CTI Podcast - Episode 37: Teaching & Learning for Staff with Tessa Anderson


Tony Pellegrini: Good Morning Friends, SUU friends. Tony Pellegrini here with our podcast for April of 2023 Teaching and Learning at Southern Utah University, and we are wrapping up our series for this academic year 2223 with our special guest, Mrs. Tessa Anderson, who is an internal auditor for Southern Utah University. This is a unique situation for us in many different ways. First, over the last four or five years I've been focusing on guests to help us with understand how teaching and learning is involved at SUU primarily from faculty from students from but I have never had a guest from staff and so I was very excited to be able to have Tessa be willing to come in and connect with us on teaching and learning here at Southern Utah University. Full disclosure is always appropriate. Tessa is my daughter. I'm very proud of her. She's also a wonderful staff member who has a lot of experience right now in teaching and developing training for individuals and staff members in particular here at Southern Utah University. So Tessa if you wouldn't mind, not disclosing any family experiences but if you wouldn't mind telling us a little about your background and history. What made you choose SUU I'm going to kind of lead you a little bit. Start from your original degree and through your degree process here at SUU, would you mind doing that? 

Tessa Anderson : Absolutely. So original reason for going to SUU, my wonderful father worked here and I got half off tuition and you cannot be graduating with a degree and no student loans. So, as SUU is a wonderful institution, and I greatly appreciate it offered me the financial stability that I needed to get a degree I ended my first bachelor's degrees in political science with a certificate of international relations and a minor in history. I graduated right about 2009 or 10. directly as the market crashed, and there was very little opportunity and employment opportunities at that time and my husband was making a wonderful amount of money for the company he was working with. So there was a period of time I thought I'd go to law school but we couldn't pass up the financial stability of my husband's position. So I ended up just working around Cedar City, Utah for a few years before deciding to go back for my second degree in accounting. And originally when I went back, my thought was I am very task oriented and very detail oriented. And I'm gonna help somebody manage a business. I'm a mom of one child at that time to now and I can be an office manager and you know, it's a small town I'll find someone who let me have my kids with me and I'll have the flexibility of schedule that way. And I commend in the office and it snowballed into being an internal auditor here at SUU with an accounting degree. 

Tony Pellegrini: Talk to us for just a little bit. You've always got dreams of the future. What are your future plans, hopes, aspirations? Curricularly and here on campus for beyond? 

Tessa Anderson: No, I'm currently working on a dual Master's in Accounting and Business Administration with an emphasis in data analytics. I also am rolling out the business operations network which is run through staff association that is designed to have a cohesive community of staff on campus. They can have one area they can go to ask questions and get support, locate helpful how to’s, and information that other people have been using for years in one small community. And as part of that, we're also doing a technical series training to help people learn how to use things that we software we use on campus frequently. Better use standard software's like Excel, Google Suite software's Adobe. How they can better use those to make their jobs just a little easier, make their lives just a little easier.

Tony Pellegrini: You know, as as a teacher I've been so focused on over my career of you know, how are my students learning? How are we learning as faculty, you mean staff need learning as well too?

Tessa Anderson: No. We know everything. We know everything, just ask any accountant you’ve ever met. We know everything.

Tony Pellegrini: That is probably the case. So I'm very interested in the, you know, the office network that you've identified talk to us about some of the learning that you're acquiring with the personalities and the other staff members to desire additional learning, additional growth and development. It seems like being a lifelong learner is a human characteristic. It's not necessarily a greeting. 

Tessa Anderson: It's a Pellegrini characteristic at the very least. 

Tony Pellegrini: I think it's bigger than that. It's part of our humaneness.

Tessa Anderson: I completely agree with that. If you've been listening to Tony Pellegrini's podcast for any period of time, you know he is an educator, his wife is an educator, his children are educators. And as part of that my path to education was not elementary, high school higher ed necessarily till now, my path to that was corporate training. So I've been a corporate trainer for about 12 years now. I've done with different corporations, but through every position that I've had, I've been the training facilitator in my positions. So what I've identified is that people are, are desperate for further information on how to do what they need. So an example of that would be I started a studio just a little over a year ago, and even today, I needed to do a purchase order and I looked for resources before I reached out for support I couldn't really find the resources they need reached out to purchasing they walked me through it, and I got it denied by my boss, he turned it back. I didn't do it right. So I think that there there are circumstances under which everybody just really, they want to be good at their job. They want to succeed at their job and be seen as being good at their job. There's a very, that affirmation level of humaneness of of love and support and affirmation. We're talking about our heart hierarchies that there needs to be a fulfillment of that in your job. It's not just a personal fulfillment. And if you don't have that structure, in place for support that support network, beyond just your immediate supervisor and your immediate team, so my team is two people, it's me and my boss. And I want to be able to go hey, you know, I have this support network of administrators or of people who know how to do certain functions, and I can reach out to this group, and they can support me and I want everybody to have that support. And the business operations network really allows for that functionality to ask questions to an open group. And I know that there's also kind of a fear of going: “I should probably already know this answer”. Like “I should know, after a year how to do a purchase order”, or “I should know after a year who I asked to get access to insert software name here”, but I don't but I have that fear of, if I ask this will I seem silly. Will there be a [unintelligible] I probably should have known that, after a year of being here? I also been raised in a family that I was having a fear of that I will just ask the questions because if I don't know, I need to know. So we're just trying I'm attempting to put into place that fulfillment give people that level of security and strength and safety in their roles. 

Tony Pellegrini: Exciting, absolutely exciting. I think that staff and faculty and students can benefit from this and will benefit from these opportunities to learn and acquire new information. You mentioned your corporate training. Is there anything in corporate training that we could learn or we could benefit from in higher education is that is there something that could be passed along that way? Or are we in that ivory tower that are only giving information to others? 

Tessa Anderson: So I think that the corporate training I do believe that it is very cross functional, don't get me wrong, but the reason I leaned towards corporate training over higher education and such is I am paying you to be here. People aren't paying me to be here that you know, the students are paying to be here and the opposite situation. I am paying that person to be in this, in this environment. I'm saying hey, you know, I'm paying you a salary. I'm paying you a wage to learn this information. And so I have a captive audience under that that the drives are a little different. And so I've often taken it from the opposite perspective of what can I learn from higher education to really engage this very, very captive audience that I have, that has a requirement to be here. But I do believe the the daily structure outline is something that I appreciate so when I. I am currently in college classes, I've got a syllabus, and the syllabus has an outline for what I'm looking at, you know, daily, weekly, monthly, across my semester on learning objectives. When we take that to a training module, we really compress that down to a daily event or however long our training is going to be. An that outline is normally listed visually where someone's gonna see it throughout the day. So we know that at from eight to 8:15, we've got you know, orientation from 8:15 to 10:15. We're working on Excel intermediate to advanced functions at 10:15. We're going to take a 15 minute break. That's something that, especially in my course, crushes with my professors. If I'm in an in-person class, I’m like put the agenda on the board.Let me work ahead if I need to, or let me be able to write that down so I can reference it back to it. If you've got a captive audience, having that visual agenda is something that I really appreciate. It helps keep me on task. It helps keep my class on task. And I know that the syllabus provides that but down to that granular functional level of the course that I'm in. 

Tony Pellegrini: So things that we can learn from you and from our learners is that we really need to differentiate our instructions. Be able to understand that our learners are coming at us with diverse needs. Yes, they need to understand the content, but they may or may need to understand it in diverse ways that connect with or that engage with them. 

Tessa Anderson: Absolutely. I see that in my master's level courses a lot. So I have a public accounting background, and which means taxes and I help prepare people's taxes and bookkeeping behind people's taxes. And as I've come into my classes, my good grades are predicated upon my my work. I think these classes would have been much more difficult for me if I hadn't had a working background in the environments in which they're teaching at the masters level. At the undergraduate level, there was no requirement.

Tony Pellegrini: So you see the practical applicability, application of those. I'm sorry, I cut you off. I was intrigued a moment ago, as you talked about your team and you're working with your supervisor with a team of two. Communication can happen fairly easily I hope you know that communication can happen. Do you work with organizations? or with entities on campus that are maybe have teams that are a little larger where communication may be a challenge or a struggle to to get the same point in information across the group? How do you how do you address those communication challenges? 

Tessa Anderson: Absolutely. So this is going to surprise no one listening. No one loves to hear from internal audit. It's not anybody's favorite department to get an email from. Like, nobody wants that. And I'm trying to really work around that assumption and kind of initial fear of: “Oh, no, what did I do?”. But through my career, I kind of have what I'll call like a level of escalation. Where it's send first email, no response, you know, give them a day or two, give them give them a week depending on the expedited level of your timeline, to respond people with busy schedules and lives. And one thing I try to keep in mind constantly, it's just because this is all I do. I need to remember that it's only one part of what other people do. So if I don't get a response back in a week, there's always a follow up email, just a little bump reply to my private email. “Hey, just checking in” seeing if I can get in touch with you. No response to that escalate to a phone call. No response to that you will see me in your office. And never Is it ever anything critical It's this places run so wonderfully. SUU is a wonderful place to be everybody is so. If you don't hear from me, I do find that by introducing myself and letting people see behind internal audit, there is the fun, delightful tester who just wants to goof around and support you and help make sure you can get your function done and realize that that's one aspect and how can we help support has always been a very key part of communication. If people aren't communicating. It's normally not because they're dismissing you or being in avoidance. It is “I have a busy life with a million things up in the air”. And we are here to accommodate that. You need to be able to work within people's schedules. 

Tony Pellegrini: And we've got to prioritize that. 

Tessa Anderson: And let me tell you, people's priorities get a lot better when you show up in the door and go “Hey!, you remember that email and that phone call and that other email that I sent you?” I'm just gonna pop in real fast and say hello, and see if I can talk to you for a minute. 

Tony Pellegrini : That that has helped to prioritize.

Tessa Anderson: I become a big priority in that moment. 

Tony Pellegrini: I love opposites and opposites attract when I think of accountancy or accounting, creativity. There probably you didn't ever took a class in creative accounting. We're not, we're talking about teaching here. Creativity does have a component of teaching. Do you see any connections between counting maybe but instruction particularly in creativity? Do you have opportunities for creativity in your life beyond accounting?

Tessa Anderson: Beyond accounting. Well, and when you say creativity, what I think of is critical thinking. So you say creativity, what's another way that I can look at this? What's another way that I can creatively engage and bring in learners and bring in an environment of people? And mine is critical thought. What's another way to look at this that hasn't been looked at? If I'm asking someone a question, I need to look at it from the aspect of I get the acronyms in this or I get what this is talking about, but I know this deeply. Let's read it this through the perspective of someone who doesn't. So critical thought and creative processes. Are I think critical in every job function. There's very rarely an opportunity you're going to have in a position to work in a silo where everybody perfectly understands everything that you're doing. To creatively bring in you're not going to work in that silo. You're going to work with people who don't understand your full thought job function who don't understand fully how your processes work or what your language means. One of the key things that I've worked with on campuses, so I work with a group of three student workers, they process through a lot of purchasing card transactions. It's probably where you've seen my name the most if you work at SUU, but we just had a standard list of responses. You know, this happens. student worker sends out this email. Well, the responses were written as a business aspect, and they were business professional language. But we work in a creative environment. We work with a lot of people who when they read that business professional response, don't read it as business professional. They read it as criticism, and they read it as critical. And I spent a period of time this year really reinventing how internal audit wanted to be viewed on campus and re working our responses to make sure that you felt internal audit was here to support you. So when we think creatively, we think about the processes and how we interact not just with our learners but with our colleagues and in and on campus and I will say internal audit works with a lot of student workers they work with a lot of learners they work with a lot of SUUSA and STIL so STIL is  student’s life and engagement, who are working directly with cards and we work directly with those students to help fulfill their needs on campus for funding and, and providing that fullness of nature to their college life experience. So we touch a lot of aspects of people in the background that people wouldn't really expect. And we love providing them with those opportunities and letting them know you know, it might be scary to get a you know, internal audit email, but we're really we're here to support.

Tony Pellegrini: And I think that is clearly evident in in your experience and background and education here. Just this has been a wonderful conversation. Before we leave. I just want to give you the opportunity to share what you know from your experience as a freshman through a graduate student now and an employee at the institution for our new students for our new faculty or old senior faculty that served as the old faculty for senior faculty, any words of wisdom for Tessa Anderson and making next year a positive wonderful year for us? 

Tessa Anderson: Engage, don't be afraid to show up and have face to face conversations at every level. So much of what we do especially after 2020 is a virtual and digital experience. Lots of online from necessity, not necessarily by choice. Make face to face connections where you can with your professors if you're remote with every level of step that you can go to the actual Cashiers Office, go to the registrar's office, go to the actual bookstore, participate in activities on campus when and where you feel comfortable and can. Even if you don't have that support network of your best friend with you. The level of possibilities that are going to open to you are going to be endless and you're going to create connections you never knew you were going to need. 

Tony Pellegrini: Tessa, thank you so much. You enjoy your summer. I can't wait to get you back next year and come to supper on Sunday. Okay. Thanks, everyone. We appreciate you tuning in. Please tune back into us next year. We're gonna have new we'll honor those individuals who we honor at graduation from the Provost Office and beyond. Have a great summer and we look forward to working with you next year. Ciao Ciao


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