Tips for Writing About Contributions to Teams and Work and Learning Environments

Applicants for faculty and administrative positions in IANR must include a statement describing their experience working in teams or groups and their anticipated contributions to environments where every person and every interaction matters.

View the rubric for evaluating applicant statements.

The following is guidance for writing this statement.

Step 1: Do your homework. Go online to learn about what the university, IANR, and hiring unit are saying about working in teams or groups and the kind of environments that support collaboration and reward contribution to teams. You can learn about IANR’s approach to this effort here. You can also read about IANR’s framework for promoting equal access, belongingness, and nurturing work and learning environments by clicking here. You should also look through the job announcement for statements that describe expectations for collaboration, team science, and contributions to environments that support everyone’s success.

Step 2: Reflect on your experiences in working in teams or groups. What types of teams or groups have you been a part of? What have been your formal and informal roles in those teams/groups and how have those roles affected your contribution? How has diversity (e.g., in role, expertise, training, perspective, background, demographics) or lack of diversity within the team contributed to the team’s functioning and outcomes? 

Step 3: Reflect on your work and/or learning environment and what you are doing to make it what it is. How would you describe the climate of your work and/or learning environment? What influence do you have on the climate? Who has the most influence on the work/learning environment, and why is their influence so great? What is the role of climate in the achievement of outcomes and impact?

Step 4: Write your story. Describe your experience working with teams or groups and how you leveraged the team/group dynamics to achieve outcomes. Describe how you have contributed to an environment that welcomes others’ contributions, even if those contributions are different than your own. It may be helpful for you to use your description of working in teams/groups to illustrate how you have contributed to an environment where individuals can thrive and go on to benefit the whole. Be sure to describe how you expect to contribute to a welcoming and inclusive learning and work environment in the job you are applying for. 

Be specific. In the brief amount of space provided, cite at least one example that illustrates your experience working in teams or groups. If your example of working in teams or groups isn’t also an example of your contributions to environments that ensure that everyone’s contributions are acknowledged and matter, make sure that you provide a specific example in response to that part of the prompt. 

Focus on action. Tell what was done to create the kind of environment that encourages diversity of contributions and belongingness. If there were challenges to working in teams or to creating environments where every person and every interaction matters, briefly acknowledge the challenge (but don’t go into too much detail) and focus on what was done to address the challenge. If it was someone else responsible for the actions, acknowledge their contributions to the solution and what you learned through the experience.

Look to the future. While we want you to tell us about your previous experience, we are most interested in knowing what your contributions will be. Make sure you tell us how you will work with others in teams or groups and how you anticipate contributing to environments that welcome diversity and that encourage others’ contributions and facilitate their success. It may be helpful to identify your approach or strategy for doing this.

Simplify. Avoid providing so much detail that it distracts from the points you are trying to make or raises more questions than it answers. In crafting your statement, it may be helpful to think backward from your goals. One goal is to get an interview. During the interview you will be able to elaborate on your experiences and anticipated contributions. Don’t feel like you must describe every nuance in this statement. Another goal is for everyone—regardless of their role, expertise, knowledge level, or background—to have opportunities for equal access and to contribute in a way that matters. Focusing your statement on describing only those experiences you have had, actions you have taken, and actions you expect to take that will help us achieve that goal may help to create a response that is focused and simplified.

Tailor your statement to this job and this university. Be careful in your assumptions about what is being asked in responding to this prompt. It is best to respond to the prompt as it is written, rather than assume that we are asking for something like what other universities are asking for. Also, while the prompt is the same for all faculty and administrative positions, make sure you tailor your statement to the responsibilities of the job you are applying for. This is an opportunity for you to help us see that you understand the context of the job and how, within that context and the unique responsibilities of the job, you will contribute to teams and groups.

Stay within the allotted page limits. Think of the person who is reading and evaluating your application and what they want to see. Recognize that they have many applications to review, and that every additional paragraph or page requires additional time and effort. It is better to stay under the maximum pages requested than to go over.