Monday, November 16, 2020

Marla Rosenblum, Administrative Services Coordinator for Staff Council sat down with Staff Council President Heather Mineart for a brief interview.  In this exchange, Heather reflects on her first 6 months as President, and shares her perspective about Staff Council and staff engagement and advocacy as she looks ahead to the final 6 months of her term.  Watch here or Read more...

Marla Rosenblum:  Hello!  My name is Marla Rosenblum and I am the Administrative Services Coordinator for Staff Council.  I am very pleased to be speaking today with Heather Mineart, Staff Council President, to get her perspective at the midpoint of her term as staff council president.

Heather, Time flies, and you are now approaching 6 months into your time as Staff Council President and I think we can all agree that it has been an unusual year. What observations can you share?

Heather Mineart: Indeed, it has been a crazy time…there has been no roadmap to follow for my presidency, but in general my observation is that Staff members are super resilient.    In my time as Staff Council President, we have continued to endure the global pandemic, social injustice, derecho in August, budget cuts and most recently the Executive Order, not to mention as a parent to two children myself having my kids along attending school in some kind of distance or hybrid learning, has added a lot of pressure/stress to working parents.   

Marla: what are your observations through all of this?

Heather: Through all of this… staff has been so buoyant; I am just so impressed.  And let’s not forget about the Health Care staff and other essential staff working on campus and continuing to put in 110% of effort…we can’t forget that an estimated 55% of P & S Staff work in the Health Care enterprise.  This just says so much about staff at Iowa. Commitment to UI, commitment to the community and to the state of Iowa.

I’m also keenly aware that with so many staff working remotely, it is more important than ever to focus on communication in an effort to stay connected.  That’s why staff council has placed particular emphasis on communication starting with a total re-do of the staff council website and placing effort into this monthly newsletter.  We have placed a great deal of emphasis/importance on councilor communication with constituents in hopes of driving the 2-way dialogue that is more useful than ever.

Marla:  In what areas has staff council been focusing during your initial 6 months, and what associated  progress has been made toward achievements?

Heather: The theme of enabling Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is one of utmost importance and staff council has worked to embed DEI related initiatives into committee work.  In addition to having a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, each of the other 12 Staff Council committees is including DEI related goals in their overall committee goals.

For example, the Awards committee is looking at the possibility of creating a DEI award to recognize staff members who exemplify Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion around campus and our community.  The Committee on Committees is looking at Charter Committee selection process through a DEI lens.  These are just a few quick examples.

Marla: Thank you for recapping your first 6 months.  Thinking about the final 6 months of your term, what are your hopes for both Staff Councilors and staff members in general?

Heather:  Without the benefit of many (or really any) face to face interactions, I believe that one of the most significant areas of emphasis is staff council representation on university committees, where counselors can advocate and make a difference on behalf of all staff. At the current time, 24 of our 55 councilors are representing staff on 36 committees…these committees do not include Presidential Charter Committees nor UI Staff Council Committees and I am continuing to place emphasis/significance in this area as new opportunities arise.  It’s just so crucial to have staff and staff councilor presence, giving staff a voice across campus as we work together to pave the future.

Marla: what else are you looking at for the upcoming months?

Heather: with President Harreld’s retirement announcement, as you know, the formal search for the new University of Iowa President will soon be underway.  We are thrilled that there will representation on the search committee by 3 staff members, including representation from P & S Staff, AFSCME (Merit) and SEIU, who will be using their voices to help select the next president.  But I want to emphasize that staff engagement in the search process is not limited to the search committee members.  We encourage active engagement by staff during this process as you share your own views, participate in open forums, and take advantage of all the opportunities to participate in the process and it was just announced that all search committee meetings will be live streamed as well.  Your staff councilors are also anxious for your feedback on this important topic.

Marla: Thank you for your time Heather.  It’s been interesting to hear about your first 6 months as Staff Council President and look forward to great things happening between now and June!

Heather: Thanks Marla!