Monday, October 26, 2015

Continuing Education Welcomes Edythe Abdullah

Dr. Edythe Abdullah has joined UNF Continuing Education as the new interim dean. She previously served as special advisor to President Delaney from 2013-2015. She also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Florida and chaired the Jacksonville Community Council Inc.

Dr. Abdullah earned her bachelor degrees from Valparaiso University in Indiana and holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Florida. She also has a Leadership Certificate in the Management of Lifelong Education from Harvard University. With more than 30 years of experience in higher education, it is clear where her passion lies.

Continuing Education is delighted to welcome Dr. Abdullah as our new leader. We are excited about the future and want to give you an opportunity to get to know Dr. Abdullah in the following Q&A.  

Tell us about your family. I am the mother of four adult children — three boys and one daughter — and “G’ma” to three grandchildren. Shahid is in Jacksonville, Naim is in San Diego Calif., Hamin is in San Juan, Puerto Rico (with his wife, Angela and kids) and Ayesha, who just earned her Ph.D. in philosophy from Penn State University, is at UNF taking pre-med courses.  

If you could choose any other career, what would it be and why? Executive director of a nonprofit organization that has as one of its goals to empower low-income kids. 

What would you like to do when you retire? Learn to play the guitar, travel and volunteer as a mentor. 

What is your favorite thing about working at UNF? Having the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of young and older adults. 

What is the proudest/happiest moment of your life? Being sworn in as a member of the bar 19 years after graduating from law school. I didn’t take the bar exam until 18 years after graduating due to kids and work. It was empowering to do what so many struggle to do right after law school — 19 years later. 

What is the best thing you ever won? I won a gift basket for a home movie night from church. One of my favorite movies was in the gift basket — “The Best Man.” 

What band(s)/musician(s) would perform the soundtrack to your life? The Tedeschi Trucks Band and Marvin Sapp 

Who is your favorite fictional character? What makes them your favorite? Janie Mae Crawford in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neal Hurston. The character travels through life’s journey to find her true essence (spirit) and realize her relationship to God. 

If you won the lottery, what would do with the money? Pay off all bills, establish a trust for my kids and grandkids, tithe, set up a scholarship in my grandparents’ name, travel and volunteer.

If you were not working at UNF, what would you be doing? Advancing higher education goals at a higher education institution or higher education support entity. 

Describe your favorite UNF-related memory? The numerous commencement exercises that I participated in celebrating the success of our students. 

What is your favorite way to blow an hour? Kayaking

If you were asked to paint a picture about anything you wanted, what would you paint? I’d paint a picture of me with all my children/grandchildren and their spouses celebrating family on a Caribbean beach. 

What was the best money you ever spent? Educating my children 

Is there a piece of technology that you just couldn’t live without? Smart phone 

Tell us something that would surprise people to know about you: I sang in a girls’ band in high school. 

What was the first concert you ever attended, and what was the most recent concert you attended? James Brown in the Ritz Theater when I was a kid. Earth, Wind and Fire last year. 

What person had the greatest impact on your life? My grandmother, Edith Hunter 

What are you most passionate about? Finding ways to give kids with socioeconomic barriers tools and experiences that allow them to achieve their innate purpose. 

Who is the most famous person you ever met? President Barack Obama 

Tell us something about you that even your friends don’t know: I was a jazz radio DJ in college

What do you hope to accomplish that you have not done yet? Learn Spanish

Last book read: ”Still Foolin’ Them,” an autobiography of Billy Crystal

Photograph: Madelyn Caranci

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Refocus this Fall

Feel-good ways to get your head back in the game.

By Sonja Rocha

After a summer of trips, kids and time spent with family and friends you may find yourself struggling to get your head back in the game - and we're not talking about your fantasy football league. There are still three months left in 2015, Don't blow 25 percent of your year. Stop online researching next summer’s vacation, close Facebook, turn off the TV and put these refocus strategies to work.

Set VERY attainable goals.
The best way to get back on track is to start with a success. What do you need to do to finish 2015 strong? Set goals. Make them easy.

For example, walk a little more this week and start thinking about healthy habits again by parking on the far side of the parking lot. It’s an easy goal to achieve and you can accomplish it tomorrow. Park far away. Walk in to work. Done! Put a check in the “I’ve accomplished something good for my health” box! Keep it up all week. Any type of exercise will help refocus your mind.

To get your work and career back on the right track, take 15 minutes to review everything you have accomplished so far this year and pat yourself on the back. You deserve it! The feeling of accomplishment feels good, and feeling good is where you need to be when you start thinking about what you still want to accomplish this year. Make a plan to achieve your remaining 2015 goals. Keep each step toward the goal small and simple. Keep building on your successes. Always remember the work you do is important. Reviewing your accomplishments and revisiting your goals will provide the adrenaline boost you need to finish 2015 strong.

Regain focus and avoid distractions.
Focus is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. If you have been in a brain fog for a while, you’re not going to wake up tomorrow and put in eight solid, productive hours. You’ll need to rebuild your focus stamina one day at a time. One effective method is to plan every minute of every day. Fill in your day scheduler in 15-minute blocks and stick to it! Start each morning with tasks that can be completed quickly. Build on your momentum. Move on to harder projects and the items you’ve been avoiding. Be sure to include scheduled time for e-mail, co-workers and planning.

When distractions come up and you get off track, don’t beat yourself up. Try to note why it happened. Was it a talkative co-worker? Was it checking e-mails? Keep a list of the alluring distractions so you can revisit them the next day at a scheduled time. You're likely to forget what that all-important distraction was about. You just took back 15-30 minutes of your life. When it’s a co-worker stealing away your time, try this line: ”I’m on a deadline now, but I’m available tomorrow at 11 a.m. Will that work for you?”

Next week, divide your focused time into 20-minute blocks and so on. Grow each work block to 45 minutes. The more you practice this technique the longer your focus stamina will become. Greater focus will improve your work quality while you get more done in less time.

Still can’t break Internet surfing? Then use the time productively. Update your LinkedIn profile. Then take time to write three recommendations for three co-workers or clients on their LinkedIn accounts. Doing something kind for others is a great way to break negative patterns and start new positive ones.

UNF Continuing Education offers numerous opportunities for both personal and professional development. View our online catalog here. Request more information here. Call our friendly Customer Care Team (904) 620-4200. They're always ready and willing to help you find the program(s) to fit your need.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Yellow Belt Training is Essential to Lean Six Sigma Success

By Keith Gardner

The critical role of Yellow Belts is not widely understood in many organizations that have a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) initiative. Ignoring the importance of Yellow Belts and underinvesting in Yellow Belt training can have a negative impact on LSS implementation and, more significantly, sustainment. In order to successfully implement and sustain a LSS initiative, leadership needs to address three things: culture, strategy and process.
Of the three, culture is by far the most challenging. To sustain LSS, the concepts of continuous improvement and LSS need to be integrated into the organizational culture.

Culture change requires-among other things a "critical mass" of employees, all pulling in the same direction. Too often organizations launch LSS initiatives by training only a small subset of employees as Green Belts and/or Black Belts. Green and Black Belts become the trained personnel that lead LSS projects. The problem with the strategy of training only Green and Black Belts is that the overwhelming majority of the organization receives no significant LSS training and has no buy-in or understanding of LSS. It's true, a team of highly trained individuals are capable of using LSS to drive process improvement, but this has done nothing to address the culture of the organization. 

Yellow Belt training, which normally takes one to two days, is critical to beginning the process of culture change. If an organization is to be successful in making LSS and continuous improvement part of the way they operate on a day-to-day basis, a significant proportion of the employees need to understand and embrace LSS. They do not need to lead improvement teams, but they do need to understand why the organization is embracing LSS, participate on LSS teams and be supportive of LSS activities. Yellow Belt training addresses the need to educate a critical mass of employees.

The challenge many organizations face is the cost and time it takes to train large numbers of employees as Yellow Belts. In larger organizations, there may be a need to train hundreds of employees as Yellow Belts. This is why the University of North Florida Center for Quality and Continuous Improvement has created an online Yellow Belt course, which organizations can leverage to begin the process of culture change and increase the probability of a sustainable LSS initiative. Because it is online, employees can take the course at their own pace at the times of their choosing. It can be done all at once, or broken into smaller pieces enabling the organization to rapidly and effectively drive culture change.

Another advantage of the online course is it provides individuals who want to learn more about LSS an avenue to do so with minimal cost and inconvenience. For example, if a person wanted to see if LSS is something that their organization or as an individual should consider, they can take the Yellow Belt class to quickly and easily determine their level of interest and if they wish to explore next step

Click here to register or view the Lean Six Sigma Online Yellow Belt class.

UNF Center for Quality and Process Improvement offers a combination of training, consulting and facilitation designed to meet each client’s unique needs. UNF offers online and instructor-led courses, as well as contract classes, consulting and facilitation in in more than 40 topics all related to continuous improvement and enhanced organizational performance. 

For more information on how the UNF Center for Quality & Process Improvement can help your organization, contact Lori Frederick, program director, at (904) 620-5801 or

Keith Gardner has been consulting and training in the area of quality and productivity improvement for the past fifteen years. As the lead instructor, his primary focus at UNF is Lean Six Sigma. He regularly consults with managers and senior executives in the implementation and enhancement of organizational Lean Six Sigma programs.

Gardner has worked with hundreds of clients in 24 countries in telecommunications, logistics, health care, call centers, staffing services, governmental agencies, the military, engineering services, food, automotive, metals, electronics, chemicals and furniture. He has a degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, an MBA from the University of Michigan and is an ASQ-certified Black Belt.