Under new leadership, Life & Work Connections helps employees navigate complicated times
When Josephine Corder became the permanent director of Life & Work Connections this past fall, she was ready to reassess and refresh a key support system for many faculty and staff members at the University. Like the rest of the world, she was unaware that a much bigger challenge was on its way.
While nothing could have fully prepared the Tucson native for what it would take to meet the evolving needs of the University's employees in the face of a global pandemic, her path to the University had provided her with experience serving the needs of diverse populations.
After earning her bachelor's degree in social work and theology at the University of Portland, Corder joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. She worked as a middle school teacher on the island of Pohnpei – part of Micronesia – for two years.
"The kids laughed because, growing up in Tucson, my idea of fish was fish sticks, and there was only one type of banana I knew of," Corder recalled. "The kids thought this was hilarious. They would bring me bananas of different sizes and colors. It's a time I really cherish."
After her time abroad, Corder returned to Tucson and taught in middle school and high school before embarking on a new path.
"Some of the challenges I saw in education here," Corder says before pausing. "I couldn't make the difference I wanted to make in my teaching role."
She joined the University in 2014 and moved up the ranks in Life & Work Connections, becoming interim director in December 2018 and permanent director in September of the following year. Along the way, she earned a Master of Business Administration from the Eller College of Management while working full time, graduating in 2017.
Corder and the Life & Work Connections team started the process of evaluating and updating the office's offerings but had to pause and reprioritize quickly six months later when the pandemic hit.
"The team's responsiveness and ability to pivot on a dime was incredible," Corder said. "We know that resilience skills are important all of the time, but especially now, in a world of uncertainty."
The desire to provide employees with a reliable resource in the early days of the pandemic led Life & Work Connections to create 15 for You, a series of daily 15-minute skill-building virtual sessions. The idea was to provide information and resources that people needed in their new circumstances without taking more time than they had to spare. The series involved University experts covering topics ranging from creating personal and professional boundaries while working remotely to maintaining a healthy sleep schedule through life disruptions.
"Health promotion, public health and wellness programming is about constantly adapting to meet the needs of the given population," said Chad Myler, health promotion manager in Life & Work Connections, who was one of eight team members to lead 15 for You sessions. "If you continue to deliver programming that isn't meeting the population where they are, then you are going to lose engagement, interest and, ultimately, positive health behavior changes among the population."
The Life & Work Connections team is continuing to listen to the campus community and adapt programming to its evolving needs during a complicated time. Eileen Lawless, a dependent care adviser who supports faculty and staff members with adult and elder care concerns, says she saw an increase in employees who found themselves with new or significantly altered caregiving responsibilities.
"For some people, caregiving was very new and sudden," Lawless said. "In other cases, actively involved caregivers became abruptly distanced. No matter the situation, I found that the need for caregiving increased for everyone."
In addition to its traditional resources – most of which are now offered remotely – in areas including child care, adult and elder care, and financial literacy, Life & Work Connections regularly updates and adds programming to its lineup as employee needs change.
A list of many of those resources is below.
- Support and Resiliency Hub: resources compiled and created in response to the pandemic
- Tele-counseling through insurance companies
- On-demand videos, focusing on topics including resiliency, physical wellness and enriching family life
- Free financial consultations through University vendors Fidelity Investments and TIAA
- Community financial resources
- Midweek Money Management sessions
- Childcare Choice, which provides reimbursements of up to $2,000 per fiscal year per household for qualified childcare
- Sick and Backup Childcare, offering in-home care when regular child care is interrupted
- For Parents webpage, featuring resources on parenting consultations, workshops and more
- Evaluating Your Family's Strengths and Vulnerabilities workshop, Aug. 26
- Workshops on post-traumatic growth, Sept. 1 and Oct. 6
- Flu shot clinics, with dates being scheduled for September, October and November
Also coming up this fall: workshops on planning challenging caregiving conversations in mid-September and workshops on cultivating hope in early October. Check the Life & Work Connections website in the next few weeks for registration links.