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Cluster Concerns Administrative Assistants Facing Adversity

By Justin Siewierski; Editor-in-Chief
On October 17, 2017

Cluster Concerns

Administrative Assistants Facing Adversity 

Justin Siewierski


For Plymouth State, the last change as big as the cluster initiative was moving from ‘Plymouth State College’ to ‘Plymouth State University’ in 2003. Today, some faculty and staff are moving in a positive direction toward the cluster initiative; others are worried about their jobs. 

“Because of what we have going on with the academic clusters, what we envision are the departments across campus going away,” said Robyn Parker, Dean of Business Administration. “There is no need for us to have administrative assistants that are department-specific if there are no departments.”

The cluster approach, a work- in-progress that will be piloting its first two cluster models in the spring semester, has been tabbed as a way for University faculty and staff to work in a more communal style. The seven clusters (education, democracy and social change, tourism, environment and sustainable development, justice and security, innovation and entrepreneurship, exploration and discovery, health and human enrichment, and arts and technologies) will require administrative assistants, but they will not be department-specific.

“Academic administrative assistants are who we wanted to target with this information,” said Parker. “These jobs aren’t going away, but they are changing and we hope to see our current administrative assistants keep positions on campus.”

As these positions are open to anyone who works on campus, an administrative assistant meeting held on September 25th provided all in attendance the opportunity to envision what their current position may look like in the next six to 18 months.

“What we wanted to do with the administrative assistants in that meeting is to get them thinking about the parts of the job they really like, and get them thinking about how they can take those skills and apply them in the cluster approach,” said Parker. “If they really like the communication part of their daily job here, that position might be needed in a cluster where their department dissolved into; it might fall into a different cluster. But that’s what we are trying to get our internal candidates to think about.”

“Once we heard about the cluster approach, every chair that was placed into our cluster began sitting down on a weekly basis to discuss how we can make everything a smooth transition,” said Ann McClellan, current chair of the English department and chair of the Arts and Technology leadership committee.

McClellan, alongside department chairs from music, theater and dance, communication and media studies, art, computer science, philosophy, and integrated arts, began meeting when they found out they were grouped together in the same cluster. Now, a arts and technology leadership team consists of over 10 people, including administrative assistants from every discipline.

“There is a lot to take in when putting this all together,” she said. “Right now, we meet every other week with the mindset that we need to figure out what everyone’s potential role will be, with one of our main concerns being administrative assistants."

On the topic of administrative assistants, both Parker and McClellan were in agreement that the University does not envision cutting any further positions.

“We need administrative assistants for every cluster, and we will [most likely] need the same amount of them as we have now,” said McClellan. “Every cluster is going to need different jobs done from different people, and for someone who might have to leave a department where they’re comfortable can really be stressful.”

As the arts and technologies cluster takes up three buildings on campus, it is fair to say that the number of positions specific to that cluster will not change. With the implementation that operations, communications, and building assistants will always be needed, the jobs will be posted in both an internal and external setting.

“I think that our main goal is to give those who already work here priority when any campus job opens up,” said Parker. “We don’t feel the need to take any more jobs away from people, and anyone who works on campus will have the right to apply once the positions are solidified.”

The Clock will continue to have coverage of the cluster initiative as new information is released. 


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