SA Managers' Competencies Rubric



Student Affairs Culture Toolkit


Let’s get started.

This document is a roadmap to help you build a thriving, supportive culture in your unit, and across the division. Just like on a real map, there are many routes you might pursue, based on your own strengths, needs, constraints, and resources, and the tools and rubrics you’ll find below will help you chart your path.

Wait, what is culture?

Our culture is what we say and do, and how we treat each other. It reveals and reinforces our fundamental assumptions about what we believe and value, and as a result, affects how both colleagues and students experience our division’s work. When culture reflects and reinforces trust, collaboration, and commitment to a unified purpose, it makes our work easier, more effective, and more enjoyable for all our staff.

Why culture?

Perhaps you’ve caught yourself thinking, “I don’t have time for culture.” It’s an easy thing to think: our to-do lists far outstrip the hours in the day, and there are so many other valuable priorities that never even manage to make it on the list!

But here’s the thing: We are always creating culture through our choices and behavior, whether we’re intending to do so or not.

The question is whether we’re creating a culture that produces a great place to work, or if we’re creating a culture that undercuts those goals. This toolkit aims to help you make purposeful choices in your work. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Creating a great culture is not about doing more. It’s about doing differently.

What do we want?

Aspirational Culture Statement

“Student Affairs at UC Berkeley is a great workplace where staff trust the people they work with, take pride in what they do, and feel a sense of community in support of the student experience.”

Here’s our objective: Create a great place to work. A great workplace is one important lever for Student Affairs to attract, retain, and develop great employees. Student Affairs Cabinet members’ role is to lead their staff teams toward being the best employer in the Bay Area by 2025.

The successful Student Affairs Cabinet member:

  • Attends culture-related and social events, is visible to employees, and holds regular team meetings

  • Makes culture a frequent topic of conversation at regularly scheduled team meetings

  • Articulates an authentic and personal commitment to culture

  • Demonstrates support for leadership decisions through words, body language, and actions

  • Demonstrates commitment to senior leadership and the organization’s success

Using this toolkit

We’ve included three exercises, as well as an appendix of models and best practices, that you might utilize as you map out your culture development path. The three exercises build on each other, using the framework of the five goals above, but each can be used on their own as well. Use what’s helpful to you.


  • Starting the journey. We all approach culture work from different angles, with different levels of comfort and excitement. Use this exercise to think through where you fit on the spectrum to help you pinpoint the strategies that will help you expand your practice on team culture.

  • Charting the path. You’ve identified your starting point. Now, use this checklist of possible activities to move your work forward, and maybe even stretch yourself.

  • Evaluating my progress. While this rubric will not be a formal part of performance reviews this year, you can use it informally to track your development and evaluate your progress.

  • Appendix: Models and best practices. Check out these resources as you go for ideas, encouragement, and readings to expand your thinking about great culture on your team.



Starting the journey

How are you feeling about culture? Maybe excited, maybe overwhelmed, maybe not so great? That’s fine! Changing your behavior and choices can be both exhilarating and daunting. This first tool helps you to understand where you’re at, and helps you pick the right points of entry as you work to build culture in your unit or team.

It’s not a diagnostic or an evaluation. You can’t fail, and there are no wrong answers. Its aim is, instead, to help you figure out where to start. Taking on more than you feel ready for is a sure path to burnout; persisting with things you’ve already mastered gets stale. This tool helps meet you where you’re at.

How to use this tool

On the left side of the matrix are each of the five indicators we listed above. For each indicator, there are three columns corresponding to developmental stages in culture work. Read the statements in each box and check off the ones that resonate for you. They might all be in one column, or they might be all over the board—just check all that apply. Then, tally up the number of checks in each column to see where you are in your culture development journey.


What the heck? I’m not a [neophyte/pro/champion]?

No problem. This tool isn’t scientific! Pick the category that seems most aligned to where you are right now. But if there’s a huge discrepancy, think about why that might be. Consider talking about it with your supervisor or a member of the L&D team. Are you under-estimating your own culture work so far? Or might you have a different idea of what’s expected than what we’ve laid out here?


Charting the path

Peruse the actions below that you might take as steps on your culture journey. Based on where you are in your development, commit to several of the items in the column that corresponds to your point of development and challenge yourself to take on 1-2 items in the next column over.

Remember that you don’t need to do everything yourself! In many cases, it will make sense to delegate some aspects of the strategy to other staff members while you hold the vision. Throughout your review of this list, think of ways to engage your team members in culture work too, so that a strong culture is the responsibility of all staff in your department or team.

Evaluating my progress

Progress on your culture journey will not be a part of this year’s performance evaluations, so for the 2015-16 year, the rubric below can serve as a pulse-check. Generally speaking, where would you place yourself? How would your manager evaluate your progress? What about your team? What questions do you have about how each of these indicators should play out in your work?

Note: the intention is for this rubric to become part of the formal performance review process next year. As you’re working with it, please share any feedback about how to make it a more useful tool for you in understanding the expectations for you in your role, and charting your progress.


Appendix: Tools and models

Now that you’ve mapped out your journey, and you’re starting to get excited for the trip, perhaps you’re looking for a guidebook—or a thread of TripAdvisor comments from experienced visitors to your destination.