From the Nominator
The University of Miami’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) has put a refreshing spin on the concept of a staff retreat, starting with the name: Advance! Inaugurated in 2018 by newly appointed Senior VP Josh Friedman, this annual conference fuels our creativity, and propels us forward to deliver our best work as we launch into a new academic year.
Its inception was part of an ongoing effort by Josh and division leadership to reengage the 240-strong DAR staff as authentic stakeholders in the division’s mission, strengthen our cohesion (challenging, given that staff are physically scattered across three campuses), improve employee retention, and, ultimately, build the best, most effective fundraising team possible. The 2018 and 2019 editions of Advance! featured high-powered guest speakers delivering a mix of professional development, personal motivation, in-depth looks at trends in higher education advancement, and teambuilding activities.
Planning for the third Advance! got underway in June 2020 in unprecedented circumstances: the entire division’s abrupt pivot to working remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of cancelling, and in light of the real need to bring our division together in the challenging circumstances—the disconnectedness and uncertainty—in which we all found ourselves in the summer of 2020, we made the decision to move the conference online, spread over three days in early September. It was a very different kind of Advance! compared with previous years, but it illuminated useful lessons that we will draw on in planning future editions.
From the Judges
We felt that Advance!: Education, Inspiration & Engagement—With A Virtual Twist, was notable in that it prioritized professional development and personal development in the division. Not only did it provide a comprehensive professional development opportunity directly related to responsibilities, but also served to bring forth relevant and timely issues that are impacting employees.