By David McNally, ARL Public AffairsNovember 6, 2017
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- About 100 administrative support employees and contractors from across the U.S. Army Research Laboratory attended the 2017 Administrative Professional Summit at the Mallette Training Facility.
"The Administrative Professional Cohort addresses issues and concerns unique to this community, and jointly develops methods to enhance consistency of work products and provide meaningful opportunities for professional development and employee engagement," said Kelly Foster, associate director for the ARL executive staff and event organizer.
"Our focus is tied directly to People First and Business Acumen; two of the four pillars of ARL's Research, Management and Leadership Strategy."
With a series of interactive workshops and speeches from two keynote speakers, the event sought to enable networking, mentoring and knowledge sharing. Direct feedback from the attendees confirmed the event's success, Foster said.
"Participants felt inspired and motivated after attending the event and they were able to network and collaborate with other ARL employees they typically would not have the opportunity to interact with," she said. "Both keynote speakers shared how impressed and blown away they were by this cohort as nothing like this exists anywhere in the federal government."
The morning keynote address featured Melanie Keller, from U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who started in the government as a GS-5 secretary. In less than 14 years, at age 34, Keller entered the Senior Executive Service.
The afternoon keynote address featured Dr. Melissa Flagg, formally the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Research, now the CEO of her own consulting firm. Flagg lauded the group for its administrative support because it enables Army science and technology advances.
"Often you're viewed as just support, but I'd like to really change the way we think about this as sort of a whole ecosystem," Flagg told the crowd. "Without all of these connections and all of this engagement, and all these checks and balances that help us stay accountable to the taxpayers…we can't function."
Dr. Corde Lane, the ARL associate for Business Acumen, said administrative professionals are critical to the organization.
"They are a linchpin in understanding, implementing, and improving ARL's business processes," Lane said. "This summit provides an excellent way for our professionals to network, learn from each other, and ultimately determine areas to improve ARL business efficiency."
The cohort meets the first Tuesday of each month. The next meeting will be Nov. 7 as they identify and discuss activities for 2018, such as an action plan for implementing some of the best practices shared during the summit. Foster said the group will continue to shape the culture of the community around the characteristics of prototypical ARL administrative employees.
"Members of this unique group are innovative change agents who are passionate about what they do in support of the Army every day," Foster said. The immediate and long-term benefits of the Summit are simple: T.E.A.M (Together Everyone Achieves More). This cohort is a strong community that is committed to make ARL even better."
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.