Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
START Center

START kicks off academic year with 7th annual 2-day retreat

START kicks off academic year with 7th annual 2-day retreat

START held its 7th annual retreat on September 17-18. This two day retreat is an opportunity for the Center to come together and re-establish our values, have dedicated time toward team-building, go over specific resources and skills that lead to success in START work, and to welcome the new START Research Assistants (RAs) and faculty leads joining the center for the 2019 – 2020 academic year.

To set the tone for the retreat, and reinforce our values as a center, we kicked off the two-day training with a session on START Culture. As a group we discussed the four START Core Values, which remain the same from year to year, but are shaped each year by the group of people that make up START. In this session, we also talked as a community about equity, diversity, and inclusion in its broad definitions, and how we actualize it within START. START Student Representatives, who are second year research assistants elected by their peers to represent the RAs to leadership, led this session with a member of START leadership.

The second session of the day focused on individual work styles, and how we work together as teams effectively. This consisted of discussing introversion versus extroversion, and seeing where each of the members of the Center land on this scale. We then looked at four different workstyles. Each member of the team took a survey before the retreat, and we discussed each other’s results and what behavior trends in group work individuals typically have based on their results. We then had a team building activity, where the group was split into four teams. Each team was given a bag of supplies, and tasked with creating a catapult that could launch a marshmallow. We asked teams to be aware of what roles each person naturally took within the group, and if they noticed trends in their work style.

In the final session of the first day, we did a deep drive into the START project life cycle. We examined the framework of a typical project process, what has happened with past projects, what the common steps to success look like, and what the common pitfalls to avoid are. This session was led by two second year RAs who have both held the role of Project Manager on projects, a START faculty lead, and a member of START leadership, all of whom could speak to specific examples they have experienced in their work with START.

The second day began with a session put on by the Operations Team, and covered day-to-day procedures and expectations, how we track the work we do, and key resources available to START members. This was an opportunity to provide clarity on procedures, and allowed START members to ask questions.

The next session focused on the pivotal point of every project when it launches from a work order given to START by a client to tangible work to be done by our RAs: the scoping meeting. This is a meeting where the team of RAs and a faculty lead meet with the client to discuss the purpose and methods stated in the work order, gain clarity on the project scope and final deliverables, and to ask any closing logistical questions. The RAs and faculty leads that ran this session acted out how typical scoping meetings run with clients, and gave tips for success.

In the final session of the retreat, we discussed project management and teamwork. In this session, we walked through an example project that START recently worked on, as well as team roles at START. The group was split into four teams, and each team was asked to consider one of the following aspects of teamwork: team member roles, the project timeline, a communication plan, and deliverables. During this time, the teams were asked to let the new RAs take the lead in discussion, and the second year RAs and faculty leads were asked to listen to a new perspective.

The trainings provided at the 7th annual retreat were created to allow research assistants, faculty, and staff working with START to share a common understanding of expectations and methods used to deliver high quality research. The opportunity for the START Center to come together and gear up for the year set a positive tone for the coming 2019 – 2020 academic year.