Campus News

PSS networking program goes virtual

Woman eats pizza as she participates in a social virtual meeting.

Even though the Lunch Bunch Club has gone virtual, it's still possible to get together for some networking with your co-workers over a meal.


Published June 10, 2020

Networking is such an important part of professional development. Hopefully the Lunch Bunch program can fill that void for UB staff members.
Ed Brodka, chair
PSS Staff Development and Engagement Committee

Grace Lazzara and Rachel Poole joined the Lunch Bunch Club as a way to meet other UB staff members they might not have had a chance to meet.

“When Rachel and I had lunch, we found out we had a lot in common despite the (ahem) 20-year difference in our ages,” says Lazzara, director of marketing, communications and outreach for the School of Public Health and Health Professions. “The conversation flowed very naturally.”

“Grace and I hit it off really well and had many similar interests,” adds Poole, human resources specialist for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Since their initial Lunch Bunch introduction, Lazzara and Poole have continued to meet over lunch whenever their schedules allow. “Rachel and I actually have a lunch zoom meeting set for tomorrow,” Lazzara told UBNow last month.

Continuing relationships like Lazzara and Poole’s are an extra bonus of the Lunch Bunch Club, a networking program sponsored by the Professional Staff Senate that continues virtually in these days of working remotely.

The program matches three staff members from different offices or departments. The trio chooses a date and time to meet for informal conversation ─ in the old days for lunch, and now perhaps via Zoom or Webex. Participants are encouraged to talk about their jobs or take the opportunity to learn about another office or department at UB. And in these days of working remotely, a popular topic of conversation might be how to handle the special challenges of working from home.

Since the program was initiated in spring 2019, the Lunch Bunch Club has grown to 68 participants, with 43 groups having met or planning to meet soon. Participants can continue meeting with their “lunch bunch” after their initial meeting or be matched with two other staff members.

Word mark featuring a computer icon and the words, "Lunch Bunch, networking + nourishment.".

The program, developed by the PSS Staff Development and Engagement Committee’s Social and Networking Subcommittee, is designed to help professional staff “break down silos, meet other staff they may know only via email or not at all, and foster a sense of camaraderie, good feelings and individual wellness,” says Rebekah Burke, subcommittee chair. And, of course, to “have a little fun.”

In addition to Burke, other committee members involved in the Lunch Bunch Club are Frank Tierney, academic initiatives coordinator, Campus Living; Stephen Hart, facilities coordinator, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Dylana Thompson, career planning and development assistant, Career Services; and Ed Brodka, career counselor, Career Services, and chair of the Staff Development and Engagement Committee.

Brodka notes the program is particularly important now that most UB employees are working remotely. “Because we are not physically on campus, we miss the impromptu opportunities to meet new people and network at physical meetings, or just run into someone in the hall or elevator and get introduced to a new person,” he says. “Networking is such an important part of professional development. Hopefully the Lunch Bunch program can fill that void for UB staff members.”

Lynn Emminger, human resources and facilities manager for the School of Nursing, says the Lunch Bunch Club is “a wonderful way to welcome new employees to the university, a good way to meet new people and learn about them and new things from them.”

“Also, it’s a great way for me to get out of my office while learning about new places around the campuses.”

Emminger originally was matched with Lazzara and Poole for the Lunch Bunch Club. Although the three haven’t had an opportunity to get together as a group, Emminger has been able to meet up with Poole, who she had met previously through Poole’s supervisor.

“Rachel and I get together when we can,” she says, “but we have also created a nice work connection and keep one another up to date on HR things that arise. We even went to a conference together in Ithaca.

“We do similar jobs and it’s always nice to learn from others.”

Professional staff members interested in joining the Lunch Bunch Club can register online.

For more information, contact Rebekah Burke.