New Program for BU Faculty and Staff Focuses on Work-Life Balance | BU Today


Choose to Learn Live offers live and virtual sessions

Are you finding it challenging to maintain a proper work-life balance? Want to learn better ways to communicate with coworkers or develop new strategies for professional development?

A new program, Choose to Learn Live, featuring industry experts and BU faculty, can help. Sponsored by Human Resources Organizational Development and Learning (ODL) team, the program aims to “enhance learning and development for all BU employees by offering high-quality presentations from successful and experienced speakers,” says Ann Marie Sidman, ODL executive director. The hourlong lunchtime events are free for all BU faculty and staff, who can access the talks in one of three ways: by attending live sessions, by watching the webinars live from their computers, or by viewing the sessions later, at their convenience. All presentations are recorded and can be accessed here.

“We wanted to expand ODL’s reach and bring more learning opportunities to staff and faculty across BU by leveraging technology and giving people options for how they like to engage in learning,” Sidman says. “The main message is that this is a learning opportunity for all and that you can attend from your desk if you’d like to.”

The January pilot featured negotiations expert Mark Jankowski, coauthor of The Power of Nice: How to Negotiate So Everyone Wins—Especially You! (Wiley, 2001). Nearly 250 people attended that session, titled “Becoming a Transformative Leader,” in person or via live webinar or by watching the talk later.

“We got amazing feedback,” Sidman says. “People have used his presentation on retreats and in other ways as well. It seemed to be a real win.”

Suggestions for topics come largely from the evaluations ODL receives. Other ideas are inspired by events and issues being discussed on campus. For example, a session scheduled for July 10 will focus on diversity and bias in the workplace. Raul Fernandez (COM’00, SED’16), a School of Education lecturer, will lead the session.

Employees must register in advance to attend the sessions.

The series officially kicked off in February, and featured communication expert and author Rick Brinkman, whose talk was titled “Conscious Communication to Bring Out the Best in People and Yourself.”

The next Choose to Learn Live event is tomorrow in the GSU Conference Auditorium at 12:30 pm and will feature a presentation by David Nour, a noted growth strategist and best-selling author of Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit From Innovative and Strategic Collaboration (St. Martin’s Press, 2017). Nour will discuss ways to stay relevant in a fast-changing landscape. Nour is CEO of the Nour Group, Inc., an Atlanta-based consulting firm.

BU Today recently spoke with Nour about his Choose to Learn Live presentation.

BU Today: How does your message of staying relevant in a fast-changing landscape apply to environments like a university?

Nour: The premise is that for all of us—as individuals, as teams, as organizations—is if we want to remain relevant, we have to evolve. Your future isn’t created. It’s cocreated through a few really strong relationships. The message for every individual is to take a closer look, an independent look, at your day. How should your role evolve? You’ve got to manage the present while you invent the future.

Why is this message so important right now?

A few years ago, nobody thought Marriott and Hilton and Hyatt would get disrupted by Airbnb. Everybody thought the taxi medallions in New York City could be minted like gold before Uber. What was worth $1 million five years ago is worth $5,000 now. Smart executives want to disrupt their own business before someone else does it to them.

What’s ripe for disruption in a university setting?

If your job is reviewing documents, you’re going to become obsolete pretty quickly. So you have to think, “What should I do today to learn new skills?” I love the movie Hidden Figures, about a group of African American female mathematicians who played a critical role in NASA’s early space program. The women hand-computed complex equations, and when NASA brought in a supercomputer to replace them, one of the women started to learn how to program it. And she taught her team to remain relevant. The light bulb I’m hoping will go off is, how do I cocreate the evolution of my role and my impact in this university.

In your book, you talk about what it was like to come to the United States from Iran with just one suitcase and $100 in your wallet.

I didn’t know anybody. I landed at JFK with a badge around my neck that read, “Put this kid on an Eastern flight to Atlanta. BTW, he doesn’t speak a word of English.” I came here to go to school and I had distant relatives in Atlanta, an aunt and an uncle I hadn’t seen since birth…. I started in engineering and finished my undergraduate degree at Georgia State, followed by Emory for business school, where I’m an adjunct teaching executive education courses.

Are schools doing enough today to prepare students for a rapidly changing workforce?

What I’m advocating is this: Are we teaching those young minds the mindset, the skill set, and the tool set so they don’t have to live with mom and dad until they’re 26? I work with a lot of large companies, and we’re losing our scrappiness, our ability to be entrepreneurial within an organization. I don’t know of a business that doesn’t need fresh thinking, a fresh lens to do more to challenge the status quo, not just defend it.

Choose to Learn Live with David Nour is tomorrow, Tuesday, April 24, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm in the GSU Conference Auditorium, 775 Comm Ave. The event is free and for faculty and staff. Information about how to register is here. A list of upcoming Chose to Learn Live seminars is here.



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