Staff Members Recount Lasallian Experiences in California, Sri Lanka and India

Annual Meeting Focuses on 'Staff as Lasallian Educators'

SMC staff in Vandu PaaruWhat does it mean to live by Lasallian principles? Several Saint Mary's staff members who returned recently from intensive Lasallian programs in places as close as the Russian River and as far-flung as India and Sri Lanka described their experiences during this year's Staff Day.

Carmel Crane of CaTS, Elizabeth Smith of the Office of College Communications and Cynthia Cutshall of the Counseling Center shared photos and stories of the monthlong Vandu Paaru program in Sri Lanka and India.

Crane gave a brief overview of the recent turbulent history of Sri Lanka, a country known as "the teardrop of India." With the help of a website she had created, she explained how 30 years of civil war had left the nation's educational system in shreds and showed photos of her service teaching English at St. Xavier's Boy's College near Mannar.

Smith taught English to youngsters of all ages in Sri Lanka, from preschoolers to preteen and teenage orphans. She showed slides of her charges and a winning video clip of the youngsters singing, "If You're Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands)." Explaining that only about five percent of the nation's children can get into Sri Lankan colleges, she added: "If they want to rise up, they have to learn English." She encouraged other staff members to participate in the Vanda Paaru program, in which Sociology Professor Cynthia Ganote also took part.

Cutshall performed her Vandu Paaru service at St. Pius Boys Town School, near Madurai, India. The school provides much-needed vocational education to students who are 15 to 21 years old. "I didn't really get the Lasallian mission until I went to a place where we truly are improving lives," Cutshall said.

Maria Flores and Keith Annis of the International Studies office told their colleagues about what they learned at the Rummery Retreat, which was held June 14 to 17 at St. Joseph's Camp on the Russian River. At the retreat, staff members learn from Brothers and Lasallian scholars, led by Brother Gerard Rummery.

Annis said the experience taught him a lot about the history and heritage of the Christian Brothers. "I was able to understand how I too carry this torch and how we all carry this torch," he said.

Flores said she gained a sense of perspective on the College and learned that Saint Mary's is part of a larger community that serves about 90,000 students. On top of that, she said, "I got to see community in action."

In addition to the presentations on Lasallian experiences, Staff Day featured an update on staff compensation and on performance reviews by Vice President for Finance Pete Michel, Director of Human Resources Eduardo Salaz and Staff Council President Tim Farley. Michel said the Staff Performance Review Task Force plans to deliver its recommendations in February and complete its review by the end of this academic year.

Brother Ronald began the day by noting that we are "a community that learns how to serve." His remarks were underscored by a video created by student Molly Allen for Mission and Ministry in which staff members from the Registrar's Office, Community and Government Relations, Financial Aid, the President's Office and Sodexo talked about how they carry out Lasallian principles in their everyday work.

After the presentations, staff members were invited to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption during a Mass in the Chapel and enjoyed a barbeque on the Chapel Lawn, courtesy of Brother Ronald.

Photo by Elizabeth Smith, Office of College Communications

View more photos of the staff barbeque on Facebook.