IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Q&A with Flagship 2030 task force chair Gloria Timmons
As the University of Colorado at Boulder progresses with the Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan and positioning as one of the nation's leading public research universities, nine task forces representing key components of the university have been formed in order to help develop strategies for implementing the 18 initiatives outlined in the plan. The task force reports have been submitted and can be viewed online at the Flagship 2030 Implementation website. Meet Gloria Timmons, chair of the staffing and operations task force.
The staffing and operations task force comprised a diverse group of staff and faculty representing various departments across campus. The task force’s initial focus entailed evaluating staffing needs relative to the stated goals of Flagship 2030 to increase student enrollment and the size of the faculty. The work involved conducting research and informal surveys as well as discussing a variety of topics related to staffing and operations.
The task force addressed its perception that the campus is understaffed, resulting in staff members who are overwhelmed with work. The group’s focus also expanded to include the need for mentoring and professional development of existing staff, and the need to develop a culture of recognition and respect for all employees regardless of status – staff, faculty or student.
How do your duties as a task force chair fit in with your background and current position?
As the director of Employment Services, being asked to chair the staffing and operations task force was an honor and seemed very appropriate. I have a great understanding of and respect for staffing issues on campus. I have been employed on the Boulder campus in a staff position for over 16 years, most of those years spent working in Human Resources. From a personal perspective, when I started my career after earning my undergraduate degree I was provided valuable mentoring and development opportunities. After working in a number of HR roles, I went on to earn my MBA, which lead me to my current position.
I feel an affinity for the staff on campus. I recognize their commitment and have seen first hand how hard they work. As both a staff member and a Human Resources professional, I have had the opportunity to experience for myself and also hear the perspective of staff at all levels across campus. Most people don’t realize that we have 3,100 staff on the Boulder campus and 2,500 of them are classified staff. Yet classified staff often feel overlooked and underappreciated. Serving as the chair of this task force provided a great opportunity to draw attention to the needs of staff. Staff members need champions. Serving on this task force gave a number of us the opportunity to serve as their champions. It was also very rewarding to co-lead this task force with John Cumalat, a faculty member in physics, as well as to work with the other faculty members on the task force. To see their recognition of and concern for staff issues and then to see the commitment to finding ways to improve the culture for staff was not only encouraging but exciting as well.
What inspires and challenges you in creating and meeting your task force goals?
We have committed and talented employees who enjoy their work, consider their work important and recognize that it contributes value to the university. We have a beautiful campus and a vibrant campus community that is intellectually stimulating, academically challenging and incessantly creative. We are striving to create a welcoming and supportive climate and yet 55 percent of our staff says that morale is low. Anecdotal data suggest that the probable source of low morale is an underlying lack of esteem for staff and their work. While the faculty’s role in supporting the educational and research mission of the university is obvious, the role of the staff is less so.
Our challenge lies in continuing to explore and find new ways to create a campus culture that is welcoming and supportive for all, regardless of gender, race, position, class or status. Some programs have been successful in this area and have helped to increase morale among staff. These include recognition programs, training opportunities, work-life services (child care, eldercare, flexible schedules) and tuition assistance programs. We need to continue to explore opportunities to utilize these programs and in some cases expand them. There is also a need to focus on retention of the talented staff we have. About 34 percent of our classified staff will be eligible to retire within five years. Mentoring and professional development programs for staff could greatly enhance our ability to retain and grow our staff for the future. With the goals outlined in Flagship 2030, preparations for a larger and more diversified campus will require an investment in the hiring, development and retention of the staff. Staff members are and will continue to be an integral part of the university’s success.
If you could envision anything for the future of higher education, what would be your greatest aspirations?
Higher education is critical to our success as a country in this global community. I hope to see it continue to thrive and evolve. I also hope to see the opportunity for our children, regardless of socioeconomic background or status, to have access to higher education. From a more narrow perspective, I would like to experience a campus culture in which staff feel respected and see their contributions recognized. I would like to help make the University of Colorado an employer of choice: a place where employees are fully involved in the work they are doing, where they are excited and inspired and can’t wait to come back to work the next day.
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