By Charisse Lopez-Mason
Special to UM News
One by one, the University of Miami’s newest faculty and staff—physicians, patient access representatives, researchers, IT professionals, and more—gathered on an early Monday morning at the Newman Alumni Center for their first day of work.
After a ceremonial ribbon cutting to mark the occasion, the group of 50 participated in I Am the U, UM’s reimagined new-employee orientation program. Inspired by feedback from University faculty and staff and several months of planning and hard work from the Building a Better U Together’s Global Orientation work team, the new program introduces employees to the University’s common purpose, DIRECCT values, service standards, structure and operations, history, and more.
“The experience was invigorating,” said participant Tamara Long, a patient navigator for Clinical Access.
The highlight for her, was when alumnus Ray Bellamy, a UM trailblazer, popped in to talk to the group.
Bellamy is the first African-American to sign a football scholarship to play for the University of Miami, and the first African-American football athlete given a scholarship to a major university in the Southeastern part of the United States.
“When I listened to his story, it brought tears to my eyes,” said Long. “He said one thing that stood out to me, he said the University of Miami had his back.”
Bellamy, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of Education and Human Development, spoke to the group about his UM experience, saying, “You cannot find a better place. UM made a difference in my life, and I promise it will make a difference in yours.”
Throughout the day, a team of facilitators, UM employees who volunteered, auditioned, and trained to lead the program, led the group through a series of hands-on interactive activities that focused on the University’s past, present, and future.
Kesha Grayson, a supervisor of systems and technology at the Shalala Student Center and an I Am the U facilitator, said that participating in the program was a no-brainer. “As an alumna, I innately know what it means when we say, ‘It’s great to be a Miami Hurricane.’ I wanted to share that and be a part of welcoming new employees to their new roles,” she said.
Grayson has worked for UM for 13 years and says the best part of the experience has been finding 25 new “besties,” co-facilitators whom she now considers friends.
“I always knew I was a part of a bigger picture,” said I am the U facilitator Sergio Pintado, a patient access supervisor. “But being a part of this program showed me just how bright the future is at the U.”
The new program runs up to three times per week on the Coral Gables campus. It closes with a graduation ceremony and special visit from Sebastian the Ibis, who teaches the group the Miami Hurricanes C-A-N-E-S chant.
“At the end of the day,” said Long, “I realized I was now part of a new and growing family.”
To learn more, visit firstdays.miami.edu.