Crossroads Conference equips employees with skills for managing self-doubt, stress and conflict

hundreds of people in a large ballroom sit at dozens of tables

This year's Crossroads Conference – the first to be offered in a hybrid format – drew more than 500 participants, with most attending in person.

Nearly 500 University employees learned about managing stress, conflict, workloads and more at this year's Crossroads Conference, an annual professional development and networking event held by the Staff Council.

Kasey Urquidez, vice president for enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions, delivered the keynote at the conference, which was held May 21 at the Student Union Memorial Center and themed "Finding U at UArizona."

read and blue graphic reading "finding u at uarizona"

The May 21 event featured about 80 workshops covering topics ranging from managing conflict to practicing mindfulness at work.

Urquidez, an alum who has worked at the University for nearly 30 years, said she spent a lot of time navigating self-doubt during her time as a student and an employee.

"The anxiety I was feeling was focused on imagining and expecting," Urquidez explained. "I had to actively think about how to refocus those thoughts. Yes, it might not work out. But what if it does? Maybe we'll be a success."

"Most of the time, the things we worry about never even happen," she said.

Urquidez said, to manage her anxiety and stress, she first focused on changing her mindset and focusing on and creating opportunities rather than only concentrating on challenges being thrown her way. She also made a point to focus on gratitude for what is going well. Second, she said she made her emotional preservation a priority, making sure she didn't lose sight of herself as a person, family member and friend. She also stressed the importance of a "work hard, play hard" mentality in her life and said she works to remember the importance of experiencing life and always tries to have something to look forward to on her calendar.

Urquidez concluded by telling attendees that focusing on what they can do versus what they can't do is paramount to their success.

Kasey Urquidez, vice president for enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions

Kasey Urquidez, vice president for enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions

"We can only control our mindset, the mentors we choose and the time that we take to reflect, learn and press ahead," Urquidez said.

After the keynote, employees attended four sessions, choosing from dozens of workshops and panel discussions. For the first time, the conference offered both in person and virtual options for attendees. Organizers say 435 people registered to attend in person, while 70 registered to attend virtually. 

Kristina Savage, grant and contract analyst with Research, Innovation and Impact, attended in person and said she was "blown away" by the variety of topics covered.

"It was well-rounded, informative and fun – everything that you need to support a healthy staff," Savage said. "I know that I left Crossroads with more items in my staff growth and wellness toolkit than when I arrived, and that's all you can really ask for."

The Crossroads Conference began in 2006 and returned last year after being paused from 2020-22 due to the pandemic. It is presented by the Staff Council, a shared governance organization that represents University Staff and Classified Staff employees. The council, which has more than 140 members representing colleges and units throughout the University, meets via Zoom the last Tuesday of each month throughout the year. The next meeting is scheduled for June 25. 

Highlights from selected workshops are below.

"Conflict Management: Knowing Who You Are and How to Care For Yourself in a Conflict"
Beth Krominga, Senior Human Resources Partner, Division of Human Resources
Chrissy Lieberman, Associate Dean of Students, Dean of Students Office

The presenters opened by sharing an assessment tool that helped participants determine whether, when it comes to conflict, they are accommodators, avoiders, competers, compromisers or problem solvers. They then laid out ways to potentially prevent conflict, such as setting clear expectations, modeling civility and accountability, and exercising empathy. They also offered the following tips for when conflict occurs:

  • Don't ignore it.
  • Stay calm.
  • Listen.
  • Repeat back what you heard to be sure you captured what was being shared.

The speakers also emphasized focusing on self-care during times of conflict by listening to your body, practicing breathing exercises and staying connected to support systems.

"Getting Started with LinkedIn Learning and EDGE"
Jessica Jones, EDGE Learning Professional Development Specialist, Division of Human Resources
Jasmine Mayes-Browning, Learning and Engagement Coordinator for EDGE Learning, Division of Human Resources

Jones and Mayes-Browning discussed LinkedIn Learning, an online training platform with more than 17,000 courses on technical, business, software and creative topics. Full benefits-eligible staff and faculty members have access to the courses. Attendees were shown how to access LinkedIn Learning and saw a list of some of the most popular courses among University employees, including:

Jones and Mayes-Browning also shared tips on how to practice the skills you learn in a LinkedIn learning course, including teaching the skills to someone else or asking your manager about taking on a new task.

"How to Talk to Your Supervisor About Making Your Workload More Manageable"
Julie Forster, Senior Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Advisor, Division of Human Resources
Beverly Pérez-Mercado, Learning and Organization Development Specialist, Division of Human Resources

Forster and Pérez-Mercado presented a framework for having a discussion about workload with your supervisor:

  • Share your good intent for the conversation.
  • Communicate the facts about your job scope.
  • Express the impact of your workload.
  • Suggest a solution for moving forward and ask for your manager's input to encourage two-way dialogue.

They also provided a worksheet and presentation slides to help prepare for the conversation.

Ending on a high note

Melanie Madden, program manager for curricular affairs, Academic Administration and chair, Staff Council

Melanie Madden, program manager for curricular affairs in Academic Administration and chair of the Staff Council

In closing remarks, the chair of the Staff Council pointed to achievements from the council's early days – when it was known as the Staff Advisory Council – such as successfully advocating for a University-supported child care assistance program and paid release time for professional development, and more recent successes, such as membership on the provost and president search committees and advocacy for flexible work and flexible parking options for employees.

"It's really a challenge to bring so many disparate needs and experiences together and advocate as one," Melanie Madden, program manager for curricular affairs in Academic Administration, told attendees. "But it's really important for the flourishing and thriving of our university that we take the time to get to know each other and work together."

Madden gave the closing keynote in place of Elliott Cheu, Distinguished Professor of physics and interim senior vice president for research and innovation, who was not able to attend due to illness.

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