|Article By: Amy L.
Web Site By: Tom W.
What do companies
do to ensure teamwork in their offices? If you are a large company,
such as Zefer, or a small business group just starting out, or even a class
group, you might consider taking a trip to the Browne Center, in Durham,
NH. At the Browne Center there are a variety of activities that you
could pursue. Your group could have one of the leaders of the Center
oversee a meeting of the minds. They make sure that everyone is heard and
that large decisions are constructive to the group. Or, your group
could attempt the team-building ropes courses, which stresses team building
physical ability. Your group could also travel away from the center
to Nottingham, NH and try a rock-climbing trip at Pawtuckaway State Park,
or endeavor to try "Overnight Adventure" camping trip. The Browne Center
allows people to try out concepts while working together before they come
together in class or on the job.
The Center is owned
and operated by the University of New Hampshire. Located on a 103-acre
piece of land, on Great Bay it is protected by law and cannot be built on
They do a variety
of activities with these companies. New companies come to them to sit
down together and set up rules for their business. "Strategic Planning"
sessions are very common. The helpers at the Browne Center act as the
mediators of the sessions. A neutral party can help companies see down
the road further and point out problems that otherwise could be hard to see.
One of the major goals is to keep everyone as happy as possible, because an
unhappy employee can cost the company a lot more money than a happy one would.
Pam McPhee is the
director of the Browne Center. At our interview with her we found out
a lot about what she does at the Browne Center. We asked her about the history
of the Browne Center as she saw it. She said, "In 1987 we had a few
activities, ropes course activities, out here in the woods, when there was
nothing else here. Then, from that point, more & more groups wanted to
use it, even though it only two or three activities. I was a faculty
member at the
University of New Hampshire at that time. We wanted to make it a teaching
tool for our environmental majors as well as offer it as a service for those
who wanted to use it. It grew & grew & grew, until, through various
fund raising efforts, we were able to build this building, and in 1993 we
officially opened the doors to start having groups come."
We asked her about
how the Browne Center interacts with the environment. She said, "This is
probably our weakest area of everything we focus on. In a very
passive way, what we would hope to do is take a look at [people’s] behavior
and look at the consequences of their behaviors, personally, on other people,
and groups." They do this in little ways. McPhee explained, "When a
group is about to walk into the woods, [we] explain that you need to stay
on the paths, because if you don’t it actually leads to soil compaction that
actually kills the trees. So people begin to understand a little bit that
even a footstep has an impact, on the bigger picture."
The Center is home
to Kermit’s Creek which is the base of some studies done by UNH students
on soil acidity. The Center is beginning to work on their environmental
impact since they haven’t done much work yet; however, by law, they cannot
build anymore on their land so they are working on protecting the land that
they have as well as overseeing wildlife studies on their land.
McPhee stressed that
there are difficulties that come with her job. Funding is a major one.
Many of their ideas couldn't go through because of lack of money. They
have figured out a way to overcome some of their funding costs. They
charge more money to corporate groups because they can afford it and less
to schools so that the costs balance themselves out. Another problem
is it is hard sometimes to make teams more effective. They have the
difficult task of making sure that the teams go away with skills to help
them work together and become more efficient.
The Center has had
countless successes. They served over 8,000 people last year alone.
They are very glad that people keep coming back and regard it as a good place
to revisit. There have been lots of individual successes within groups,
and at the Center they have a book depicting some of them.
The Browne Center
works on an international level also. They are part of the "Friends
Forever" program which brings teens from warring nations together.
They help underprivileged countries’ citizens learn how to become environmentally
conscious. McPhee says, "To work on those programs are just great."
When asked specifically
what her job as the Director of the Center entails McPhee told us that she
does everything from traveling to work with groups over the nation, to cleaning
the bathrooms. She says that everyone in the center works on whatever
needs work. The people who run the center are a good group and they
work well together. McPhee loves working at the Browne Center for personal
reasons too. She can pursue her personal growth at the center and have
lots of fun at the same time. "We have extraordinary people, not just extraordinary
teachers/ facilitators, but just people who’s values that I really admire
& want to emulate, so you can be around this terrific group, and that
helps rubs off," McPhee says.
McPhee has to travel
a lot as part of her job. "It isn’t as glamorous as it sounds," she claimed.
She makes the point that it doesn’t make a difference to be somewhere else
doing the same things that you do when you are at home. She usually
doesn’t have a lot of time to sightsee and check out all the tourist sites,
which detracts from some of the excitement of traveling. She simply
flies in, gets the job done, and flies out. She does like the experience
of the "local color." She jokes about the different places she has traveled
and the different character of each place. For instance she said they
serve much bigger portions of food in the Midwest, and they smoke a lot.
Places she has traveled include Hawaii (only to be there for 3 hours), and
all the states in the US, Brazil, and Canada.
A lot of companies
have worked with the Browne Center. Many of the companies are new computer
or computer-related companies, since computers are a booming business right
now. McPhee explains that they also work with a lot of manufacturing
A very important
aspect of the Browne Center that Pam McPhee is extremely passionate about
is the disabled accessibility. Pam feels strongly that everyone should
be able to use the services provided by the Browne Center; therefore, they
have worked very hard to make the courses rely on teamwork and not physical
fitness. Things like a simple platform for a wheelchair to be able
to get across a rope swing are some of the unique and creative ideas that
the people at the Browne Center have worked hard to incorporate into their
facilities. Pam values "universal programming," which means anyone
can do it, at the Browne Center they try to teach people the value of diversity
and to appreciate others differences. This is a hard job, but
the workers at the Brown Center are certainly up to the challenge.