Blog (filtered)

Being a leader takes practice. We’re excited to share our latest experiments and lessons learned.

Rachel Parsley
Friday, October 13, 2017

Bicentennial Rotunda
Photo by Rachel Parsley

On October 6, 1817, Thomas Jefferson, then Rector of UVA’s Board of Visitors, James Madison, member of the Board of Visitors, and James Monroe, then fifth President of the United States, ceremoniously laid the Cornerstone of the University of Virginia near present day Pavilion XII.

200 years later, on Friday, October 6, 2017, over 20,000 UVA students, faculty, staff, alumni, and their family and friends, as well as members of the Charlottesville community, gathered on the historic Lawn to witness a birthday party of epic proportions.

The Bicentennial Launch Celebration that evening marked the official start of ongoing events to commemorate the founding of the University of Virginia.

I attended the celebration, along with my daughter. She is, at the age of five, a mini, self-professed Jefferson historian, so there’s no way she would have let me miss it! We were thrilled to watch the performances, hear the music, and witness such a spectacular presentation of two centuries of UVA stories. It was an absolutely incredible evening, which included a variety of culture, arts, history, and special guests.

A highlight of many in attendance was an incredible, projection mapping technology that brought to life some of the most influential events in the history of the University, right on the south side of the Rotunda.

Among it all, I was especially struck by one very poignant remark:

“We are the ink of a future yet written.”

UVA’s history, its legacy, and its future, belong to all of us. We are all a part of it. Whether we know it or not, the work we do, the discoveries we make, and the pride we show for our great University each and every day will create the stories that those 200 years from now will celebrate, commemorate, and ink into the indelible history of UVA, hopefully, with another big birthday party on the Lawn.

You can read more about the Bicentennial Celebration, and see pictures and videos, here and here.

Rachel Parsley
Friday, August 25, 2017

If it’s not on a list, it doesn’t exist. At least not in my opinion.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve made a list out of almost everything; for simple things, like groceries and errands and, of course, “to-do” items at work and for chores around the house. I’ve made lists of items to pack for travel, lists of songs I like, lists of things I want to accomplish, lists of places I want to check out, lists of recipes to try, and even lists of names while I was expecting my daughter.

To the chagrin of myself and I’m sure others, I’ve even made lists about lists. I organize my lists into categories, with headings and columns, and, in the case of the grocery store, I make my list in order of the aisles, for efficient shopping. I make so many lists, even my four-year-old has gotten in on the game (see picture!)

I am well aware that my list-making is a bit excessive, and at times, frankly, a bit obsessive. I also realize that not everyone relies on lists like I do. Honestly, I’m a bit envious of those who can organize their lives, tasks, and thoughts in their heads alone.

These days, it’s tough to find enough time in the day to get simple tasks done, while simultaneously juggling work, family, friends, pets, our health, activities, etc., and still find time for ourselves. This kind of hectic lifestyle, which, unfortunately, most of us lead, can lead to stress, becoming overwhelmed, and, finally, exhaustion.

List-making is one way I’ve found to cope with the demands of everyday life. If I can write items and tasks down, plan it out in an organized fashion, see it in front of me in black-and-white, and check items off (the most satisfying part of it all – fellow list makers, are you with me?), I simply feel more calm, productive and accomplished.

Lists can be used in a number of ways; they can be used to to keep track of tasks, ideas, or thoughts. Lists don’t have to be organized in any particular way; they just have to make sense to you!  Lists can help you save time, get organized, set goals, improve productivity, save money, reduce stress, and simply just help you put thoughts down on paper.

In addition to creating efficiency in everyday life, lists can also help us reach our goals. According to a study at Dominican University of California, once you put pen to paper on a goal, you are 33% more likely to actually achieve it. Writing it down makes you motivated to accomplish the task, and it also makes you more accountable for it.

So, what’s the next item on my “to-do” list? Read Paula Rizzo’s book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. Rizzo is an Emmy award-winning network TV producer, author, and productivity expert who blogs at

Rachel Parsley
Friday, July 21, 2017

I once saw Thomas Jefferson in a box. Of course, it wasn’t the real Thomas Jefferson. It was the 1860 Alexander Galt statue of our University’s founder. It is a 6 foot, 2.5” inch, life-sized, likeness made from four tons of white Italian marble. Given as a gift to UVA in 1861, the statue has always called the Rotunda home.

In 2012, when renovations of the Rotunda began, the statue was removed and temporarily relocated elsewhere on Grounds. This marked only the third time in its history that the marble monstrosity was moved from the building.

Last fall, while leading a Grounds for Success orientation tour, I happened to pass by as it was being loaded into a crate for return to its rightful location in the Rotunda. I stopped to watch for a moment as the workers carefully and delicately determined how to transport this valuable, fragile, and incredibly important symbol of our University. I later realized that just by happenstance, I had witnessed a part of history.

More than any other University in the nation, UVA bears the imprint of its founder. Since the Cornerstone was laid in 1817, the Lawn designed and built in the 1820’s and classes first held in 1825, Jefferson and his leadership legacy has been involved, in some way, since day one.

The Rotunda is often used as a symbol of the University, and for good reason. Jefferson designed it to be the “heart of UVA” and to many, this remains true even today.

Construction of the Rotunda began in 1822 and opened in 1826, shortly after Jefferson’s death.

In 1895, the Rotunda was gutted by fire. The Rotunda’s bell rang across the city of Charlottesville and townspeople, as well as students and faculty came running. They started a bucket brigade, trying to put out the blaze.

Students bravely ventured into the burning building and desperately tried to save whatever they could. The statue, then located in the third floor Dome Room, was hauled down a staircase on a mattress, amidst smoke and flames.

After the fire, there was a major remodel and many structural and aesthetic changes were made. It was remodeled again in the mid-1970’s, during which time it was returned to Jefferson’s original three-story design.

Today, Galt’s statue of Jefferson stands once again in the Rotunda’s entrance lobby on the second floor, greeting guests as they enter from the terrace level. If you look closely, you can still see grey smudges of smoke from the 1895 fire on the folds of his cloak. There are chips in the marble, thanks to his mattress ride down the staircase.

The statue’s gaze is fixed straight ahead. It looks through the clear, glass floor-to-ceiling doors, across the Lawn and onto the University.

Though it is just one small symbol of our founder and of the history of UVA, I find myself transfixed and amazed by it. Each time I lead a tour, I think about the 150+ years the statue of Jefferson has stood guard in the Rotunda, and about all the events it has witnessed during that time.

As the University of Virginia embarks on its third century, the Galt statue will serve as a poignant and lasting reminder that in a way, Thomas Jefferson continues to oversee and serve as a leader of it all. 

Samantha Campbell
Friday, May 5, 2017

Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
A: My “go-to” karaoke song is “Africa” by Toto.

Q: What does leadership mean to you? 
A: Leadership is knowing your strengths as well as your limitations. Leadership is constantly challenging yourself and striving to become better; teaching others as well as learning. Leadership is staying organized, remaining calm and positive and overcoming obstacles. It is asking good questions, contributing to a team in any way you can and thinking outside the box. Leadership is being a person others can look up to and learn from.

Q: Your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
A: My favorite Charlottesville restaurant is Tavola.

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
A: Without a doubt, my greatest achievement outside of my professional life is raising my four-year-old daughter, Charlotte Rose. She is an amazing kid and I am so very proud of the person she’s becoming!

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
A: I love the people I work with, walking the beautiful Grounds and learning about UVA’s rich traditions and history.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: No.

Q: Why did you choose your profession?  
A: Prior to my role as Training Administrator for the CLE, I worked in advertising, marketing, and communications. I was looking for an opportunity to completely switch professional gears, and become involved with an organization that would really challenge me and help me learn a variety of new skills. I have especially enjoyed my experience as a Grounds for Success Orientation trainer; it has piqued my interest in training and development, an area in which I hope to continue!

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
A: On the weekends, you’ll find spending time with my daughter, Charlotte, our dog, Lola, and friends or family. I like taking day trips, museums, going to the beach or a winery, and having a good cup of coffee while reading People magazine. I love listening to music, going to concerts, being outdoors, and watching movies. I also enjoy baking and trying new recipes.

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A:  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A:  I am originally from North Dakota and saw the ocean for the first time when I was 22!

Rachel Parsley
Friday, April 28, 2017

I am a new member of the CLE’s Exceptional Assistants’ Network (EAN) Seminar Series group learning program. During the first session of the four-day series, we discussed how to develop a leadership presence and mindset.

For me, the biggest takeaway is that it is important to remember that the opportunity to be a leader is all around us, every day, and in many ways. You don’t have to be in a management or supervisory position to spearhead a project, suggest ideas, or contribute as a leader to your team environment.

When asked to define our role in the workplace, many of us would answer in a way that just describes the tasks we do, and in a way that doesn’t consider all things we do that are “outside of our job description.” These are the ways that we, consciously or not, set ourselves apart from our colleagues, and are the things that, in turn, make us leaders.

Simply greeting folks with a smile, encouraging them to do their best, collaborating with them, thanking them for their efforts, or offering your help and suggestions are small things we can all do to become  leaders. Actions like these can set the tone for someone’s entire day, or for their experience with your department. Whether your interaction with someone is their first, last or is ongoing, it’s your responsibility, as a leader, to make it positive and productive.

Leaders ask questions of themselves and of others; communicate assertively, yet effectively, and are active listeners. Questions could challenge, indicate empathy, ask an opinion, or ultimately, offer help.

Leaders express feelings and emotions properly. They let others know they are valued and important. They extend their appreciation, demonstrate a willingness to work with others, and offer trust. This helps build constructive relationships. Leaders also establish credibility: they do what they say they are going to do!

A leader acknowledges their own strengths and challenges. Most of all, leaders aim to be their authentic self, and reflect their values in decisions and actions.

To be a leader, you must be ready and willing to take on challenges. No matter what the situation, all it takes is the motivation to go above and beyond what is expected of you.

Check out the chart below: “What Great Leaders say to Highly Engaged Teams” for some simple phrases you can use to support and motivate others, contribute to your team, and take ownership of your work. You’ll be well on your way to living life as a leader!

Samantha Campbell
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

CLE facilitators, Jess Dollar and Rachel Parsley, led a tour of Grounds as part of Grounds for Success Orientation on March 7, 2017. Welcome, new colleagues! 


Rachel Parsley
Friday, January 13, 2017

At the start of each New Year, as many of us do, I make resolutions. Some have stuck with me, and many (too many!) have fallen by the wayside. As another new year rolls around, I’ve decided this year’s resolution is to explore and further define my professional purpose.

Purpose is defined as “The reason why something is done. An object or end to be attained; an action in the course of execution.” Simply by definition, it’s clear that we all likely have a great many purposes, because we have many things to do, many reasons to complete them, and many goals to reach.

All of the things we do each day in our personal life, our professional life, our hobbies, with our families, and with the people that surround us, play a role in one, if not all, of our purposes.

You could say my purpose is to be a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, cousin, friend, or co-worker. My purpose might be as a baker, organizer, coupon-clipper, meatball maker, singer, reader, traveler, or wine lover. My purpose could be as a listener, a talker, a joke teller, a consoler, an analyzer, a writer, an adventurer, an event planner, or a brainstormer. And the list goes on and on…

I know that I am good at and enjoy all of those things. They provide a sense of purpose for me in my personal life and some spillover to my professional life too. Defining your purpose from a personal perspective is relatively easy. It’s just the things that come to mind when you’re asked to describe yourself on a very basic level: who you are and what you like to do. It’s interesting that by default, that just by being you, personal purposes are established.

It is a bit harder, I think, to define your professional or career purpose. This is especially true, for instance, if you’re new to your role, if you’re working on things that are challenging or are outside of your area of expertise, or if you made a major career change after many years of working for the same department or company.

Think about it this way: professional purpose, at its core, is a combination of what you love, what you’re great at, what you’re paid to do, and is something that the world needs.


What you love. Passion should definitely play a role in your job. It might be that you absolutely love working with the public, drafting correspondence, brainstorming, or managing a budget. More than likely, you won’t love every aspect of your position, but what you like most about your job is likely your passion and that overlaps with:

What you’re great at. This incorporates not only what you love about your position, but also what you do best. Perhaps your favorite part of the workday isn’t making spreadsheets or replying to emails, but they are areas in which you excel and are ways in which you are able to contribute to your team. Your passion for what you really like to do combines with what you’re great at, which makes your profession, and that overlaps with:

You are paid for it. They say that if you find a job you like, you’ll never have to “work” a day in your life. It also goes without saying that most people need to work and be paid for their work. A profession you enjoy and are good at and are paid for naturally becomes your vocation. That overlaps with:

The world needs it. The world needs a variety of talents and skilled workers to keep going. Your career should be one that leads or supports an effort you feel strongly about. This becomes your mission and becomes part of what you love.

It’s not easy to identify a core or sole purpose in life, let alone in your professional career. In our roles at work, we serve many purposes, and those purposes are ever-changing. It’s sometimes easy to forget how we got where we are in the career world, and once we’re there, it can be hard to remember from day-to-day how to challenge ourselves, learn new things, and take on new tasks.

This year, my resolution is to focus on my central professional purpose. To be mindful that although I have many purposes in life, I also serve many purposes in my career. I am grateful to have a job that I love, that I’m great at (if I do say so, myself!), that pays me fairly, and that allows me to contribute to the needs of the world. I enjoy going to work every day; my job challenges me, excites me, and keeps me on my toes. My passion for my position is furthered even more because my personal and professional growth is encouraged and fostered.

I invite you to reflect on your professional purpose. It’s something we don’t do very often, but we really should. Oftentimes, we simply just keep going through the motions day after day and don’t stop to think about all the reasons we’re in this world and doing the work we do. Allowing yourself a moment to reflect upon why you’re in the role you are, what you truly enjoy about it, and to acknowledge what you’re really good at, as well as to note the contributions you are making to your profession, is an enlightening and encouraging reminder that you have true purpose.