University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

UP! Circles

University Professional (UP!) Circles Professional Development Opportunity

UP! Circles (University Professional Circles) is a seven-month professional development program running from October to April designed to enhance one’s professional effectiveness, cut across the barriers that can lead to staff isolation, and support the University’s mission.

  • As a large group, we will engage with experts in the field on topics from communication to organizational change once a month.
  • In small groups, we will advance targeted goals using a professional circles model based on adult learning theory.
  • Each UP! Circle participant will be part of a small group that will identify and implement one micro-project to improve or develop potential solutions around a concern, problem, or issue related to achieving a culture of success for all at the University. Past micro-projects have ranged from a fitness-walking group to an online system for bringing together U of M employees with similar interests.

UP! Circles video
UP! Circles flyer

Benefits for Participants

  • Support for advancement of individualized professional development goals.
  • Networking and engagement across campus.
  • Opportunities to work with others to improve the University of Minnesota’s internal culture of success.
  • Opportunities for collaboration and cross-departmental initiatives.
  • Participation in discussions about relevant and topical issues and problems faced by the University, its employees, and public stakeholders.

Program Format

  • UP! Circles meets two times per month from October through April. One meeting will be in a small group and one as a large group.
  • Small groups will be matched based on interests. During the small group meetings, using guided discussion, the members will keep each other on track on moving forward on selected professional or personal goals. Each small group will also pursue a micro-project during the program. Meeting dates, times, and locations will be determined by the small group.
  • Large group monthly meetings include a speaker alternating with open discussion. All large-group meetings are currently scheduled to be held in 140 Nolte on the East Bank.
  • At the October kickoff (October 2), participants will learn how to conduct UP! Circles small groups and set goals.

Potential Topics for Large Group Meetings

  • Understanding conflict
  • Equity and diversity today
  • How to influence without authority
  • Creating productive professional relationships through networking
  • Working effectively in groups
  • Ways to change an organizational culture from within 

Application Deadline

Time Commitment

  • Two four-hour sessions for opening and closing (October and April)
  • Six two-hour large group sessions
  • Seven monthly small group meetings (one-to-two hours each)

Meeting Schedule

Large Group Meeting:
  • October 2, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (lunch included)
  • April 29, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (lunch included)
  • November 2014 to April 2015, first Wednesday of the month, 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.
Small Group Meeting: to be determined

Application Process

Online applications are now available and were due September 12. Applicants will receive confirmation of participation in the program no later than September 19.

  • Participation is open to all faculty plus P & A, Civil Service, and labor represented staff
  • Supervisor endorsement is required using the linked Word document
  • Limited applications accepted (maximum of 50 participants)
  • Registration fee is $50.00; a very limited number of waivers will be available.
  • EFS and personal checks are accepted

Comments From Past Participants

“I enjoyed meeting and learning from U of M staff from other departments. My small group was wonderful and we plan to stay in touch.”

“The presentations at the large-group meetings exceeded my expectations. They were carefully selected, well presented, and relevant.”

"The support and feedback I got from my small-group peers helped keep me motivated to stay on track with my career as well as personal goals."

“My group’s micro-project (serving as a conversation panel for international students) was a real highlight. I enjoyed brainstorming and working on the project together, and the amount of time we spent was very reasonable.”

For more information:
UP! Circles

2014-15 Steering Committee: Rhonda Layer, School of Dentistry; Jennifer McDaniel, Lab Medicine and Pathology; Tola Ou-Quinlan, PRIME Institute (College of Pharmacy); Amy Skog, Sponsored Projects Administration; Yongling Zhang-Gorke, Confucius Institute; Amy Sitze (alumna advisor), U of M Foundation

Program Advisor:Dave Dorman, Organizational Effectiveness, Office of Human Resources