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UC MSAP: Investing today in the leaders of tomorrow

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When asked to describe UC’s Management Skills Assessment Program (MSAP), Co-Program Coordinator Seana M. Núñez-Grider begins, “This is not a typical training program that people might expect to see.”

Núñez-Grider, who is senior education and organizational development trainer at UC Riverside, goes on to explain that unlike professional development programs that focus on nuts-and-bolts skill-building techniques, MSAP provides personal feedback and insight — helping participants build a career development plan based on their unique skillsets.

Geared towards high potential UC supervisors, managers and professionals, MSAP helps participants address areas of weakness while growing competencies that prepare them for future opportunities in their UC workplaces.

Here’s how it works: Participants in each biannual cohort convene at the picturesque UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center, where they take part in a three-day assessment program. They complete a series of structured exercises and simulations, which reveal their strengths and development areas to trained assessors who are there to evaluate them and offer feedback.

“Very rarely do you have an opportunity to receive candid feedback in this way — to take time to engage in deep self-reflection and see yourself through the objective perspective of assessors who are rooting for your success.” And, she adds, “This program is empowering. Once you receive the results of the assessment, the next steps are up to you. You decide how you want to apply the feedback and how you want to grow your career.”

Following the retreat at Lake Arrowhead, participants return to their UC locations, where their sponsoring managers — and sometimes on-campus mentors or career coaches — create a personalized career development plan based on the strategy the participants themselves identified through the results of their assessment.

Supervisor approval and cooperation is an essential component of the program’s success, explains Núñez-Grider. “Once someone applies, their application is sent directly to their supervisor, who must then write a supportive statement,” she explains. “This support is essential because when the employee completes the three-day assessment, their supervisor will be crucial to implementing the career goals the participant has articulated.”

Typically, the participant’s supervisor supports their development through stretch assignments, new on-the-job tasks, opportunities to take on different roles or other duties that the employee wouldn’t have handled before pursuing MSAP. And, the career plan that the employee develops during the MSAP evaluation weekend is intended to be an ongoing effort. As employees continue to develop their careers, they are expected to continue to refine their plan in partnership with their supervisor and mentors.

Although the program isn’t designed to correlate directly with an employee’s performance appraisal, 27% of participants move into a higher-level job classification within 18-24 months of participating in MSAP. Additional follow-up research conducted by MSAP program staff demonstrates encouraging results: About 87% of participants feel more confident in their managerial abilities as the result of MSAP, and 81% believe that their managerial performance has improved.

If Núñez-Grider seems particularly enthusiastic about the program, it’s because she’s experienced its results first-hand — she was a participant a decade ago and credits her participation with her career success. Being constantly reminded of its impact doesn’t hurt either.

“MSAP provided me with much-needed time to critically examine my workflow and professional life,” says Kristen Lee, sustainability programs manager, UC Santa Cruz. “The feedback I received at MSAP allowed me to see myself through the eyes of my supervisor, direct reports, and colleagues and then provided me tools to learn how to work with that information, all of which was invaluable. I am more self-aware as a person and a professional thanks to MSAP and I have no doubt that my newfound perspective will allow me to advance professionally into the future.” 

Another past participant described MSAP as “a life-changing experience. It allowed me to become crystal clear on my strengths and weaknesses and how others view me,” he wrote. “The knowledge I gained from the exceptional team that coordinates this program and from my assessor pointed me in the direction of further training to maximize my performance. As a special bonus, one of my MSAP projects was moved up the chain of command and has since sprouted into a new program that benefits our students to this day. MSAP is the best program I’ve participated in as a UC staff member and I recommend it to anyone who wants to grow as a professional and person.”

“One of the people in a previous cohort came up to me after the program to say that she felt ‘euphoric,’” recalls Núñez-Grider. “That’s the kind of experience that we are creating here. It’s truly transformative.”

Applications are now being accepted for 2020 cohorts! For location-specific guidance and deadlines, please reach out to your location contact.

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