present on their experiences in the fall, Knudtson in October and Woodside Bury in November. Additionally, they plan to take action on specific elements they learned either by implementing new best practices or meeting with campus partners to share their experiences.
“Each of us had best practices that the campuses will try to replicate,” said Knudtson. “We both found it to be a valuable experience for learning from each other — it was also validating that the issues that we’re facing are similar to what they’re facing.”
From their experiences in the program, Knudtson and Woodside Bury provided insights on who might benefit from participating in the Global Staff Exchange Program.
Knudtson highlighted that those responsible for student support services, advising, and in leadership roles would find the Global Staff Exchange Program useful. For those in leadership roles, she stressed the value of having a broad understanding of how UC Santa Cruz functions so that individuals with an in-depth knowledge of campus can better understand the way we collaborate and how to improve it.
Woodside Bury impressed that those looking to expand their global consciousness and develop professionally would benefit from participation.
“This program is such an incredible opportunity for staff who may or may not have experienced a different university system outside the United States and allows for more in-depth learning of different practices that may be directly applied in our day-to-day work,” said Woodside Bury.
The Global Staff Exchange Program is open to all UC Santa Cruz non-represented, exempt staff. Interested employees can apply for 2021 participation in late fall on the Global Engagement website.