Special Events: Annual Meeting 2012

Participants enjoying a few minutes in the sun with “Liberation,” a series of nine interrelated sculptures by Michigan artist David Barr located at North Campus Research Complex.
Associate Vice President for Human Resources Lauirta Thomas welcomes the energetic and excited group of VOICES alumni, incoming and returning members.

2012 VOICES Annual Meeting Recap

By Danielle Clair, HR Communications intern

“Reinvention” was the word of the day at the 2012 Voices of the Staff Annual Meeting. It was woven into every aspect of the event, from the keynote address to the lunch menu, to a frenetic team building exercise. And it began with a different spin on the meeting location.

More than 100 incoming, returning and alumni VOICES members convened at the U-M Dearborn Fairlane Center on June 20. Many made the commute from Ann Arbor on chartered university buses – taking advantage of the travel time to network. All attendees were welcomed by the event emcee, VOICES Project Management Team member Jaime Palmby.

Laurita Thomas, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, followed with a welcome of her own, stating, “As VOICES continues to flourish, I commend you all for enthusiastically contributing your time and talents to advancing our mission of staff engagement. You have made VOICES a dynamic force at the university.”

Since its inception in 2005, VOICES has served as a sounding board for leadership to better understand staff’s interests, needs and concerns. VOICES’ volunteers serve on teams to represent these interests, which include benefits, health and well-being, work climate and career development. The return of the Parking and Transportation Team attests to VOICES’ ability to continuously reinvent itself in order to better meet staff’s needs.

Athletic Director David Brandon delivered the keynote presentation on teams in transition and the importance of embracing change.
Keynote speaker Josh Linkner encouraged creative thinking and stepping outside of the box.

Creativity and “Disciplined Dreaming” Encouraged During Keynote

Keynote speaker Josh Linkner, a New York Times Best Seller and successful entrepreneur, helped to launch Detroit Venture Partners, a venture firm investing in tech-startup companies, energized and engaged the group with an eye-opening, thought-provoking, and undoubtedly creative presentation. “Creativity can make all the difference in your career, at the university and throughout our community,” encouraged Linkner. “My hope today is that you seize it. You let your creativity and imagination shine.”

Linkner shared the results from a study conducted at Harvard University, which found that creativity is 85% learned behavior. Meaning, everyone has the capacity to be creative, but the problem is that most don’t feel that way due to “creativity blockers” such as the label of a job title or fear. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a CAT scan technician, or a graphic designer. We’re all creative. It’s just a matter of bringing those skills to the surface,” said Linkner.

Linkner commended Voices of the Staff for taking action and challenging assumptions since its beginning. He encouraged the volunteers to embark on their own disruptive journeys and to unleash their creativity by getting curious and asking “why, what if and why not?”; encouraging courage and realizing that mistakes are not fatal, they are simply the portal of discovery; challenging assumptions; thinking small with a “fire in the belly” mentality; shattering conventional wisdom. “The whole idea of VOICES is to be able to share your creative ideas, rather than withhold them,” said Linkner.

Winners of the funniest video award: Benefits, Health and Well-Being team
Team members hard at work trying to replicate a U-M and VOICES -inspired block 'M' model with the direction of their fellow teammates.

Team Building, VOICES Style

Complimenting Linkner’s keynote address, the afternoon’s team-building activity forced participants to tap into their creative sides while emphasizing group dynamics. Putting a U-M and VOICES spin on the game of “telephone,” sixteen teams were challenged to recreate a decorated block M model using Play-Doh, and other building materials. Team members were given roles including: Scouts — the only people on the teams who were able to see the actual model that was to be replicated; Buyers — who were told by the Scouts which items to purchase from the activity’s supply store; Runners — who delivered the items as well as the building instructions they received from the Buyers; Engineers — who attempted to build and replicate the model based off of the supplies and verbal instructions that were given to them by the Runners.

“This activity gave me an opportunity to work with my new teammates and to get to know them and learn more about what each person’s natural talents are,” said incoming Benefits, Health and Well-being team member Terry Hargrave.

Winners of the funniest video award: Benefits, Health and Well-Being team
Team members found creative ways to communicate and share directions among themselves during the team building activity.









VOICES' Champions Honored

The VOICES Champion Award is given to individuals and groups that visibly support VOICES and carry forward its mission of staff engagement. U-M Dearborn Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs, Jeff Evans presented this year’s recipients with the award:

  • Christopher Tremblay,  Assistant Vice Chancellor, U-M Dearborn
  • Chris Miller, Benefits Specialist, Benefits Office, retired
  • Louise Baldwin, Associate Director of the International Center
  • Staney DeGraff and the Collaborative Innovative Network design team
  • Diane Vasquez, Director of Human Resources Operations, University Human Resources
Champion Award honoree Ann Ross (center), with Tony Denton and Laurita Thomas.
Director of Human Resources Operations, University Human Resources Diane Vasquez received a VOICES Champion Award for her relentless dedication and commitment to Voices of the Staff since 2004.


Connecting, Planning and Transitioning

Throughout the day, VOICES members connected as a group and individual teams were able to brainstorm and plan for the upcoming year. All team members were awarded with certificates for their service. Team members who had served two years, were thanked for their active service as they transitioned to the Alumni Team.  “I’ve met a lot of amazing people that I would have never met outside of VOICES,” said Rose Bernal, a Project Management Team member who transitioned to the Alumni Team.

The day ended with team photos, an ice cream bar encouraging people to reinvent their favorite sundaes, and excitement for the upcoming year. “The day was outstanding and well put together. The theme was connected to everything through the day. I am truly blessed and excited to have been selected as a VOICES’ member,” said Hargrave.


At day’s end, participants gathered for a group photo.
VOICES Project Management Team

At day’s end, participants gathered for a group photo.
 The day ended with a creative and tasty "reinvent your favorite ice cream sundae" station.