Monday, June 9, 2008
ReServe at Work at the CUNY Graduate Center
ReServist Jan Herman
As Human Resources Director of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Yosette Jones-Johnson knows a great deal about the value of experienced staff. The right person in the right position can help lift an organization to an all-new level of effectiveness.
That’s why, she says, “We're profoundly grateful to have the ReServists. We certainly couldn't afford to hire someone with this level of experience outright. And it takes a lot of care to place a ReServist with this kind of opportunity and have it work so well.”
Retired journalist Jan Herman, one of the Graduate Center’s current ReServists speaks up immediately. “I was struck by that too. The matching setup is very considered.”
Yosette refers to Loretta Williams, a ReServist in Human Resources, as a “perfect” consultant on complex issues regarding the health benefits of city employees, because of the experience Loretta brings as a retired city employee.
"Someone with her experience can tackle almost anything that we confront. There is an answer. And she’s going to help get people there."
“ReServe is very respectful in the process of communicating with ReServists and laying the best possible foundation for their work. And they follow up! These are very valuable, very different kinds of attributes."
David Manning, the Graduate Center’s Director of Media Relations and Marketing, explains the benefits of having a ReServist: “For me, reaching out to journalists, having a ReServist come in who is a terrifically experienced, qualified journalist is remarkable.
“If I were setting out to hire an assistant—if there were the money to do that—it would be someone with his kind of qualifications. And because we don't have that position, and can't fund that position, to be able to have the kind of skills that Jan has is amazing.
“Just this morning, I had Jan work on making a list of journalists to contact. The Graduate Center has recently done a major breakthrough study of second-generation immigrants, and we want to get exposure on it.
“I sent a pitch out and followed it up with an invitation to come to a performance. One of the writers who responded expressed some interest, so I wrote back, talking about the complexity of the study and how she could focus in on one element of it in an article. And she said, ‘Well, write back and send me a pitch focused in on the element.’ So I turned it over to Jan.
“Turns out he not only can do it, he knows the journalist in question at a major publication, knows what somebody on the other side wants, is familiar, now, with the study, and how to shape something that can be targeted to that person. That's a significant and important skill to have.”
Jan seems equally impressed by David’s skill in media relations. “In this particular case, you know, David sent out such a really good press release that it became the basis for a New York Times article. And I don't think that the New York Times article did much more than basically repeat the press release.
“So for me, it's a good thing, coming to work here. I like the idea of working for an institution that has substance to it. I get as much as I give, from my point of view.”
David picks up again: “Someone mentioned the word ‘volunteer.’ And I've worked on the other side of things with volunteers…Volunteers can be more management, sometimes, than they're worth. Not that they're not wonderful people, committed, capable, etc.
“But the thing about Jan is that I'm dealing with somebody that comes with experience and skills. It doesn't require that kind of management. I can give him a much more general assignment and he'll know what I'm talking about. I mean, I've been trying to stump him with something . . .” and here he breaks off into laughter.
Jan expresses a similar admiration. “I feel like I'm talking to a peer, frankly, and a peer who actually knows the business far better than I do in terms of public relations and media relations. So actually, a lot of it is a learning experience for me.”
David sums it up. “And the common ground, for each of us is that this is such an interesting place. I don't just say that as a PR agent. This is a fascinating place. The dimensions of creative, intellectual, social, collegial people and activities going on around here are just infinite.”