During her seven years at UCLA, Rejeana Mathis has led hundreds of staff and faculty in dozens of classes, workshops and retreats in her role as a management development coordinator with Campus Human Resources (CHR).

Time management. Team leadership. Diversity awareness. Creativity and innovation. Conflict resolution. Name anything in the field of professional development, and Mathis, who has a degree in business administration and more than 20 years of experience as a facilitator and trainer, has probably taught it either at UCLA or in previous jobs and consulting assignments with the L.A. Times, Magic Johnson Enterprises and other organizations.

“My passion is to help others learn and grow,” said Mathis who, as the new president of Staff Assembly, has plenty of opportunity to pursue this goal with UCLA’s 20,000 staff members. But what first prompted Mathis’ involvement with Staff Assembly, it turns out, was a desire to learn and grow herself — and in some not-so-obvious ways.

“You wouldn’t know it, but I am an introvert. A huge introvert,” she said. “I facilitate all these classes and workshops, throw all this energy out there and love doing it. But then I have to go back to my office to recharge” — a classic sign of an introvert who often feels exhausted after engaging in social situations, while the extrovert might feel energized, she said.

Determined to move beyond her comfort zone and meet new people campuswide, Mathis began to volunteer for various Staff Assembly committees and projects. The organization’s aim of advocating for employees and their professional advancement was, she found, a good fit with her job of growing CHR’s training programs.

Not long into her volunteer involvement, Mathis made a bold move: She ran for Staff Assembly president in 2012. And she lost — but gained an opportunity to learn unanticipated lessons from the experience.

“It was like, OK, I can tuck my head between my legs,” Mathis recalled, “or I can figure out how else I can become involved.”

Confident that she had something valuable to contribute, Mathis stepped into the post of secretary on the executive board, led by then-president Cindy Cordova.

“It was really good for me. I got a better sense of what was going on,” Mathis said, “And seeing Cindy in action, I really got the lay of the land,” from balancing the organization’s budget to orchestrating the annual All-Staff Picnic to hosting breakfasts and lunches where staff members get to meet with Chancellor Gene Block and Dr. A. Eugene Washington, vice chancellor and dean of the medical school.

Drawing from eye-opening experiences like these, Mathis penned this campaign statement when she ran for president, and won, the following year: “UCLA’s reputation for excellence can be directly attributed to the magic that staff creates behind the scenes. Our continued success depends on engaged employees who understand the organization’s direction, feel passionate about that vision and are willing to work hard to get there.”

Now in her third month in office, Mathis brings her infectious energy and enthusiasm to her leadership of the 11-member board as they work to fulfill Staff Assembly’s mission and — her hope is — find personal fulfillment in doing so.

“I believe most people wake up each morning aspiring to be and do their best,” said Mathis, who started her term in July by running a strategic planning retreat for her board to get to know each other, assess the current state of Staff Assembly and brainstorm plans for the year and beyond.

“It had been at least five years since the board’s last strategic planning retreat,” she said, “and it was exciting to hear board members’ ideas about the future of the organization.”

In the works is a redesign of the Staff Assembly website, with help from tech-savvy members, to make it more user-friendly as well as to align with the new look of the UCLA home page. Improvements to its information-packed, monthly e-newsletter to more than 7,000 subscribers are also being implemented.

The organization is also exploring an expanded schedule for its popular Learn-at-Lunch workshops. Covering such topics as health and fitness, retirement planning, creating a sustainable office and caring for aging parents, the noon-to-1 p.m. sessions are free to UCLA staff. Mathis would like to see the workshops offered at other times of day as well, for instance, for staff who work early-bird hours.

An ongoing priority is raising funds to support, among other things, the All-Staff Picnic and annual scholarships that help staff members pay for professional development activities such as UCLA Extension classes. Mathis and the board are already revving up for the True Bruin Move and Groove 5K run-walk, which drew more than 900 participants last March to its inaugural fun run and festive fair.

Mathis and her Staff Assembly team have their work cut out for them, but they’re up for the challenge. And, in the event of hurdles, delays and other unanticipated problems along the way, they will no doubt find themselves applying Mathis’ “learn and grow” approach to life.

“Whether it’s a challenging interaction with somebody or one of those crazy days when, all of a sudden, everything blows up,” she said, “it’s really about stopping and taking a look at the experience and seeing what you can gain from it.”

Ask yourself questions like, “What was I supposed to learn from this?,” she suggested, or, “How can this motivate me?” You might discover that you need to work harder, she said, or perhaps you’ve been pushing too hard and need to slow down.

“I can’t honestly say I always do this,” Mathis said. “But I sure try.”

This article first appeared on UCLA Newsroom.