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Staffer adds `steps' to LFM program

Valerie Acquaviva's role in the Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM) Program keeps her quite busy, but her other role as a professional dancer also keeps her moving-and it's proved useful both at MIT and in what she hopes will be a career combining elements of business and dance.

Ms. Acquaviva was a guest artist with local ballet companies until 1990, when she joined the Island Moving Company (IMC) based in Newport, RI. She now performs regularly with IMC while working part-time for LFM, where she coordinates the program's admissions and recruitment activities in collaboration with the LFM Fellows Program team. She also manages the large LFM electronic database, which she helped create three years ago after she was hired from the temp agency that sent her to MIT.

Ms. Acquaviva borrowed from her dance experience to add a new component to the LFM Fellows' orientation program. While most ballet companies are led by one person, IMC works as a team, sharing responsibilities and concentrating equally on both process and final product-paralleling the processes that many companies strive for, she explained. It seemed to her a natural fit to combine LFM's team and leadership needs with her dance company's methodology to create a team-building movement workshop for the orientation program.

"This project is near and dear to my heart," Ms. Acquaviva said. "It's the perfect combination of everything I do-the connection between my two worlds."

The workshop she and IMC developed has since become an integral part of the Fellows' annual week-long orientation. It was also conducted last May with the entire LFM staff at Endicott House during the first annual staff retreat. The workshop aims to build awareness of team interaction, communication, leadership, and the resulting effects on an organization's processes and end products. Participants are not required to dance, she said; "pedestrian movement" involves no formal skills. Common objects such as envelopes or string can be used as means of self-expression.

"Working at LFM opened my eyes to the power of business learning," Ms. Acquaviva said. Consequently, she enrolled in a management program at Lesley College (she expects to receive her master's degree in May) to acquire the skills to run a movement-communications business. It is her hope that she can successfully market the workshop to other organizations outside MIT.

A version of this article appeared in the November 20, 1996 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 41, Number 12).

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