MSAC Builds Community Among Mason School Staff

At the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, Miller Hall’s atrium was adorned with floor tiles that said “you belong here” and “welcome” in one of the 20 languages routinely spoken at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Attend one of the many events held throughout the semester and Dean Pulley will speak to the importance of inclusion and creating a sense of belonging throughout the business school community. Scroll through one of the many social media platforms maintained by the Mason School and a number of posts center on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, events, or people.

These are just a few of the way the Mason School is working to foster a stronger sense of community and a welcoming environment to those who learn, work, and partner with the business school.

But these initiatives are not limited to students and faculty. Staff play an important role in the ecosystem of the business school and the Mason Staff Affairs Committee (MSAC) was established to promote a sense of belonging and forge connections among staff who perform vital work across every department to ensure the school runs successfully.

About MSAC

The committee is comprised of approximately 16 staff members representative across nearly a dozen departments at the Mason School, and as a whole, it is responsible for building a stronger community through information sharing campaigns, special events, and initiatives of all kinds. At an individual level, committee members are charged with identifying opportunities to help bring together members of the staff who may not cross paths naturally.

“Miller Hall is a big building and we all have natural silos that we stay in. I think it’s really powerful that we have this opportunity to build community engagement and connections between teams that may not have otherwise connected,” said Morgan Hutter, MSAC member and Interim Executive Director of the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance. “It’s important to break down barriers and let anyone at any time know there is a community larger than the team they are on.”

Adapting to a New Normal

The MSAC has existed in some form for many years. It originally served as a planning mechanism to bring uplifting events like mini massages and doughnut days to the staff of Miller Hall. It evolved to include more substantive events, and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, its most recent iteration was born out of the need to connect people in creative ways without a physical office environment.

“I’ve been a part of the committee since my first few weeks at William & Mary – nearly five years – and what keeps me vested in the team is our continuous efforts to bring colleagues closer together,” said Elizabeth Eldredge, Associate Director of Digital Strategy and Content Curation. “With COVID-19 changing the landscape of our working environment, we quickly realized as a group that we would have to adapt the way we met the needs of our staff to bring better content and wholesome events that were resonant with them during a challenging time.”

The group met virtually on a weekly basis. Their first initiative was to connect staff through a Teams channel where the committee would post professional development and light-hearted content twice-weekly. Then, they developed a calendar of events the committee sponsored to build comradery despite geographic separation. They hosted a spirit week during which staff were encouraged to snap photos of themselves and their families wearing green and gold, and upload them to a photo collage. At the end of the week the staff voted on the best photo and the winner received a gift card.

The committee created a series of 5-minute “how-to” videos highlighting the different hobbies or skills possessed by individual staff members, such as sailing or drawing, to connect people with similar interests. The MSAC also hosted a “lunch-and-learn” series where each department delivered a presentation to introduce respective team members and to educate viewers at a high level on their daily responsibilities to give insight into what each team does and the value their team brings to the Mason School.

Championing Others

“Every activity we do is optional. As a committee we have a lot of different departmental, gender, ethnic, and religious diversity so we have different lenses that committee members can speak from. It helps us to be aware and sensitive to cultural differences and ensure everyone feels included,” said Hutter.

As more staff return to work at Miller Hall, the committee looks to hold in-person events like the annual pumpkin carving contest. The MSAC also plans to support more initiatives sponsored by other entities in the business school by sharing information across digital channels and departmental meetings. They’ve already championed the Afghan Refugee Donation Drive held by the Center for Military Transition, and the annual Angel Tree drive which is coordinated through Human Resources and the Dean’s Office.

“Usually someone on the committee will share an idea, we then brainstorm on how we can plan out the idea to ensure that all departments can benefit. But I think at the end of the day, if we can impact one colleague, we’ve done our job,” said Hutter.

Why I joined

“I saw an opportunity for collaboration and engagement efforts. I always want to be a change agent and if I can work together with colleagues to make others feel more comfortable, engaged, or happier, that brings me a lot of personal and professional satisfaction. It’s also a growth opportunity. Anytime you can work with people you wouldn’t normally work with, you gain an appreciation and understanding of the environment and you grow as an individual.” – Morgan Hutter

“People are a part of this committee because they want to positively influence their colleagues’ lives and make our workplace a better, more sustainable place. We want to see participation escalate and grow, not just on the committee but through the events and initiatives we host. It’s great to see people being more aware of what we’re doing and wanting to partake. I’m hoping our next efforts can center around volunteer hours in our community come spring. It is wonderful to know W&M provides us time to give back, and coordinating some shared efforts would amplify that impact.” – Elizabeth Eldredge

“Cultivating student success begins with fostering team success. The value of the MSAC is that they are all about the people working with the Mason School. Our workplace culture of promoting appreciation and recognition encourages positive employee morale, satisfaction, and motivation. As a new employee, my decision to join was a no-brainer.” – Neina Osibogun, Director of Student Experience and Affairs, Center for Online Learning

“Joining the MSAC was a starting point toward building relationships and connections with others outside of my immediate unit. I’ve been able to expand my network while also learning more about the history and organization within the Mason School, which has been most helpful in my first few months. As individuals who support the future generation of business professionals, it allows us to showcase the skills and expectations that our students should have going into their work. We’re able to advocate for ourselves while also taking the next steps to ensure we’re growing and expanding as professionals in our mission to educate and support the next generation of principled achievers.” – Skylar Pritchard, Alumni Engagement Coordinator, MBA Programs

How to Be Involved

All Mason School staff are welcome to join the Mason Staff Affairs Committee. There are different opportunities available depending on individual interests and availability:

  • Access content on the Staff Teams channel. Contact Sara Noack at [[m|sara.noack]] for more information.
  • Join the committee. Meetings are currently held virtually on a monthly basis. Email [[m|msac]] for upcoming meeting information.
  • Volunteer at an event. We have a calendar full of exciting events in 2022 could use your help. Email [[m|msac]] for a full list of upcoming events.
  • Partner with us. Is there an event or initiative you’re sponsoring? We want to support you and help get the word out. Contact us at [[m|msac]] to coordinate.
  • Share your ideas. Have an idea or concern? We want to serve as a vehicle for change. If we’re unable to solve it or sponsor it as a committee, we will use our extensive network to connect you with the right people in Miller Hall.