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Together Apart: UTO Culture Thrives


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As ASU continues to monitor COVID-19, the university has transitioned from in-person teaching and learning to remote options. In this challenging time, however, the collective innovation of ASU faculty and staff has demonstrated remarkable adaptability. As a method of celebrating the good during uncertain developments, the University Technology Office is gathering success stories of “remote resilience” from the ASU community. The situation globally and across the country is changing daily, but we also plan to share these stories to keep pace.

By Joshua Ivanov, UTO Manager of Information Technology

You close your eyes. Steady your breathing. Still your mind.

A bell rings.

For sixty seconds, you sit in quiet contemplation. Simply being. The moment stretches, and you feel yourself growing calmer, more centered.

The bell rings again, and you’re back, invigorated and more relaxed than you anticipated. 

This is how every Virtual Circle, from the UTO Culture Weavers, begins. 

Led by Chief Culture Officer Christine Whitney Sanchez, the Virtual Circle is a monthly meeting of reflection on both the self and the larger UTO community and the culture that shapes it. This reflection, which has moved remote, is not hindered by distance. In fact, culture events have included more than ever before.

After the Virtual Circle’s initial moment of silence, members are asked to participate in a Laser Beam check-in, an exercise where each willing member offers a single word or short description on how they are currently feeling.

From there, the community breaks into teamlets, small groups of like-minded individuals focused on specific parts of the UTO cultural effort such as invigoration, operations. and alignment. These teamlets then report on the activities and strategies they have been working on to enhance UTO’s culture. The Pay It Forkward initiative, a program where a grateful individual can recognize an ASU employee who has helped them in some significant way, is just one example of a culture-changing idea to come out of the teamlets, with more being developed every session.

Once the teamlets have finished sharing, Sanchez leads the group on an in-depth exploration of a larger cultural topic. Previous sessions have included subjects such as the Seasons of Transition (internal phases of response to external changes that can be beneficial when accepted and processed but obstructive when ignored) and the Power of 3, which focused on the cultural potency of appreciative interviews.

Creating a seamless connection with the beginning of the meeting, the Virtual Circle ends with a Laser Beam check-out, with each member offering a short description or word on how they are feeling after the meeting’s activities and sessions. As each individual shares a message of positivity or reinvigoration, it's hard not to acknowledge a shared sense of community and culture among our fellow UTO peers and an excitement over the great things we can achieve.

Looking forward to the future in such a positive way is overcoming the stress of working, teaching and learning in a remote environment, and getting a head start on big ideas to keep newfound togetherness thriving when we return to in-person interactions.

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