December 7, 2022 Employee Forum minutes
Delegates Attending: Vanessa Blake, Randall Borror, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Jay Eubank, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Chrissie Greenberg, Leah Hefner, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Rebecca Howell, Brigitte Ironside, Kira Jones, Stacy Keast, Evan Marsh, Arlene Medder, Mandy Melton, David Michaud, Katie Musgrove, Joseph Ormond, Sara Pettaway, Charlissa Rice, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, Lori Shamblin, Jake Stallard, James Stamey, Janet Steele, Kurt Stolka, Annetta Streater, Matthew Teal, Julie Theriault, Alice Whiteside, Tracey Wiley, Michael Williams, Tyrone Williams, Jacob Womack
Excused: L.E. Alexander, Amber Meads, Manisha Mittal, Laura Pratt
Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m., welcoming the University’s new Vice Chancellor for Communications Kamrhan Farwell to speak with the Forum for the first time. Farwell noted her perspective as an outsider coming in to the new stories of accomplishment. She thought that the University could do more to tell these stories in a compelling way. For example, what in a person’s background makes cancer research their passion, their life’s work? She thought that the Communications Office could tell stories about individuals at Carolina that help the University tell its own story nationally and internationally.
Shayna Hill noted that communication events happen so quickly. She said that one of the things that have frustrated staff is that many times employees find out what is occurring on campus via the news. She wondered how the University might resolve this problem, granting the rate of change now is so quick. Farwell responded that social media has given Carolina a powerful spigot to tell the world its news, but has also quickened the pace of everything. She said that it is admittedly difficult to keep up with everything happening on campus in real time. Some areas of the news cannot be communicated in real time, but others lend themselves to live reporting, such as budgetary or policy questions. She said that Communications is one of the few teams that traverse the entire University and strives to know everything that goes on. One cannot hope to control everything, but one can go about communicating about events in an organized manner.
Arlene Medder asked if Farwell knew why the University had a power outage the day before. Farwell said that the best answer she had received to this question was that Duke Energy had instituted a brown-out/blackout. She was intrigued by this answer as these occurrences happen often in California but not so typically here in North Carolina.
The Chair thanked Farwell for her remarks and appearance that morning. She hoped that Farwell would engage with this group again as staff are a powerful tool to improve campus functions. The Chair then welcomed Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. Guskiewicz wished all good morning and noted the declining student activity as final exams are finishing up. He said it would be nice to slow things down a bit before the spring semester begins in January.
Guskiewicz noted that he had received a surprise visit from Field Hockey Coach Karen Shelton, marking her retirement after many successful years and this year’s national championship. He also noted that the Women’s Soccer team came up just short in its finals match versus UCLA.
Guskiewicz said that the Campaign for Carolina finished its work last month, raising over $5 billion for the University. He thanked all who participated in this work and in hosting a celebratory event on November 18th. Now, the University is looking to the future with the appointment of Michael Andreasen as its next vice chancellor for development. Andreasen will replace David Routh, who will step down at the end of December and has done a tremendous job with the current campaign.
Guskiewicz said that he and Andreasen will work in this interim period between campaigns on the next grand challenges initiative. In this endeavor, the University will focus its efforts to tackle big problems in the world that the campus is uniquely qualified to ‘Solve with Carolina.’ The University will try to develop campus ideas into $50-100 million proposals for which Development will seek donors early in the New Year.
He said that 45 of these proposals focused on workforce development. Guskiewicz said that this topic had arisen at the joint cabinet meeting yesterday, with the majority of discussion addressing succession planning and the opportunities for upward mobility at Carolina. The University will seek ways to prevent loss of talent to other universities or to industry.
Twenty-seven of these proposals dealt with health, wellness, and mental health in some way. As with succession, the Employee Forum has entertained discussions about this topic in the past year. He thought that the culmination of this effort would likely interest supporters in the next capital campaign.
Guskiewicz said that the University will also enter a process regarding how it spends its resources and how this spending aligns with its priorities. University administration has worked to ensure priorities are reflected in current spending.
Guskiewicz was proud that the University increased graduate student stipends as of January 1, 2023. He recalled this issue since his days as Dean of the College. The University has several schools that pay well above the minimum stipend, but Guskiewicz was gratified to increase the minimum to $20,000 for all students in all departments and schools. He was glad to accomplish this task but emphasized again that the root for all this stems from the University’s newly balanced budget.
Staff salaries are also of great importance, and Guskiewicz noted the ongoing work of Nate Knuffman, Becci Menghini, and other vice chancellors, along with the UNC System Office, to continue efforts to increase staff pay. He appreciated the Forum’s resolution on behalf of housekeepers last spring. He added that the University has accomplished a reclassification that will allow it to convey salary increases to these employees. Guskiewicz was hopeful that this change will help retain this critical workforce.
Guskiewicz added that he appreciated the Forum’s resolution on sexual assault and sexual harassment, a topic that remains prominent on every campus nationally. He was pleased to work with the Forum to ensure that the proper policies and procedures are in place and enforced in a way to make everyone on campus feel safe, physically and emotionally. The University’s new senior prevention strategy officer David Obergfell began his position in Student Affairs recently, overseeing efforts in this area.
At the joint leadership cabinet meeting yesterday, attendees heard about the progress that the University is making concerning all of these critical priorities. Guskiewicz emphasized that the strategic plan continues to be a roadmap for Carolina’s future. He noted a focus on career development, research and innovation, promotion of free speech efforts from its list of priorities, recalling the importance of everyone’s right to express themselves freely. He reaffirmed the importance of all of these priorities as the University moves into the New Year.
In sum, Guskiewicz said that staff are supported, are being invested in, and are welcome to challenge decisionmakers when they can do better. Guskiewicz said that he wants staff voices at the table.
He added news on updates on searches for the University’s leadership team, noting that campus interviews are underway for the Vice Provost for Libraries position. The search for the new Dean of the Business School has also just begun.
Kira Jones asked about the free speech issue and about the mental health components that staff are still facing. Guskiewicz said that conversations continue on this subject, as well as programs for public discourse. The University will continue to take on these issues and bring speakers to discuss them. He said that the University can utilize its on-campus faculty to investigate issues important to campus. Jones asked if Guskiewicz could share details about future legislation that might impact staff on campus. She noted that the fact that the legislature will soon be in session creates a lot of tension and anxiety.
Kamrhan Farwell said that the University continues to study these questions, particularly given The Well and its purpose and audience. People with thoughts on this topic should contact her directly, she said. She also noted the degree of participation that accompanies in-person communication that might not be captured in an email or an article in The Well.
Jones said that Forum delegates experienced some frustration in how The Well covers Forum meetings, as its articles constitute an important way to communicate with the campus community. She was unhappy that The Well did not include coverage of the Forum’s proclamation on the Dobbs decision from its September meeting. She asked how the Forum can continue its mission lacking this important avenue of communication. Farwell responded that The Well articles are only a summary of campus occurrences. She also noted that the Forum has multiple channels for communicating its work to staff, notably through UNC listservs and other channels. Farwell said that Communications will study this issue, but she encouraged the Forum to work on finding new ways to speak to people, an admittedly difficult task given that everyone is so busy.
Rebecca Howell echoed Jones’ comments, noting that omissions sometimes speak more loudly than what is actually written in The Well. She recalled that The Well has covered Forum meetings fairly extensively for at least the last couple of years. She noted that previous Forum resolutions at least received mention and a hyperlink in previous The Well articles. Howell thought that the omission of the Forum’s Dobbs proclamation was a very strong statement. She asked for more information and an explanation as to why the proclamation was completely omitted from The Well’s story about the meeting.
Guskiewicz replied that his office receives resolutions and proclamations every week from campus entities like Student Government. He received five such resolutions in the last week. He said that the university cannot use The Well to post every statement that comes out of a group on campus. Howell understood Guskiewicz’ point but said that she still thought that the omission of the proclamation was exceptional and intentional.
The Chair thanked Guskiewicz and Farwell for their remarks. She welcomed Rick Wernoski, the Senior Vice Provost for Business Operations and Continuous Improvement and consultant Liz Billings to speak on Lean Foundations training. Wernoski recalled speaking with the Forum previously and began with a high-level overview of Operational Excellence (OE) work recently.
Wernoski said that Operational Excellence serves as a catalyst for change and a champion for transformation across the University in support of its mission of teaching, research, and public service. He noted that the organization partners with schools, units, and departments in development of transformative change. Operational Excellence aims to be a premier strategic consulting and change management team that serves the Carolina community and influences the academy of higher education in general. Campus officials serve on national conferences, teams, and committees.
As a guiding principle, Operational Excellence is very intentional in working with projects and bringing teams together to solve problems. The organization works with no predetermined solutions in mind, working to arrive at solutions with individuals ready to power the process forward. Wernoski said that his office has featured solutions design as one of its most prominent services. He recalled partnerships with the Office of Human Resources and the School of Education, the latter towards developing a school in Person County, in conjunction with the local school advisory board. These are advisory facilitations. Operational Excellence also helps with leadership transition and feasibility impact work.
Wernoski said that Operational Excellence has worked to address training issues given the campus’ opportunities and concerns. This effort is highly dependent on volunteers. Operational Excellence has thought about how to embed this mindset across campus in prospective volunteers. Wernoski said that the Lean Foundations training program is the result of this consideration.
Elizabeth Billings, the continuous improvement consultant for OE’s team, asked listeners to consider Lean Foundations as a problem-solving method rooted in the scientific method. Billings said that this approach provides a set of tools to trainees to improve processes within units and departments. She emphasized that everyone involved in this process is searching for problems and identifying opportunities to solve them and thus to increase efficiency
Lean Foundations is thus an introductory training designed to inspire this culture to continually improve operations that support the university’s mission. The training introduces three approaches to continuous improvement, including tools to improve processes and teach how to eliminate waste in daily work. Learning objectives include 1) to understand Lean and its principles, and why they are necessary for transformative change, 2) to explore how to apply these principles to increase value and eliminate waste in daily work, and 3) to inspire this culture of continuous improvement in others.
Billings said that OE piloted the Lean Foundation training with around 20 colleagues and found this effort had been very successful. Feedback from this pilot was incorporated into the program launch at the end of October. To date, over 50 campus colleagues have been certified in Lean Foundations training.
OE has created training website listing learning objectives, upcoming session dates, and a new training dashboard. Organizers aim to be data-driven and to use key metrics to evaluate and help direct change in work being done. Billings hoped that the dashboard would provide future enrollees a glimpse into what they can expect to learn, with feedback incorporated into training following surveys of participants.
Billings said that interested parties can register through Carolina Talent, with the next two trainings taking place on January 25th and 26th. She encouraged potential participants to sign up quickly as trainings fill up rapidly. She offered to speak individually with employees who have questions or ideas or information.
The Chair said that she had undertaken the Lean Foundations training and obtained the certificate. She highly recommended the training as a good start, with definitely more to build on. She praised Wernoski, Billings, and their team for their efforts. Wernoski said that the training represents a very high-level introduction to these concepts. He had heard from participants that they are hungry for more information about how to apply these ideas. Consideration now turns to exploring deep dive applications and providing additional trainings around these applications.
Wernoski thanked UNC Health for its partnership to help mold this training. Organizers are now working to meet the desire for a deeper dive into these concepts.
The Chair welcomed Director Laura Kuizin to speak regarding the new Masters of Professional Studies program offered through the Graduate School. Kuizin said that this new interdisciplinary graduate program will be housed in the Graduate School. The inspiration for the program came from articulation of an idea promoting development of a 21st century workforce that was first broached in 2020.
The program is directed towards UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC System administrative staff, providing an opportunity to design a program unique to one’s needs that can also improve regional and state workforce development. At the core of the program now is a combination of professional development, personal self-assessment, and other skills. Kuizin said this program was composed by the combination of these needs. The impetus for the program is that students arrive at proposals that fulfill workforce needs. These proposals can be based in one’s current role or on a potential future role. The program is designed to provide the extra step and resources to move forward.
Unlike other masters’ programs, this one has a capstone project designed to make some kind of improvement or advancement, either in one’s current role on campus or in something of advanced interest. The degree is composed of thirty credit hours, with the introductory course of three hours launching in January 2023. Nine credit hours of professional skills training will be offered through the program, as well as credit hours in self-assessment. Students can then sign up for nine credit hours from one department and six from another, designing their own curriculum that best suits their needs.
Attendees have up to five years to complete their studies, which can be scheduled either full-time or part-time. One could obtain a degree in eighteen months if attending full-time. Program offerings will mix in-person and online courses, again mainly chosen by the participants.
Applicants will need a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher as well as three letters of recommendation. Supervisors are particularly good sources for these letters, as there is no requirement that recommendations come from faculty. A statement of purpose will also provide insight as to why the applicant is pursuing this degree. She offered to answer other questions about the application as they arise. She also noted the tuition waiver opportunity afforded those employed for 30 hours or more a week.
The Chair thanked Kuizin for her presentation and praised the program as a great opportunity for professional development for staff on campus. She said that the Forum will work to get the word out about this important new program.
The Chair then welcomed Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini to provide the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Menghini thanked all from the Forum who are participating in the winter blood drive that morning. She was pleased to note that everyone had made it through another semester.
Menghini noted that labor market adjustment reserve dollars have been allocated to the university from the legislature. Officials are evaluating units’ ability to put these dollars in place. This is one of the state-funded payroll base initiatives that is allocated to the university to help deal with labor market adjustments. Menghini noted a range of specific rules governing use of these funds, mainly dealing with those who are earning below market rate for their positions.
Menghini noted another challenge surrounding the administration of these dollars is funding positions that have multiple funding sources as of June 30th, 2022. Allocation of any labor market adjustment must allow only a proportion of state funds for a position. The university must also contribute to this adjustment with local money as well.
The university had not planned on use of this money and has not budgeted accordingly, Menghini said. Thus, decisionmakers have worked to find how to best take advantage of all available dollars without creating new financial impacts in other areas. Menghini stressed that this money is to address labor markets across pay bands, and is not intended to reward favored employees.
After analysis of pay trends for positions, OHR turned information over to units, which has since been returned. Now, OHR is going through the approval and review of applications for this money in coordination with the UNC System Office. Menghini noted the outstanding work of OHR employees who are working to make these funds available in the December payroll.
Menghini said that OHR continues to advocate forward movement on salary ranges, particularly for SHRA employees. OHR leaders will soon meet with the System Office in what she hopes will be progressive talks in allowing the university to move a range of valuations forward outside of Office of State Human Resources (OSHR). More news on this topic will come in the new year, Menghini said.
In response to a chat question, Menghini said that there are no changes anticipated to the university’s adverse weather plan. David Bragg asked if there are any plans to update market ranges for positions. He recalled that these ranges have not been updated since 2017 or perhaps even earlier. Menghini reiterated that the University does not have local authority to change salary ranges on campus, nor does the UNC System Office.
Instead, this authority resides currently with OSHR. The University cannot act on salary ranges until an agreement exists between the System Office and OSHR.
The Chair thanked Menghini for her remarks. She welcomed Senior Work/Life Manager Jessica Pyjas to present this month’s wellness update. Pyjas noted that the Holiday Lunch had been brought back this year, hosting 40 people, including some Forum delegates, as well as virtual attendees.
In addition, Pyjas noted that the Jingle Bell Jog took place earlier this month with around 300 people participating. She praised the spirit, costumes, and participants on that day. The Spring Fling event will occur May 5th this year.
Pyjas reported on the wellness offerings for November and December, which reached about 40 people in the last month. She would relay news of these events through an email to the Forum listserv later that morning. The Chair thanked Pyjas for her extensive work on these numerous opportunities and discounts.
The Chair called for a motion to approve the November minutes. Arlene Medder made this motion, seconded by David Bragg. The motion was approved by acclamation.
The Chair asked for committee reports. Joe Ormond reported that Shane Brogan was in the process of notifying scavenger hunt prize winners of their status. He had no further report from the Communications and Public Relations committee. The Chair suggested that this information could go into a December edition of InTouch.
Vanessa Blake said that the Book Club is working to roll out its 2023 selections.
On a separate note, Kurt Stolka announced that the CRX route from GoTriangle is shutting down. Passengers are trying to start up a Carolina Livery route to pick up these trips. He said that this will not be a perfect solution, but it was the best that could be done given the driver shortage these days. The Chair noted reports that the suspension is temporary and hopefully would not be extended.
Jacob Womack said that the Community Service committee has sent emails on behalf of a sponsorship of two children for the Orange County Department of Social Services. Gifts for these children are due on Friday, presenting a short turnaround time for these efforts. Gifts and cash will be accepted and used to purchase toys for these children. Womack also offered to start a digital payment option for this cause.
Additionally, last month the committee partnered with Edible Campus and Carolina Dining Services to raise money and food and pantry items for Carolina Covenant students and others in need. Womack said that this drive has received two large drop offs of material already. He said that the campus continues to turn out for these drives in an inspiring way.
The Chair noted that the Winter Blood Drive is now underway at Fetzer Gymnasium. She encouraged all to participate if opportunity allows. Updates on totals will be ready for the January Forum meeting.
Arlene Medder said that the Carolina Community Garden will hold its winter advisory committee meeting soon.
Janet Steele of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee said that group had met to reaffirm its current work and come up with new topics for work. Among these are the scarcity of meditation and prayer rooms on campus. These rooms can also serve as mental health havens or for private conversations. Also, the committee sought to ensure that the university was aware of delegates’ feelings regarding publicity about the Dobbs proclamation. The issue of elderly care arose, along with the possibility of assistance to manage these needs. Finally, the question of minors in the workplace has come to the forefront, with strong feelings on either side of the issue. The committee plans to host Deborah Stroman from the Gillings School of Global Public Health as a special guest for its January meeting.
The Chair noted that the Education and Career Development committee is busy processing several professional development grants which were recently awarded in November.
The Chair said that the Executive Committee will likely meet just before the winter holiday, on Friday, December 16th.
There were no updates from the Membership & Assignments committee.
Leah Hefner reported that she and Matthew Teal participated in a meeting the previous day with the U3 consulting firm addressing affordable housing, particularly for universities and health care systems. She looked forward to hearing more of this discussion in the spring.
There was no report from the Recognition & Awards committee.
Shayna Hill reported from the Staff Assembly that for the foreseeable future, career banding will stand as the organizing system for UNC, according to recent Board of Governors discussions. She said that the UNC System Staff Assembly continues to lobby the Board and the System President to adjust market rates for employees. The next meeting of the Staff Assembly will occur in March.
The Chair did not have an update from the Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor (STACC). The Campus & Community Advisory Committee is on hiatus. Similarly, the Carolina Next Advisory committee has not met this quarter.
The University Day/Commencement Committee saw that University Day went well. Winter Commencement will take place in December.
The Chair did note that the Carolina Center for Public Service advisory committee will start work and seek representatives from the Forum soon. Rebecca Howell reported that the Policy Review Committee has been active on the minors in the workplace question and looks forward to hosting Director Starr Sanders for discussions at the Forum’s January meeting.
The Chair reported that the Advisory Committee for Transportation and Parking had begun forming the five-year planning group, with her and Vice Chair Keith Hines as the two Forum delegates serving with this group. She hoped that group would call its first meeting soon to work through potential changes in this area for the next five years.
Tiffany Carver said that the UNC Peer Support Committee has launched a call for proposals for mini-grants that advance peer support at the university. Proposals could include activities or resources. She would share more information via the Forum listserv. Applications will be accepted through April 30, 2023.
The Chair noted the next Vice Chancellors’ Representatives’ meeting on Thursday, December 8th from 10-11 a.m. via Zoom. Interested delegates should contact Matt Banks for Zoom information.
Tiffany Carver took a moment to thank the Chair for her priceless leadership this past year. The Chair thanked all for their team effort on behalf of the Forum and the university.
In the absence of further discussion, Rebecca Howell moved that the meeting adjourn, seconded by Arlene Medder. The meeting adjourned by acclamation at 10:40 a.m.
Respectfully submitted, Matt Banks, Recording Secretary