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Previous Messages

  • January 19, 2018

    Culture Countdown: The Culture Survey Begins Monday, January 22

    Dear Colleagues,

    Thank you for joining us this morning to begin our “culture matters” dialogue and kick off our culture survey, which begins on Monday, Jan. 22. We had a wonderful and enthusiastic turnout, and we hope you learned a little more about the survey and are eager to participate next week.

    We are looking forward to further engaging with you about our culture and how we can improve it as we learn where we are, where we want to go, and how we can get there together. This is our first step forward in learning how we can best invest in our people as our most important asset.

    The survey is open to all full-time and part-time faculty and staff from Jan. 22 through Feb. 3 and can be taken on your desktop, laptop, cell phone or on paper.  Your anonymity and confidentiality are protected by our third party vendor, Denison Consulting, who is administering the survey and analyzing the data in its entirety. We are striving for a 100 percent participation rate among faculty and staff!

    If you have any questions about the survey, please be sure to contact me and visit our webpage at for more information and updates.

    All participants at this morning’s kickoff event received “Culture Matters. You Matter.” t-shirts. If you were unable to attend, please visit the human resources office on the lower level of Corson and see Kim Magers to get your shirt. We hope we’ll see you wear them during the survey and beyond as we continue our culture study and dialogue.

    Thank you again for enthusiastically supporting the culture study with your survey participation.  Let’s make it 100 percent!

  • January 16, 2018

    Culture Countdown - we’re getting close! Important Updates!

    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    As we count down to our culture survey, it’s time to learn more about the survey itself and how you will take the survey. Here are some key things to know:

    • The survey will be conducted from Monday, January 22, through Saturday, February 3.
    • At approximately 10 a.m. on Jan. 22, all full-time and part-time faculty and staff will receive an individual confidential link to participate in the survey by email directly from Denison Consulting, our 3rd party survey provider. We have hired Denison to ensure complete anonymity with the survey. No one at Ursinus will have access to any raw data or to any individual responses. The purpose of the survey is to explore patterns and trends across the organization on an aggregated group level, not to review individual responses or opinions.
    • The survey can be completed on your desktop, laptop, or cell phone. If you do not have access to email, you may come to the Office of Human Resources in the lower level of Corson Hall and request a hard copy from Kim Magers.
    • The survey consists of approximately 90 questions, and you will need between 25 and 40 minutes to complete the survey. These questions are multiple choice using a ratings scale. There are also four open ended narrative questions we’d like you to complete.
    • Because of the importance of this effort, we encourage you to complete the survey during working hours if possible. If you start the survey and need more time, you can save the survey and return to it to finish it when you have more time. If you do not receive your survey invitation on Monday morning of Jan. 22, or if you encounter technological difficulties taking the survey, please contact Kim Magers. Email her at We will get back to you with a solution as quickly as possible.
    • We encourage everyone to participate as early as possible in the two-week process. Reminder notices will be sent to you by Denison if you have not yet participated, asking you to kindly do so. Our goal is 100% participation.

    Some other important considerations:

    • Why should you take the survey? Because culture matters. You matter. Your every day experiences reveal what is and what is not working at Ursinus today. We want and need your input, and we will listen. Help us “invest in our people”—i.e. YOU—as our most important asset!
    • You will get survey participation updates throughout the survey participation period. We promise a fun experience during those two weeks with some surprises.
    • Look for our “Culture Matters” posters around campus this week.
    • Go to our Ursinus website at for all culture communications.
    • Be sure to attend our Culture Coffee Kickoff on Friday, Jan. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Bears’ Den in Wismer Hall. Ask questions and start the “culture matters” dialogue. Refreshments will be served, along with another fun surprise. Feel the momentum for this critical initiative. You will receive a calendar invite for this event shortly after this email goes out.
    • Survey results will be available to our leadership team during the third week in March, and results will shared with all faculty and staff shortly thereafter. Then, the fun begins as we plan our culture journey together!

    I hope to see everyone at Friday’s Culture Coffee Kickoff! Remember: CULTURE MATTERS! YOU MATTER! The goal is 100% participation from Jan. to Feb. 3!

    Thank you for your continued enthusiasm and support.

    Warm Regards,

    Barb Shilowich
    People and Culture Strategist

  • January 12, 2018

    Culture Countdown: Important New Updates

    Good afternoon, Faculty and Staff,

    Today we have three important updates to share about our culture countdown.

    First, we have confirmed that our culture survey will kick off on Monday, January 22 and run through February 3. Details about how to take the survey will be communicated next week.

    Second, a new culture page is now live on our human resources web site. Though we will continue to regularly update this page over the next few weeks, you can already find lot of very useful information and updates there, including the following:

    • “Questions and Answers” to help you better understand the culture survey process, the survey instrument and our timeline
    • Key upcoming dates and events
    • All communications we have already shared with you
    • We will continue to add to this page as new things occur and as we have more to share

    Please take a few minutes to visit the page and bookmark it, and check back for updates.

    Third, our “Culture Matters Kick-off” event is now slated for Friday, January 19, in the Bear’s Den from 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Mark your calendars now! Come prepared with any questions you have and to start a dialogue with your colleagues about the importance of culture at Ursinus and among our campus. Refreshments will be served and we’ll have a surprise give-away for everyone who attends. We hope to everyone there!

    In my last e-mail, I promised to continue to share more with you about the Denison Culture Model, which will be used to help convey our survey results to faculty and staff. We will certainly go into more detail about it when we hold our survey results meetings in early April but, for now, please take a look at the attached slide for an overview of the four main culture-related categories we will measure through this process.

    Thank you for your continued interest in our Culture Matters initiative. Remember to visit our new web page, and have a wonderful weekend.

    Warm regards,

    Barb Shilowich
    People and Culture Strategist

  • January 10, 2018

    The Culture Countdown: Understanding the Culture Survey Tool

    Good Afternoon, Faculty and Staff! 

    We are one step closer to January 22—the launch of the college’s very first culture survey. 

    Last week we introduced the Denison Culture Model, which will help us understand the survey results. Today we’ll provide a bit more detail about the model and how it will allow us to truly understand our baseline culture as it currently stands.

    The model is constructed around a center focal point and four key traits, each indicated by a different color. The traits represent four specific areas at which any organization like Ursinus College should excel in order to be effective. The attached slide presents this model up-close, but here is quick snapshot:

    denison culture model example graph

    At the center of the model are our “Beliefs and Assumptions.” These are the deeply held aspects of our campus community that are often hard to fully understand because they are, in most cases, intangible. The beliefs and assumptions are measured by the four outlying traits: Mission, Adaptability, Involvement, and Consistency. When taken together, these four traits are what create our campus culture. 

    As noted above, these traits are organized by color and help us answer key questions about our college:

    • Mission: Do we know where we are going and how we are going to get there?
    • Adaptability: Are we responding to the marketplace and external environment?
    • Involvement: Are our people aligned and engaged?
    • Consistency: Do we have the values, systems, and processes in place to create leverage? 

    To specifically understand the characteristics of each trait, Denison breaks each of them down into three related and complementary indexes. Essentially, this helps Denison provide visual and intuitive feedback based directly on the survey responses. 

    Denison’s research has demonstrated that effective organizations have high culture scores in all four traits. Thus, the most effective organizations are those likely to be more adaptive, yet highly consistent and predictable; furthermore, they have cultures that foster involvement in which employees strive to meet a shared mission for the college. 

    Please take a look and the attachment to learn more about the topics, through the model, that Denison seeks to better understand about Ursinus. We’ll discuss a few more in-depth details about the four key traits in our next email communication, at which time we will also preview how the survey will be rolled-out later this month! 

    Thank you for your continued interest and support, and—always—please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the culture survey.

    Warm regards,

    Barb Shilowich
    People and Culture Strategist

  • January 5, 2018

    Assessing our current culture using the Denison Culture Survey

    Good Morning, Faculty and Staff!

    Hopefully we now all have a fairly good idea of what we mean by culture, why it’s so important, and why we want to focus on it. Before we can consider which cultural changes we may want to pursue, however, we need to get a strong baseline understanding of our culture today. We will assess our current culture using the Denison Culture Survey.

    So, what is the Denison Culture Survey, and how did we select this survey in particular?

    There are numerous survey tools in the marketplace used by organizations to help them understand their culture. After interviewing a number of the third parties who own and administer culture survey tools, in late November we convened a committee comprised of CPPC and four staff members to select the final survey provider. Our committee selected Denison Consulting based on the following:

    • The culture model and its content (please see attachment)
    • Flexibility of the survey instrument, allowing for moderate customization
    • The ease of using the tool and taking the survey
    • A well-structured model built upon years of significant research and feedback
    • Denison’s experience in working with higher education.

    Several unique features make the Denison model stand out above the rest. It employs a strong research foundation, providing results that are compared to a comprehensive benchmarking database. The committee was also impressed with Denison’s ability to demonstrate proven reliability, data integrity and validity.

    Above all, Denison guarantees complete anonymity of the survey participants and takes great pride in that guarantee. The data is collected directly by Denison, analyzed by Denison, and reported back in aggregate form only to Ursinus.

    Attached you fill find the Denison culture model which was alluded to above. This model highlights four key traits that any organization should master to perform and to be at its best. At the center of the model are the organization’s “Beliefs and Assumptions.” These are deeply held aspects of our college’s identity that are often hard to access. The four traits of the model—Mission, Adaptability, Involvement, and Consistency—measure the behaviors driven by these beliefs and assumptions that create our college’s culture.

    For today, please take a quick peak at the model. Early next week, I’ll discuss each of the four colorized traits of the model and how the model works.

    Thank you, and please feel free to contact me if you have any preliminary questions about Denison or the traits found in its survey model!


    Barb Shilowich
    People and Culture Strategist

  • January 3, 2018

    Answering questions and understanding the definitions

    Happy New Year, Faculty and Staff!

    In the weeks leading up to the holiday break, we began a “culture countdown” that introduced the concept of a campus-wide culture—and why it matters so much to a small community of faculty and staff like we have here at Ursinus. We were delighted to receive feedback from many of you, including a few questions seeking additional information such as:

    • What aspects of our culture will the survey really measure?
    • How will this survey differ from last year’s climate survey?
    • Will the survey lead to better engagement, and will it ultimately lead to positive change?
    • What happens after we take the survey—what are the next steps?

    Before the survey begins on January 22, we will make every effort to answer these questions while giving you additional opportunities to learn more. After all, it is your input that will ultimately make this campus-wide initiative a success, which is why we’re optimistically aiming for a 100% participation rate in the upcoming culture survey. So as we begin to explain the process moving forward, we wanted to take a few minutes to further discuss a few important definitions you’ll likely encounter along the way. 

    There are many terms in today’s workplace that have been coined to help those of us in human resources understand how employees think, feel, and behave—and there are different surveys used to measure each of these.

    1. Employee Satisfaction (or Attitude) describes whether employees are happy or content, and whether their professional needs are being fulfilled. Many measures purport that employee satisfaction is a factor in employee motivation, goal achievement, and positive workplace morale.
    2. Employee Engagement goes a step further, measuring whether employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization and put discretionary effort into their work.
    3. An organization’s climate is the shared perceptions and attitudes about their workplace. A climate survey is one effort to measure and improve employee engagement.
    4. The most comprehensive measurement is of an organization’s culture, or the values, beliefs, and behaviors that employees share and use on a daily basis. At its core, culture is how employees describe where they work, understand the nature of what they do and provide, and how they see themselves as part of the organization.

    As you can see, these terms are closely related and build off those that come before. What is important to remember throughout the next few weeks is that we are moving toward a culture survey.  The Denison Culture Survey will help us work better together to understand the values and beliefs that may be driving our behaviors, particularly those that may inhibit employee satisfaction and engagement and may be negatively impacting our climate. In other words, we are seeking your participation to understand what these challenges are and why they exist, so that we can have discussions and put into place actionable plans to improve the areas we all think are the most important to our campus community.

    The results may lead to better training and development opportunities, a more authentic and supportive performance management system, the opportunity for more open and candid dialogue among faculty, staff, and administration, and other improvements that will make Ursinus a “workplace of choice” for everyone.

    In the next few days, we will start to share more with you about the Denison Culture Survey and answer some additional questions you’ve asked. Thank you for your ongoing interest!

    Warmest Regards,

    Barb Shilowich

    Ursinus People and Culture Strategist

  • December 20, 2017

    Why so much emphasis on assessing and understanding our college culture?

    Dear Colleagues,


    At the end of last week, we presented a few different reasons why culture matters, especially on a close-knit campus community whose mission is rooted in liberal education. As we strive to be inclusive and find unique ways to engage with one another, both personally and professionally, we need to continue building a campus environment that cultivates strong relationships among faculty, staff, and students. 

    So, moving forward, why are we putting so much emphasis on assessing and understanding our college culture? 

    Organizations with a strong, forward-thinking culture have long-held core values as their foundation. A unifying culture nurtures, involves, increases participation, and—in the case of Ursinus—can help us achieve even stronger faculty and staff engagement. It allows us to attract and retain top talent, for faculty and staff, while also creating confidence among external audiences that Ursinus is a partner worth having. 

    We hope that our early communications with you about what culture is, why it matters, and how it impacts our future has been clarifying for you, especially because your contribution to these upcoming discussions—and your participation in our January survey—is critical to their success. That’s truly the case given all that is planned for our campus community in the next year. 

    When you return from winter break, we’ll begin to share more with you about the culture survey process and tool we will be using to understand what our culture currently looks like. We have an exciting array of communications and discussions planned to make sure you are actively involved throughout the process.

     My best wishes for a wonderful holiday and happy New Year to you and your family! I look forward to seeing you in 2018.

    Warm Regards,

    Barb Shilowich
    People and Culture Strategist

  • December 15, 2017

    Why does culture really matter?

    Dear Colleagues,

    In our first communication about culture earlier this week, we shared our view that by better understanding our workplace and campus culture, we can be more thoughtful about how Ursinus can “invest in our people as our most important asset.”

    We take pride in our ability to build relationships across campus, both with our students and among each other. Those relationships live in the classroom and within our offices.

    So if we are committed to working closely with one another, while proudly advocating for the liberal arts, why does culture really matter? Is it because… 

    • Culture influences what faculty and staff consider to be appropriate behaviors—and how we all interact with each other, both personally and professionally?
    • It influences what the college considers to be “right decisions?”
    • It can impact the attitudes of outside audiences, such as prospective students and parents, alumni, and donors? 

    Truthfully, it is all three. Culture matters because it ultimately determines how well we embrace new ideas, carry forward our traditions, and allow for flexibility to address unexpected situations. Our culture impacts how individuals and working groups alike strive to meet and exceed expectations. 

    We know from our first email that culture is defined by the way faculty and staff think and act, behave and really get things done. And culture matters because it represents how achieve our goals and realize, as best we can, our liberal arts mission. 

    Thank you again for your already enthusiastic response to beginning a conversation about our culture. We will share a bit more about this topic before the holiday break, but please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions with me as we continue this dialogue.




    Barb Shilowich
    People and Culture Strategist

  • December 12, 2017

    What is organizational culture?

    Dear Colleagues, 

    As we continue to work toward achieving Ursinus 150 and its seven key objectives, we recognize that gaining a better understanding of what our culture is and how it can impact our ability to achieve our objectives is key. So as we strive to “invest in our people as our most important asset,” we all need to work together to understand how our workplace and campus culture can evolve.

    That’s why we’re about to embark on a “Culture Countdown.” Over the next two weeks prior to winter break, and then again when we return in January, we’ll explain why we’re starting this important discussion—and what we’re hoping to achieve. This Countdown will culminate in a special invitation to participate in a scientific survey that will span the last two weeks of January.

    This is an exciting time to be at Ursinus, and we are eager for everyone to become involved in this Countdown! In anticipation of a follow-up communication later this week, try answering this simple question: 

     What is Organizational Culture? Is it…

    1. The way people think and act?
    2. How we REALLY get things done vs. how we SAY we get them done?
    3. The “unwritten rules” that drive our behavior?
    4. The personality of the organization?

    I’ll share the answer with you later this week. (But if you guessed all four are correct, we’re off to a good start!)

    Again, thank you for supporting this effort and for beginning to think about how you can contribute to this interesting and campus-wide discussion. Please let me know if you have any questions about this initiative!


    Barb Shilowich
    People and Culture Strategist