As a former undergraduate and graduate student and now Campus Life staff member, Keesha Ceran knows AU better than most; but she's not finished learning about the university. In fact, she's making it a top priority as she joins the Staff Council.
"It's the best opportunity to give back to an institution that I grew so much from," she explained. "Being able to be part of this gives me the chance to see more of the behind the scenes that, as a student, we don't get to see."
By a recent staff vote, Ceran steps aboard the 20-person council alongside three other Campus Life colleagues, all of whom are hoping to make a positive impact at AU. The council, which draws together staff from departments across the university, represents the staff voice by promoting dialogue and advocating on staff issues.
Like Ceran, fellow Housing & Dining Programs staffer Sean Cullinane is hoping the council experience will bring him closer to AU. "I've really enjoyed my time over the past two and a half years that I've worked here, and I want to ingrain myself even more into the university," he said. "Hopefully I can improve the quality of life for staff members."
Michael Wargo, Campus Life's technology coordinator, has had his eye on the council since he joined AU's professional ranks a half-decade ago. Back then, he noticed the great things the group had accomplished, from securing for staff a week off during the winter holidays to organizing book and clothing drives for the Washington community.
"When I first came to AU, it was a week after the staff appreciation lunch. I was really blown away by the university recognizing staff like that," Wargo explained. "Now that I've worked here almost five years and have seen what Staff Council is able to accomplish as a voice for the staff . . . it's something I'm very interested in doing."
Each council member, regardless of which department they work in, represents a set of constituents on campus. For example, Wargo will voice ideas and concerns from staff in the School of Communication, Provost's Office for Academic Administration, and the Undergraduate Studies office—some 80 people.
The Academic Support & Access Center's Jennifer Baron Knowles will represent the library, and she's excited about what she'll learn in the process. "It can be easy to just think of your own department," she said. "It's good to get a wider perspective of what staff really want, what they have concerns about, and what is the great work that they're doing."
As the ASAC's manager of disability services, Knowles also plans to bring accessibility into conversations with the council on future events and how to best support AU's diverse staff.
Cullinane—a Washington native—hopes the council will engage more with his hometown. "I'd like to create more initiatives that take people out of AU and into D.C.," he said. "Whether that's hiking, volunteering, riding their bikes—anything that gets them more involved in the greater D.C. community in general."
At the end of the day, however, Knowles just wants to use her two-year term to inspire and encourage AU to be the best workplace it can be. "It's good to have more camaraderie and more spirit for where you work, and it's good to feel like you're contributing to that," she said.
And Ceran can't agree more. With what she's already learned about the council and AU in general, she's excited for all that's to come.
"There will be a lot of great things that come out of Staff Council this year. It's just really cool to be around a lot of talented and experienced members, who are really interested in making a positive environment for staff in general," she said. "I'm looking forward to the work that we'll be doing."
View all the Staff Council representatives and their constituencies. Staff Council encourages all staff members to share ideas and issues with their representatives and invites full-time and permanent part-time staff members to attend bi-weekly council meetings.