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

Carrie Baker
Friday, January 20, 2017

I’ll never forget my first experience with Grounds for Success. I was a new employee about to start my first full-time job at UVA. As a graduate of the University, I wondered what this would be like - taking a tour of Grounds now that I was an employee, especially sharing this experience with other new employees, some of whom were seeing the Lawn and Rotunda for the first time. A lot of the information shared was familiar, though I did learn some new facts and of course made new connections. But what really made an impression on me was the facilitator.

I can recall her face very clearly in my mind. More specifically, I can recall what I saw on her face that day, it was a look that I recognized from the faces of fellow students or faculty members when they talked about the University, it was a look of pride and love. And that resonated with me. The tour ended in the Rotunda where she took us up one of the staircases and stopped in front of a half-circle window. 

There, she told us the story of the last time Mr. Jefferson rode his horse down to the Rotunda from Monticello, near the end of his life, and how he sat quietly in a chair at that window, looking out over the Lawn and his University. After a while he got up, mounted his horse, and returned to Monticello, where he passed away not long after. She choked up as she told the story, and then she wondered aloud what he must have been thinking about as he sat there gazing out that window. It almost seemed she was asking that question to herself just as much as she was to the larger group. I got caught up in the emotion myself and I couldn’t help but wonder – does she have this same reaction every time she leads this tour? Does she genuinely find this much joy telling the same stories and leading the same tour time after time? Either way, it moved me. 

I took this picture during my own new employee orientation in 2013.

With that experience fresh in my mind, I went on to start my new job at the University. I felt proud to be an employee at UVA, especially after learning in GFS that it is statistically harder to land a job at UVA than to be admitted as a student. A couple years later, I took a new job in central HR. At a staff meeting, I learned that a representative from my new team traditionally would serve as one of the GFS facilitators and that they were looking for a volunteer for the upcoming year. I had no idea that this was an option for me, I figured this role was only reserved for employees from the training and development team. I jumped at the chance to be a part of something that had made such an impact on me and hoped I would have the opportunity to do the same for future employees.

This year, I have had the privilege of being a GFS facilitator. Each time I stand in front of a group of new, fresh-faced employees, I am reminded of that feeling I felt on my first day, and I am honored that I can help shape their first impressions of the University. I recall my GFS facilitator, and I can only hope that I radiate the same type of energy, pride, and love for UVA that she did. I know one thing for certain - each time I facilitate GFS, I come away with a renewed appreciation for my job and I am reminded why I love this University so much. And I can answer that question I posed to myself during my orientation – I know that my facilitator must have found genuine joy in facilitating, because I have found that same joy.

This picture is from one of my first times facilitating GFS.