Onboarding Is a Conversation: Incorporating Appreciative Inquiry and Cultural Humility into New Employee Experiences

Onboarding is a term that conjures up checklists and logistical tasks, such as filling out paperwork, attending training sessions, and getting added to listservs. For both new employees and their managers, however, there are also significant affective elements, including navigating organizational practices, cultural norms, and interpersonal relationships. These play an important role in shaping the new employee’s professional path and sense of belonging in the organization. While many new employees experience the tension of internal and/or external expectations to both stand out for their potential and blend into the existing organizational culture, this tension can be particularly challenging for individuals who are underrepresented or not represented at all in the organization. The presenters, both in leadership positions, have recently been on both sides of the onboarding process and will share their ideas for incorporating the concepts of appreciative inquiry and cultural humility with the twofold goal of cultivating more inclusive and person-centered experiences for new employees and transforming the traditional onboarding process into an opportunity for organizational reflection and growth. Participants will be invited to share their experiences and together explore ideas for other concepts and models that can be adopted and/or adapted for this process.

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Oct 20 2023


3:45 pm - 4:45 pm




  • Anna Sandelli
    Anna Sandelli
    Head, Teaching and Learning Programs, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Anna Sandelli is an Associate Professor and Head of Teaching and Learning Programs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Libraries, where she leads a department focused on student success, information literacy, user experience, and online pedagogy. Her roles and interests have included enhancing student-created learning communities, coordinating the libraries’ student advisory committee, ethnographic research, and teaching for-credit courses and workshop-based sessions for first-year, transfer, graduate student, and faculty populations in synchronous and asynchronous settings. She enjoys engaging with campus partners to advance innovative teaching and experiential learning and is currently serving as a University Honors Faculty Fellow, where she is working with team charged with re-envisioning UTK’s Undergraduate Honors curriculum. Anna is a co-founder of the Library Writing Cooperative, a group designed to help librarians share their work and ideas across the profession, and she has been recognized as an American Library Association Emerging Leader.

  • Beate Gersch
    Beate Gersch
    Assistant Dean for Student and Research Success, Kent State University Libraries

    Beate Gersch is the Assistant Dean for Student and Research Success at Kent State University Libraries. Her M.A. in American Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin led her to pursue her Ph.D. in Media Studies at the University of Oregon and making a permanent home in the U.S. After teaching and researching in the areas of media studies and intercultural communication for a number of years, Beate discovered that librarianship was a perfect path to put information literacy into practice and not grade student papers on a weekly basis. She received her M.L.I.S. from Kent State University and went off to become a Coordinator for Library Instruction at the University of Akron and Head of Liaison & Orientation Services at Harvard Library. Before serving as assistant dean, Beate has held various positions, from staff to adjunct professor, tenured associate professor and visiting instructor. As a manager and administrator she remains curious about organizational culture and communication and strives to do her part in improving those every day.