Austin Stair Calhoun2019 Rising Alumni

Austin Stair Calhoun

Austin Stair Calhoun is currently Chief of Staff for the U of M Office of Medical Education, making her responsible for strategic operations and working with school leadership on new initiatives. Many of her past roles involved promoting access to technology for the common good, including Director of E-learning and Digital Strategy for the School of Kinesiology. Austin has a commitment to social justice, using her research findings to create awareness and policies around inclusive online content. She believes it’s important for professionals to “show up, follow up, and raise your hand up,” and enjoys problem-solving and innovating at work. Austin credits her time in CEHD with providing interdisciplinary opportunities that helped her create a unique educational experience as well as a strong network.

Current Job

Chief of Staff, Office of Medical Education, University of Minnesota–Medical School

CEHD Degree

PhD Kinesiology, 2014

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

I have been with the University of Minnesota for over a decade and have held roles of increasing responsibility over that time from graduate assistant to bargaining unit staff to a professional role. Currently, as chief of staff, I am responsible for strategic operations of the Office of Medical Education (OME) and its affiliated units. I work with team leads to ensure efficiencies and consistency in operational procedures across the education continuum as well as working with leadership to activate and integrate new initiatives. OME has over 100 employees in eight departments—and I am a lead decision-maker and liaison on finances, human resources, and facilities for the majority of those teams.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy with Jo Ann Buysse, which was an incredible experience as a graduate student.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Mary Jo Kane and Nicole LaVoi, my co-advisors.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

The impact was unparalleled. I moved to Minnesota for my PhD knowing virtually no one, and now 10 years later, I've built a life. My degree program in kinesiology and the interdisciplinary opportunities across CEHD helped create a unique portfolio. My educational experiences weren't rote—that is to say, they were co-created and co-produced with me, my advisors, and other key faculty and mentors. It was both organic and intentional.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

Some advice I was given once was to "just show up." I would modify that with, "show up, follow up, and raise your hand (up)." Being present, being resilience, and being willing (having a growth mindset!) goes a long way.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

I go for a run or I do a NY Times crossword puzzle. I have three kids (5.5, 3.5, 3.5) who also keep me moving.

How do others describe you?

I looked at my performance appraisal for 2018 and this is what our vice dean Mark Rosenberg wrote: “Austin possesses a unique set of skills that lead to her exceeding expectations in her role as chief of staff for the Office of Medical Education. She combines the ability to think strategically and to execute successfully on initiatives. She is detailed oriented but can see and accomplish the big picture. She engages multiple and diverse stakeholders in an effective manner. Austin has a unique ability to package ideas in a short and succinct way for all to understand and that is very effective in achieving positive outcomes. I often come to her with a vague idea and leave with a one-pager that clearly articulates the idea. She is a creative problem-solver and has developed processes to enhance OME operations (e.g. HR, finances, employee relationships). Her technical skills are outstanding.

How do you describe yourself?

I have always been a generalist or a "Jane of all trades." I also love being a little unexpected, by surprising people with a grasp of seemingly incongruous skills or interests.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

This is a tough one! I am an uncloseted Harry Potter fan. I also love: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore; The Time Traveler's Wife; The Silent Patient; His Perfect Wife; and The Girl With All the Gifts.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Serena Williams.

What gets you excited about work?

Problem-solving and innovating.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a news anchor—I was going to be the next Katie Couric.