Every time UI faculty or staff members answer the phone or greet a visitor, they are acting as a representative of the university. A new service-oriented training series, The Ambassador Program, offered by the Office of Human Resource Development, teaches participants how to leave a positive impression every time.
"Service is and always has been an integral part of the university's overall mission," said Lynne Hellmer, director of the Office of Human Resource Development. "We thought the university was doing a pretty good job of providing it. But through focus-group sessions with students last spring, we found out we weren't always living up to students' expectations."
The focus groups, conducted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, identified elements of good service, but also indicated weak areas where customer-service efforts needed improving. The Ambassador Program was designed to address these areas.
"It's not a revolutionary idea," Hellmer said, "but like many of our programs, it represents an innovative approach to solving a problem many universities face these days providing personal service to an ever-growing and increasingly diverse student body."
Participants in the Ambassador Program enroll in five core courses and additional courses selected from three fields of specialization (service, administrative support or written communication).
"The 'heart' of the program is the one-day program, Connections." Hellmer said. "In Connections, we teach employees how to interact more effectively with our most important public the students we serve. It is the only available program to our knowledge that concentrates on providing service in a higher-education setting."
And it is the only program being supported by 300 full scholarships by the Office of the Chancellor.
Because of Chancellor Michael Aiken's commitment to the program, six sessions were added to the fall schedule, with fees being waived for the first 300 registrants. The one-day course will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4:45 in 314 Illini Union on Oct. 9 and 10, and Nov. 12, 14, 17 and 25.
HRD will continue to offer two campuswide sessions of Connections at its regular fee of $29 per person on Oct. 16 and March 6. These sessions will be from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on third floor of Levis Faculty Center.
Interested individuals may sign up for Connections without being enrolled in the Ambassador Program. But, the course counts as one of the five core courses of the program. Other core courses include The Indispensable Employee, Building Interpersonal Communication Skills, The University Culture and Working in a Team Environment.
Courses in the specialty areas cover topics such as listening, feedback and nonverbal communication, telephone communication skills such as handling the irate caller, e-mail essentials, business correspondence, proofreading, procedure manuals, technology and speaking in public.
For more information, course dates and costs, interested individuals may request a copy of The Source catalog by calling the Office of Human Resource Development at 333-8342. Updated information also is available on its Web site at http://director.hrd.uiuc.edu.