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UD departments team up to help managers strengthen service skills

​Christine Pooler of Merion Golf Club works with Department of Theatre faculty member Allan Carlsen in a Leadership Theatre session.​

Last month general managers of golf and country clubs from around the Delaware and Greater Philadelphia regions visited the University of Delaware to participate in the Leadership Theatre program. The program aims to strengthen leadership skills in a service setting through the use of live theatre.

Allan Carlsen of the Department of Theatre, Amy Cowperthwait of the School of Nursingand Ali Poorani of the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM) collaborated to create this interactive and informative program, which also provides managers with education credits necessary for certification and development programs.

“This event is a great example of another interdisciplinary collaboration between two departments and colleges," said Sheryl Kline, department chair of HRIM. "The HRIM department’s research and outreach in service management and hospitality health care collaboration with the College of Health Sciences began with a series of Hospitality Healthcare training and education initiatives with Christiana Care Health System." 

The group utilized the resources of UD’s Healthcare Theatre, which helps health care professionals develop communication skills through interactive scenarios presented by theatre students to create real and interactive scenarios 

“Through the live stage, we provide coaching, opportunities for interactivity and practice that brings to life emotional, behavioral and cognitive components of issues facing managers and employees,” said Poorani, who also serves as director of Hospitality Associates for Research and Training (HART), the outreach arm of the HRIM department that helped to coordinate the event.

“Most of us are unaware of our communication styles, body language and listening skills when we interact with peers and clients,” Poorani said. “Leadership Theatre provides opportunities to partake in live demonstration and receive non-threatening immediate feedback from participants.”

Paula Kelly, program participant and general manager of Vicmead Hunt Club and Bidermann Golf Course, said that the interactive presentations were “both fun and educational.”

“The instructors leading the program were ‘in character’ throughout the session and provided some real life situations a club manager may come across in their position,” said Kelly, who is a UD alumna. “They started/stopped the program to highlight key areas and were very interactive with all attendees.”

“Participants really enjoyed the interactions and were able to learn from instructors and one another on how to handle what could be very difficult situations,” Kelly continued. “There is certainly more than one way to handle a situation, and this program provided an opportunity to explore a situation as it unfolded, while stopping to analyze the direction it was going in real time.”

Poorani agreed, saying, “The most interesting part is how different managers address an issue in different ways. It is very engaging to reach a consensus on how to solve a difficult scenario.”

Following these exercises, participants made flatbread pizzas at the student-run restaurant, Vita Nova, and enjoyed music by student a cappella group Vocal Point

They also enjoyed seasonal fall ice cream flavors from the UDairy Creamery’s Moo Mobile, made with milk from cows on the farm at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The ice cream truck itself was developed through a partnership with the Horn Program for Entrepreneurship in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.

Poorani said that he hopes the Leadership Theatre program helped managers to practice skills crucial to providing good service, “such as empathetic listening, body language, word choices and how to work with each other.”

​Healthcare Theatre device wins innovation award

In other news, the Healthcare Theatre program received recognition for a device that UD engineering students designed and fabricated to provide realistic training for the care of tracheostomy patients. 

The device, called SimuTrach, is an overlay worn by the actors playing the role of patients in simulation training. It provides another tool by which the actors help health care professionals and students develop communication and treatment skills through interactive scenarios.

The learning device has been selected as the first-place technology innovation winner by the 15th International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare Scientific Content Committee, which referred to the overlay system as "exceptional work."

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A partnership involving the Department of Theatre has expanded its projects beyond health care to include programs designed to strengthen leadership skills.
​A partnership between the Department of Theatre and units in two other colleges at UD has expanded its projects beyond health care to include programs designed to strengthen leadership skills through the use of live theatre.
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