Modern universities have evolved far beyond their origins of individual tutors educating individual students. For example, the Federal and local governments have increasingly regulated universities in the US. We have staff that implement those regulations. These include the appropriate distribution of Federal government financial aid to students, the assurance of appropriate admissions criteria, the completion of documentation required for grant proposals, the internal and other audit processes for financial management, the review of appropriate protections for human subjects of research, and the legal review of human resource issues.
In addition, serving the research and common good missions of the university adds complexity. Modern universities depend on highly qualified technical staff for those missions. They provide assistance in running research laboratories, research support services from libraries, and community outreach for common good purposes.
Finally, universities in the US have evolved to providing staff for student services far beyond the educational mission. These include health professionals to provide medical services, professional staff in fitness centers to educate students in physical fitness, professional coaching staffs for athletics, and professionals for social event planning and support.
The staff performing these various duties outnumbers the faculty in a university, but the faculty cannot fully achieve success without them. Students clearly outnumber these staff, but the students wouldn’t have the same quality experience without the staff.
As universities have evolved, the skills required of the staff have become more and more specialized. Whether through formal academic certification or deep professional experience, the non-faculty staff of a modern university provides a set of knowledge rare in the larger labor market.
Universities that take advantage of those skills and build a culture of collaboration among faculty, staff, and students are stronger institutions than those who don’t.
In my short time here at Georgetown, I have met and worked with staff of extraordinary strengths, making the overall enterprise stronger. They rarely are highlighted on the web pages for their accomplishments, but they almost always have supported the accomplishments that are highlighted on the web pages. They can never been thanked enough for their accomplishments.
Georgetown is blessed that these professional staff have deep commitments to the Jesuit and Catholic mission of the institution. I have seen how that mission provides a deeper meaning to these professionals’ lives. While we all have frustrations with our day-to-day lives inside a complex, large institution, it helps to know that one is part of something larger.
Because of the great diversity of activities within a university, we rarely think of ourselves as members of a team. But we are. Realizing our co-dependencies, respecting them, and appreciating them, makes us better.