Take this Job and Keep It
Dickinson's community makes it one of the state's best places to work
October 9, 2007
At the annual Benefits Fair, employees learn about services that promote physical, mental and financial wellness.
Long-distance walking is not part of Joan Miller's job description. Nevertheless, the staff associate in the college's development office is up every day at 6:45 a.m. to begin her four-mile walk—usually joined by Karen Weikel, the college's registrar.
Miller committed to this daily ritual in June 2006, after joining President William G. Durden '71 and the Dickinson College Walking Club one morning. She now averages 25 miles a week. "It's an unofficial, but personally very important, benefit I've gained from working at Dickinson," says Miller.
She also takes full advantage of other opportunities offered through the Professional Development and Wellness programs—a Lunch and Learn series, fitness classes, nutrition seminars and health screenings—and she recently completed the Personal Enrichment Program, an eight-month course designed to enhance personal and professional skills by utilizing the same hands-on learning environment for which Dickinson is so well known.
While Miller enjoys her daily work—recording gifts from the college's donors—it's the total experience and being part of an active learning community that gives her enduring job satisfaction.
And she is not alone in thinking the college a good employer: Dickinson College recently was selected as one of the Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania for 2007.
Creating a workplace community
Dickinson's selection was based on a two-part evaluation that included both an assessment of the college's workplace policies, practices, philosophies, systems and demographics and employee experience—measured by a survey given to a random sample of 350 Dickinson faculty and staff members (out of more than 700 full-time employees). Employee responses are heavily weighted, constituting 75 percent of an organization's score.
The statewide program is sponsored by a public/private partnership of Team Pennsylvania Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the Central Penn Business Journal. On Nov. 27, the college will be formally recognized at a ceremony in Hershey, Pa.
For Steve Riccio, staff development coordinator for human resource services, who comes into contact with employees at all levels and from all divisions of the college, receiving the award wasn't a complete surprise. "Dickinson has actively worked to create a learning community for employees as well as students. We want employees to grow and advance personally and professionally, to be healthy, creative and productive in their work and to contribute their diverse skills and experiences as they take ownership in the mission of the college."
An affirmative consensus
Employee comments about working for the college confirm the survey's assessment.
Kay Yeruski, head baker for dining services, says, "It's a very good environment ... I have the opportunity to be creative—creating new menus and new recipes—which I very much enjoy. My supervisors ask for my suggestions and encourage me to voice my opinions. I feel very much a part of the college. It's a beautiful campus and has a great atmosphere—with great benefits and wellness programs. It's a great place to work."
Larry Smith, who works as a carpet installer and mechanic for facilities management, says that "[P]rior to joining Dickinson I was self-employed. There is definitely a difference between working for myself and working for the college, and I appreciate that difference. People respect me and my work. Personally, I think it's a great place to work."
Adrienne Su, associate professor of English and the college's poet-in-residence, says, "As a poet, I've found the world here. Dickinson is a small college in the best sense: faculty members from widely different fields must work together. Bumping up against different ways of understanding the world makes it impossible to fall into an imaginative rut."
And Durwin "Whitey" Ellerman, associate director for operations in facilities management, feels that "[T]he fact that Dickinson is founded on the power of ideas and the importance of civility carries over into the workplace at every level. New ideas are welcomed, and initiative is rewarded."
"The word is getting out that Dickinson is not only a leader in liberal-arts education," says Riccio, "but also in creating the kind of workplace-community that people with a variety of skill sets and diverse backgrounds want to be a part of." Recently, more than 200 prospective employees participated in a "job fair" that human resource services held on campus.
Perhaps Ellerman, who has worked for the college for 32 years and turned down several job offers from other employers, sums it up best. "Working for Dickinson is about more than money. It's also about peace of mind."