Staffers bring their best selves to campus's NOW Conference

August 2, 2017

A self-described "positivity activist," Shola Richards knows how to connect to a crowd. On stage at UC Berkeley's fifth annual NOW Conference, Richards, author of "Making Work Work," has been tasked with infusing UC Berkeley's staff with a healthy dose of positivity — something that he works on daily.

"I try to leave a person or place just a little bit better than you found them," he tells a full auditorium. "It's not forever. It's just today. And today. And today," he says with a smile.

Oscillating from quiet conviction to booming stories about his passionate parents — his mother is "the most southern woman you'll ever meet" and his dad is a sage African man from Sierra Leone — Richards' aim for his hour-long talk was simple: "65 million Americans experience some form of workplace bullying," he said. "It'd be naive to think some of you don't deal with this. My goal here in my short time with you is to figure out how we can flip this around and create a positive workplace for all of us."

For the past five years, Berkeley has held the Next Opportunity at Work Conference — a day of speakers, breakout sessions, career coaching and networking for the campus's some 8,000 staff.

This year's theme — "bring your best self" — was created to encourage participants to find new ways to become mindful and self-reflective in their work. "Among my highest priorities is the reinvigoration of a shared sense of community on our campus," wrote Chancellor Carol Christ in the event's welcome statement. "A meaningful feeling of belonging shared by all who work, teach and learn here."

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