First Impressions of the Center for Positive Organizations

June 13, 2014

By: Allison Sheehan

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Center were the colorful walls—orange, yellow, and green. And when I moved from room to room, I noticed that all the tables and chairs had been set up in ways that encouraged an environment for collaboration and sharing. The tables were big enough to seat several people; for seats, you had a choice between a chair and an exercise ball. Every room was open to everybody—there was no hierarchy of offices. And when I glanced at the corner of the community room, I was so shocked to see that the Center has a little pet tortoise named Rosa!

I think I was so pleasantly surprised and happy to walk into this environment because I’d just finished my freshman year of college, during which I spent most of my time walking the drab hallways of the Modern Language Building, Dennison, and Angel Hall. The small, welcoming rooms in the Center also contrasted with my everyday class life, in which the majority of my classes were held in huge lecture halls. In these classes, students either stuck to themselves, or clung to their small group of friends. This was especially true in classes that were graded on the curve—they wanted what was best for them and didn’t care to collaborate with peers. It’s also hard to collaborate when you’re sitting in a giant row of seats where the only options to talk are to look to your right or left, unless you want to talk over someone.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my freshman year! I did have some great classes and professors. But I realized that my favorites were the small first-year seminars, which consisted of no more than twenty people. The air in those rooms felt so much lighter, and sharing your thoughts was encouraged and expected. I felt much more comfortable in these classes, and I also performed better and wanted the best for the small community of classmates of which I was a part. So when I first walked into the Center and it reminded me of those small classes, I was very excited.

Last Wednesday, we had our first Lunch and Learn. We devoted most of the time to getting to know each other.  We opened the meeting with sharing each of our “celebrations” for the week. And unlike a lot of places I go to for the first time, we didn’t play a little icebreaker game. Instead, we got right into sharing things that were meaningful to us. After the meeting, I wondered how often one gets the opportunity to enter a room with twenty strangers and leave three hours later feeling like these people were friends. Not very often at all, I’d say.

And we didn’t just listen to each other. After everybody had shared, each person wrote the sharer an endearing note. So at the end of the day, each of us left knowing twenty new people and had twenty encouraging notes put in our little “sugar cubes” (colored envelopes hanging on the wall with our names on them).  These actions started off our summer experience on a positive note; we were all being planted into a thriving environment that would allow us to grow and flourish.

It seems to me that the Center’s work is striving to find how to bring the energy and joy back into the workplace to create an enriching and efficient environment for employees, bosses, and any type of organization. I am really excited to learn about all the aspects of the Center’s work, and to discover how to put positive meaning and leadership back into the workplace.

Allison just finished her freshman year in the College of Literature, Science, & the Arts. She heard about the Center from a Peer Advisor and was drawn to it because of its new and unique way of looking at organizations. Now she is part of the Social Media and Blogging Team as a Summer Fellow. She is excited to be a part of the fellows program and the environment and to learn about all of the aspects of the Center’s work, while discovering how to put positive meaning and leadership into the workplace.