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Q&A: Michigan Ross Faculty and Staff Celebrate the Holidays and Promote Team Building Year-Round

The holidays are a special time of the year when many of us get together and celebrate with our family, friends, and colleagues. In addition to the annual Ross Holiday Party hosted by our events team, many of our faculty and staff hold fun events and activities within their units to encourage team building and comradery. Below, we asked faculty and staff from across the school to share how they promote team building during the holidays and year-round.

Faculty Support and Administrative Core Team
Lisa Frye, director of faculty support and ACT

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We do several things throughout the year to promote team building and bring the Faculty Support and ACT teams together more often. Most recently, we celebrated by having a Thanksgiving potluck. Everyone brought a dish to pass, and the turkey and ham were provided through our employee recognition budget. We also try to create opportunities each month where we get together. This is coordinated by our Faculty Support and ACT Engagement Committee.  This committee consists of members from both Faculty Support and ACT, and they plan fun events where we can take time out of our busy day to get together — sometimes with food or snacks and sometimes by just taking a walking break. It builds comradery and community!

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Accounting Faculty Area
Greg Miller, Ernst & Young Professor of Accounting, Clyne Crawford Teaching Fellow

We have weekly faculty lunches, mixers after all visiting seminars, and many walks together to get coffee. We often have informal lunches during the week as well. We have an end-of-summer get-together, a summer kick-off get-together (organized by the PhD students), and a holiday party for the entire unit. In between, we have a monthly newsletter that keeps people up to date.  And, of course, lots of formal and informal mixing throughout the year.

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Office of Advancement
Caitlin Johnson, director of alumni engagement

Well, our group certainly likes to have fun! We pepper in a few different teambuilding opportunities throughout the year, and we also have some impromptu activities that come up. A recent favorite was our team lunch (Jimmy John’s catering, easy peasy) and the snowball game. Each person writes down three fun facts about themselves, crumples it up (like a snowball), and tosses it into the communal bowl. Then, the bowl is passed around, with each person grabbing a “snowball,” reading the facts aloud, and the team guessing who it is. Who would have guessed we have a four-time wedding officiant, a board game piece painter, and a team member with 20+ tattoos? Some other fun activities we have done in the past year were a self-defense class (legit skills and lots of laughs) and celebrating upcoming weddings or family additions with various games and activities. 

Then, there are the small things that make a difference. There is a whiteboard in our office that someone (who shall remain anonymous) puts a new question on every two weeks or so, such as “What is your favorite type of pie?” or “Besides Michigan, what is your favorite sports team?’ People will post their answers throughout the week. We also do an annual walk to the Arb to see the peonies in the spring and have had a riddle of the week that got way more competitive than you would have imagined!

For this upcoming holiday season, we are continuing our tradition of Holiday Spirit Days, which ranges from a hot cocoa bar, popcorn bar, holiday bingo, ugly sweater day, holiday PJs day, and bring your own lunch and enjoy a holiday movie once a week during the month of December!

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Office of Marketing and Communications
Jennifer Monaghan, chief marketing officer

Each year, the Michigan Ross Office of Marketing and Communications holds at least two team-building events, which have been great for getting to know the many new individuals who have joined our team over the past couple of years. In the summertime, we like to picnic at a local park. This past year, many of us met at Gallup Park for food, drinks, and a trivia game organized by “fun committee” volunteers. The trivia game matched fun facts to different team members, so it was a nice way to get to know each other better. Around the holidays in December, we hold a Marketing & Communications team holiday party. The party has previously included a White Elephant or Secret Santa gift exchange. This year, we decided to plan some games with prizes instead of a gift swap.

Besides parties and gatherings, professional development opportunities are also important and can help to bring a team together. In November, everyone in our office participated in a live, interactive, virtual training workshop on the Neuroscience of Collaborative Communication with a representative from the Association of National Advertisers. The workshop was designed to improve individual and team collaborations by exploring different communication tools to ensure information is understood completely and correctly.

Marketing Faculty Area
Anocha Aribarg, professor of marketing, area chair of marketing

Our department recognizes the importance of in-person interactions and has only in-person department meetings and research seminars (no Zoom mode incorporated). We provide lunch for our meetings and invite non-tenure-track faculty to join one of our meetings each semester (we have about once-a-month department meetings). In addition, we started a work-in-progress lunch seminar series for tenure-track faculty and doctoral students to present their early research ideas to get feedback. Again, lunch is provided. We also have a gathering at the beginning of the fall term where we invite both tenure- and non-tenure-track faculty and doctoral students, including their families. We also have a semester-end dinner in the fall and another in winter. Every year, we have a PhD camp in early fall where all doctoral students present their work, and we then go to a happy hour together at Dominick’s. Finally, we also have informal lunch together from time to time when we feel like it.

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Sanger Leadership Center
Megan Guest, marketing manager

At Sanger, we cherish our values of creating an inclusive community and fostering joy. We live these values by building relationships with one another, embracing curiosity, calling people in, and expressing gratitude at the start of every team meeting. We celebrate the whole person, acknowledging that we are more than just professionals, and we celebrate the small things by sharing heart-warming testimonials and impactful interactions with students. Our Team Engagement Committee spearheads initiatives to nurture these values by organizing engaging events and tracking key metrics like impact, autonomy, security, and belonging via a quarterly survey. This survey was developed based on the Michigan Model of Leadership and research by Professors Bob Quinn and Gretchen Spreitzer.

From our summer strategy retreats to our festive fall gatherings, we prioritize unity and inclusivity year-round. We’re excited to hold our annual Secret Snowflake gift exchange and team celebration at a local restaurant to kick off the holiday season. As the New Year approaches, we’re looking forward to a team lunch and our winter team-building activity, pottery painting.

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One-Year Master’s Programs
Cheryl denBroeder-Kelly, senior student success advisor

Our team does numerous things together to promote team unity. In the past year, we did an escape room, axe throwing, and monthly lunches in the Executive Dining Room. We celebrate birthdays with the person’s favorite dessert and candy. For the holidays, our team all pitches in money for the Holiday Sharing Program. We sign up for gifts to purchase jointly (this year, we signed up for an entire family of three). We all go to breakfast or lunch together and shop for the Holiday Sharing gifts. This is the Holiday Celebration for our team.

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Technology and Operations Faculty Area
Damian Beil, Donald C. Cook Professor of Business Administration, professor of technology and operations, area chair of technology and operations

We have weekly lunches where we meet up and go to a restaurant. In September, we organized a “Technology and Operations field trip” in which faculty and PhD students walked across campus to the School of Public Health for lunch and introductions with faculty and students there. The goal was to build connections across campus.

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Career Development Office
Heather Byrne, managing director

We value inclusivity and embrace each other as a community. In our office, we have the Positive Community Committee, which includes Diana Perilla, Mohamed Madry, Kim Watson, Maryia Duffy, Annette Ferguson, and Jessie Krasa. This group brings our team together throughout the year in a multitude of ways to cultivate team unity, relationships, and ways to celebrate each other. Specifically, we do a year-end outdoor event, typically at Burns Park, where we play games such as cornhole, giant Jenga, and other competition games, while enjoying good food and winning prizes. In December, we typically do a holiday event and go bowling at Revel and Roll with a festive sweater and best bowler contest, as well as a Connect Four tournament with our own CDO-branded Connect Four! At this same time, we also have a Winter Wonderland Cube decorating contest around the holidays. Throughout the year, the PCC also honors other holidays and celebrates individual birthdays for team members. Additionally, they are intentional in offering mental health break activities, especially during our peak season. They do a great job bringing positive energy and a sense of togetherness to our office. They are innovative, creative, and very fun! Our team would not be the same without their incredible efforts and time spent caring for the team. We all appreciate it very much!

Facilities and Operations
Meghan Johnson, operations manager

Because of the diversity of our department, we do a variety of things for team building. The academic year determines when we can come together, and this is often done during summer and academic breaks. We have done many things, such as team meals (including a Thanksgiving meal partnered with Ross Catering), swag gifts, a White Elephant gift exchange, and celebrating promotions and new opportunities.

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