Ten Year Old Team-Building Project Builds Staff Skills and Morale, Board Hears

Genesee Unites to Support Team Opportunities (GUSTO), a grassroots faculty and staff team-building program, has significantly improved staff skills, service to students, and staff morale, Dr. Ruth E. Andes, Assistant Dean of Assessment and Special Projects, told the Board of Trustees this evening.

GUSTO began in 1995 at the initiative of two staff members who wanted to organize in-house training events for their colleagues. Since then, the GUSTO Team - a group that has expanded to nine faculty and staff volunteers - has organized more than 200 training events on student and customer service, technology, communication skills, and other subjects of interest to faculty and staff. "The exciting thing about GUSTO is that we organize most events using expertise that already exists within the College," said Cathy Costello, Executive Assistant to the President and a founding GUSTO member. "If we identify a training need, we also try to identify people within the College who have the needed skills and can organize workshops on the topic."

The GUSTO Team does more than organize training events, however. Each year, the Team plans and organizes social events that bring faculty and staff members together. These have included Halloween costume contests, cookie hours, and ice cream socials. "Giving faculty and staff members the chance to mingle with each other outside of their traditional work settings builds morale and helps foster a sense of community," said Marilyn C. Dickinson, Academic Assistant to the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and founding GUSTO member.

GUSTO also spearheaded several major staff development initiatives, Dr. Andes reported. These included bringing the nationally acclaimed "Connections that Count" and FISH customer service programs to Genesee, and starting a new online skill-building program for adjunct faculty members. To maximize resources, GUSTO frequently partners with other departments and groups on campus in providing activities. One such event was a first-ever two-day "mini-summit" offering dozens of special workshops to staff members.

Grassroots initiatives like these contribute to Genesee's growing reputation for innovation, Dr. Andes said. "We know that we have a great college," she told the Board. "But when you take an already excellent institution and give faculty and staff members the opportunity to share their time and their skills through a program like GUSTO, amazing things happen."