Program Provides Staff Training For Career Development

Seventh graduating class completes 11-month program

The 15 members of the 2011 Office Staff Development Program graduated on Dec. 9, 2011. Photo by Duke University Photography.
The 15 members of the 2011 Office Staff Development Program graduated on Dec. 9, 2011. Photo by Duke University Photography.

As a participant in Duke's Office Staff Development Program, Sherry Perry had many assignments, including scanning international visa documents into a database and double-checking to ensure the accuracy and privacy of data.  

"It was like nothing else I had ever done," said Perry, a patient service associate at Durham Regional Hospital. "But the people I was working with made it clear I could ask as many questions as I needed to."

The task was part of Perry's learning through the Office Staff Development Program, an 11-month course offered by Duke's Professional Development Institute. The program provides development in clerical office management skills with the aim of helping staff members qualify for a variety of Duke career opportunities. 

On Dec. 9, Perry and 14 other Duke employees graduated from the program after completing 10 hours of classes each week in business writing, computer programs and other office skills. The program also includes an internship in a Duke office and formal mentoring relationship with a Duke employee. 

About 120 supervisors, internship hosts, mentors and colleagues from across Duke, as well as families and friends, attended the graduation ceremony. They offered their congratulations for the accomplishments. 

"This is an exciting day, an exciting time and an exciting program," Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for administration at Duke, told the graduates and guests. "You have clearly shown your confidence and capacity for hard work, and Duke will continue to support you in your next steps."

In exchange for the professional development opportunity, which is offered at no charge, participants agree to remain at Duke for at least 18 months after graduation. During that time, they work actively with Human Resources recruiters and the Professional Development Institute explore opportunities for advancing at Duke. 

Wanda Hall, a food services worker who graduated from the program, said she plans to enroll in basic office and business administration classes at Durham Technical Community College while she explores the possibility of moving into a special events coordinator role at Duke. 

"I've already been given my assignment from a recruiter and am preparing to apply for different jobs at Duke," she said.

The class was the seventh cohort to complete the Office Staff Development Program, which was first offered in 2003. While the program doesn't guarantee a promotion at Duke, approximately 90 percent of participants from previous classes have advanced at Duke, said Sally Allison, assistant director of recruitment and manager of the Professional Development Institute. 

Perry, the patient service associate, offered remarks at the graduation as the class representative. She described the program's impact by comparing it to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar. 

"My experience in the program allowed me to grow into a more professional and confident person," she said. "Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, my skills grew from ground level to sky level, and now I see things from a different perspective."