In early March, ModernThink sent 305 emailed surveys to a random selection of Marietta College employees in order to gain insight on how they feel about working at Marietta —from facilities and teaching environment to professional development opportunities and job satisfaction. In late September, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a list of the 2019 Great Colleges To Work For. Marietta College made the Honor Roll — earning “Very Good to Excellent” ratings in 10 out of the 12 categories.
“I think we have created an environment where the glass of water is always half full,” says President Bill Ruud. “I hope I’ve had something to do with that, but it’s 500 people working together and it’s 1,200 students working together to make it happen and to make themselves say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a pretty good job. It’s a pretty good place to work.’ I know we can get it out to the rest of the world that Marietta College is a pretty great place to live, learn and work.”
Where we excelled:
Compensation & Benefits
Confidence in Senior Leadership
Facilities, Workspace & Security
Professional/Career Development Programs
Respect & Appreciation
Tenure Clarity & Process
(The College was not recognized in the categories of Diversity and Supervisor/Department Chair Relationship)
Do You Like Your Job?
That is a tough question to ask any employee in private. The fact that Marietta College — through ModernThink, a professional human capital consulting firm — asked a random sample of more than half of its employees that question shows the leadership is ready and willing to put a mirror up to this institution to identify its strengths and its weaknesses from the vantage point of all divisions.
“We’ve done this survey three times — first in 2013, and then back-to-back years in 2018 and 2019,” says Debbie Wayland, Assistant Vice President for Administrative Services. “In 2013, we had a 35.5 percent response rate and the results were not encouraging.”
In 2013, the biggest concern was regarding Faculty, Staff and Administration Relations, though the College was on the lower cusp of several other areas. In 2018, when Marietta seemed to be headed in the right direction, the leadership decided it was time for another benchmark to verify that was the case.
“Why did we decide in 2018 that we needed to do the survey again?” Wayland says. “Because if we are serious about improving, we needed to get a benchmark to understand where we were at that point.”
Marietta earned “Very Good to Excellent” ratings in the categories of Teaching Environment, Job Satisfaction and Tenure Clarity & Process in 2018, which landed the College on the Great Colleges To Work For Recognition List.
“We did it again in 2019 and blew the thing up,” Wayland says. “I thought it would be good; I didn’t know it would be that outstanding. None of our categories overall were anything less than Very Good to Excellent. They break it down by the administration (Senior Leadership), Faculty, Exempt Professional Staff, and Non-Exempt Staff. I have no way of knowing who responded and how they responded. All I know is the response rate was more than 61.3 percent.”
In a special insert in The Chronical of Higher Education, Marietta was among 30 four-year colleges and universities categorized by small (2,999 or fewer students), medium (3,000-9,999 students) and large (10,000 or more students) that achieved the Honor Roll status. Only one other small college achieved a 10 out of 12 and one achieved 11 out of 12 among the 10 institutions appearing in that category. Of the 236 institutions that took part in the survey, 85 institutions rated “Very Good to Excellent” in at least one category.
Calaya Rake ’20 served as the chair of the Arts Education Advocacy Committee
The survey sampled members of administration, faculty, exempt professional staff, non-exempt staff and unspecified, so the full spectrum of employees were represented. The overall group was asked to respond to questions regarding collaborative governance; compensation and benefits; confidence in senior leadership; diversity; facilities, workspace and security; job satisfaction; professional/career development programs; respect and appreciation; supervisor/department chair relationship; and work/life balance. Those who identified as faculty were also asked specifically about the quality of Marietta’s teaching environment and the tenure clarity and process.
“I think the College, after some bumps, has gotten on a much more positive track,” says Dr. Katy McDaniel, Faculty Chair, Chair of the History, Philosophy and Religion Department, and Andrew U. Thomas/McCoy Professor of History. “We’re not totally there yet but I think the employees of the College feel that the whole machine is working more smoothly, and that there are more opportunities. We’re not getting shut down at every turn. We are encouraged to do new things. We have new majors, new minors, and resources are not being taken away; they are actually being given to us and I think that’s why you get positivity across the board because people feel listened to.”
McDaniel joined the College in 2001, so she has seen the ebbs and flows that Marietta has experienced for close to two decades.
“We’re all in the same boat. When you get that focus — the real focus on who are we and what we are really here for — things fall into place much more and it’s just a better place to work than it was in 2013,” McDaniel says.
Among the 236 colleges and universities that participated in ModernThink’s Great Colleges To Work For and the 124,349 employees surveyed, the average response rate was 45.4 percent. Marietta’s was 61.3 percent.
Regarding the areas specific to faculty, McDaniel says the improved teaching environment likely has more to do with the College providing an environment conducive to teaching rather that solely relying on the physical space in which teaching occurs.
“What I think is the best for the teaching environment, first of all, is that we are a teaching-centered institution and we have fully embraced that and we make teaching the top priority,” McDaniel says. “And it’s in the way we talk about it … for instance, the Worthington Center (for Teaching Excellence) does so much to highlight new practices and to get not only new faculty but faculty who’ve been here a long time to think about different ways to do it. And I actually think that there’s a great willingness among the faculty to experiment with things and to try something new. And when you’ve got faculty who are often going to spend a career here, you need to feel nurtured in your own development as a teacher. It happens here and not a lot of colleges and universities can say that.”
McDaniel also adds that the tenure process is something that starts with the hiring of every tenure-track assistant professor.
“Some institutions sort of keep it in a black box and sometimes they create enormous or never-ending hurdles,” McDaniel says. “We don’t hire people that we don’t want to achieve tenure. If you are hired on the tenure track, it’s in the best interest of the institution to make sure that you’re able to do that. We don’t leave assistant professors dangling, wondering — but our RTP (Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion) Committee starts talking to assistant professors about tenure during the new faculty orientation.”
Faculty mentors, third-year reviews by the RTP Committee and the Worthington Center are just a few of the tools that up-and-coming tenured professors have to help guide them through the process.
Dr. Alicia Doerflinger, Chair of the Psychology Department, echoes McDaniel’s sentiment that the College is headed in the right direction.
“My department has been preparing for the new Neuroscience major for quite some time but in recent years, it was never the right time to add it. The College was in a state where things were being cut across the board, so adding a new program wasn’t realistic,” Doerflinger says.
Once the College began forging a path forward, and employees were challenged by leadership to find ways to improve and grow, adding the new major became a real possibility.
“And we were able to serve another critical need in the community by adding the Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (starting in 2020),” she says.
The home base of the Psychology Department — Mills Hall — underwent extensive renovation to accommodate the 50 percent growth to the department and the addition of the Communication Department, which moved after nearly four decades of being in McKinney Hall.
Joyce Pennington’s new office in Mills Hall had a lot to live up to. Her former office, a centrally located space in McKinney Hall, was where she spent most of the last 35 years.
“The renovation of Mills has been the best change for me personally,” Pennington says. “This year, the College renovated the first three floors, making it one of the nicest buildings on campus. When I first started in Mass Media in 1981, the campus had only one copy machine, and it was located in the bottom of Irvine. Now, I’ve got a color printer and copier just a few feet from my desk and the place is gorgeous.”
> Angie Stevens (left) and Paula Lewis cut flowers for their offices in Irvine Hall.
On any given day, you could walk through campus and see Jordan Becker and his crew put their creativity — and their sweat equity —on display for all of the campus and the community to enjoy.
As Grounds Supervisor, Becker, with the help of his team, has transformed the campus from a place that keeps the grass mowed and the falling leaves in check to a breathtaking landscape design worthy of any horticulture magazine’s centerpiece. In fact, plenty of the employees, students and visitors to campus remind the crew on a regular basis about their great work.
“Obviously it takes the entire team to make this work and it’s not just the grounds staff that has to be involved in these decisions,” Becker says. “It’s getting Fred Smith, the Director of Physical Plant, on board with our vision; it’s Michele Marra (Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance) who is providing the funding approval for our plans — she’s been absolutely amazing to work with— and President Ruud, who always says that campus appearance is a major part of recruiting students to Marietta, as well as student retention. The grounds department have had incredible support and I could not have done it without an amazing crew. They work really hard — and that makes a huge difference on campus.”
Becker says that Dwight Alsbach, who owned his own landscaping company in Columbus before joining the College, helps to develop a plan, vision and design for creative landscaping throughout campus — from the massive planter in front of Dyson Baudo Recreation Center to the summer cutting garden on The Christy Mall. The remainder of the team works diligently to implement the creative process, working on all aspects of the project from labor and instillation to maintenance, upkeep and adding their own creative touches.
“Without funding, the green light to be creative and the hard work of the staff, none of this would be possible,” Becker says.
“The day I took over as supervisor, the grounds team began talking about who is our actual customer — and it’s the students, faculty and staff on campus. How do we, as a grounds department, create campus involvement and present ourselves to these groups and get everybody enjoying campus grounds as much as we do? Dwight Alsbach and I came up with a cutting garden. It was something we started from seed, so there was almost no cost to the College, and it just took off. One day, we saw Akime (Sullivan), from Building Services, cutting flowers. She told us how beautiful everything was and that she was actually cutting flowers to take to students to enjoy in their rooms. When we heard that, we knew this was something that we are going to have to do every single year — and we hope to make it better each year. Hearing that feedback was so rewarding.”
- Jordan Becker ’09, Grounds Supervisor
Officer Christopher Hall says the same is true for Marietta College’s Police Department.
“The biggest turnaround for our department came with the promotion of Jim Weaver to Chief of Police,” Hall says. “Under Chief Weaver’s leadership, our department’s entire focus has centered around a community policing philosophy — get out and interact with students, faculty and staff members in a way that lets them know that everyone in our department is extremely approachable and helpful.”
He says the addition of a fully staffed dispatch desk enables officers to spend more time interacting and responding to needs of everyone on campus. Hall adds that the College’s leadership — particularly President Ruud, Michele Marra and Debbie Wayland — has shown tremendous support for Chief Weaver’s long-term vision for the MCPD, and that providing funding and support for the department has helped them make great strides with officer/student relationships.
“I’ve been blessed with two great jobs: the first was with the Marietta Fire Department and the second is right here,” Hall says. “They make it hard for you to want to leave. It’s a fun place to work. I have two kids who go here. The benefits the College offers and the doors we have opened to us here are incredible. We have access to the DBRC, the ball games and all the events. My wife and I go to the Kuwaiti Dinner, the Chinese New Year Celebration and the Multicultural Festival.
“I am so fortunate to work for an institution like Marietta College.”
|Pre-Loaded Job Category||Total||Responded||% Responded|
|Exempt Professional Staff||74||53||72%|
Coming from the public sector, Ruud understands the value of transparency when an institution is struggling and adjustments need to be made in order to change course.
“In the public sector, you don’t have a choice but to discuss the issues because reporters are there, the legislators are there, the governor is there, everybody is there, all the board meetings are public meetings — you have to be able to communicate what you are doing and where you are going,” he says. “We are in pretty good shape, but you know this is all about enrollment. It’s always been all about enrollment. If you regularly get 500 freshmen, a whole bunch of other issues go away because of that extra revenue.”
Wayland believes that one of the biggest turnarounds has to do with how employees are made to feel valued.
“The Administration made a concerted, conscious decision and effort to create new programs where they were needed and to provide the support around those programs to make sure they were successful — to make sure all employees understand their role includes the important work of recruitment, retention and fundraising,” Wayland says. “When an organization has a shared culture and common themes, we are all pulling in the same direction to achieve greater success.”
> Before dawn, several times each year, Marietta employees volunteer to put up Marietta College flags throughout the downtown district to put Pioneer Pride on full display in the community
> Dr. Erick Carlson, Assistant Professor of Biology, takes advantage of a warm and sunny day in Marietta by taking his class outdoors
Empowering employees to make positive changes, offering them avenues for professional development, compensating them, supporting their ability for advancement, creating a positive work environment that also offers balance regarding their personal lives — all of this feeds into job satisfaction, Wayland says, and that care and enthusiasm changes the learning and living environment for students.
For the past two years, the new academic year has begun with a Welcome Back Picnic, a campus-wide dinner with games, prizes and other entertainment open to new and returning students, employees and their families. The College has also implemented an onboarding process that helps educate new employees on the full range of opportunities at Marietta — from tuition remission for family members to graduate school assistance to employees looking to further develop skills that will help them do their job at Marietta more effectively.
“And over the last four years, we’ve raised people’s salaries 5 percent, we’ve raised people’s contribution to their retirement 3 percent, we’ve adjusted some other salaries academically and administratively so the people believe they are at least compensated properly,” Ruud says. “We work hard to ensure that ever-rising health care costs aren’t borne by the employees. We try to tier it for health care so the lowest paid employees aren’t burdened at the same level as the higher-earning employees.”
Marietta College rated higher in every category than the 2019 Faculty, Administration and Staff (FAS)+ Benchmark.
The campus is decorated in banners celebrating the fact that Marietta is a Great College To Work For, and though the work it took to get Marietta in that Honor Roll position will continue to progress, there is an overwhelming sense of pride running throughout the College.
“Our people believe they are winners,” Ruud says. “The most powerful organ in the body is the brain. I think the change that I see is that we have been able to get everybody on campus knowing that they can do their job, and if they mess up a little bit, it’s not the end of the world. They have the freedom and the passion to try new stuff and to do new stuff, and they know that if they are successful, then collectively we are successful.”
Making the Honor Roll
|Category||2013||2018||2019||(2019 FAS+ 4-year)|
|Compensation, Benefits & Work/Life Balance||68%||76%||79%||69%|
|Policies, Resources & Efficiency||58%||68%||79%||60%|
|Faculty, Administration & Staff Relations||53%||72%||80%||59%|
|Respect & Appreciation||65%||75%||77%||62%|
(Fair to Mediocre)
(Very Good to Excellent)