When it comes to being a lifelong learner, Ann Thurston is a leader of the pack.
Over eight years at Duke, Thurston has taken 26 classes through Duke’s Learning & Organization Development (L&OD), picking up new skills and fine tuning others to stay on top of professional duties. When Microsoft updates or changes a program, she’s soon in a classroom to ensure she’s never rusty.
Lately, Thurston has focused on L&OD’s leadership track, working to enhance skills that will benefit colleagues she manages as associate director of development at the Nicholas School of the Environment. Among the skills Thurston has improved include how to better plan meetings and communicate with colleagues.
“I’m always seeking out opportunities across the board to do something different or learn something new because there are places where we’re naturally not good at doing something or just need a new skill,” Thurston said. “If you take one class at a time, you’re going to become better at your work.”
Through the end of this year, L&OD is leading 111 classes on work and leadership skills that range from computer programs to critical thinking or presenting to groups. Over the first half of this year, L&OD oversaw 854 professional development and technology course completions by Duke employees.
“You can be really good at what you do every day, but when you open your mind to see there’s more to learn, there are endless possibilities you could grow into,” said Keisha Williams, assistant vice president of Learning & Organization Development. “It’s about being a leader of your own learning and knowing you can grow as a person.”
Classes, which range in price from $49 to $195, are offered on a rolling basis, and faculty and staff can enroll through Duke’s Learning Management System at hr.duke.edu/train. Classes are taught at Central Campus offices, which provide free parking.
Last year, Alberto Dunbar took eight classes to help him transition into a supervisory role at Duke’s Patient Revenue Management Organization (PRMO). Some of his courses covered being a first-time supervisor and intelligently leading with emotion. The classes proved so valuable, he keeps folders from each class on his desk so he can access information as he deals with issues at work.
“When I finish a class, I can’t wait to go out and try what I’ve learned,” said Dunbar, supervisor for PRMO’s Customer Service Department. “It’s something everybody should take advantage of to make ourselves better employees.”