What an honor to serve as your Staff Senate President. I greatly appreciate the trust and belief you are placing in me to serve in this capacity, and I want you to know that I’m just as excited to serve as when I started as a Staff Senator in 2009.
I begin this term with a Staff Senate that is in a great place due to the leadership of Past-President Salvadras, the 2021-2022 Executive Committee, and Staff Senators. We could not have asked for a more caring and driven President, and I want her to know just how much I appreciate her leadership.
Today is a new day and I’m here to challenge every single one of us in our individual roles. To be honest, I have high expectations for myself and for every one of you. We serve more than 4,000 staff members-not broken down by classified or non-classified or EEO category-each one of you is representing every single staff member on campus.
You may be sitting here thinking I’m a first-year Senator. What kind of impact can I make? I would remind you that President-Elect Duplechain was a first year Senator when he ran for the position and won it.
All of this to say that we need to hit the ground running. With that in mind, my first point is that if you aren’t here, you cannot serve your constituents. Please understand that I know you have a job at LSU and it is always going to be number one in what you do, but if we are five months into the year and you’ve used both proxies and both absences, it may not be the time for you to be a Senator. I don’t want to lose even one Senator, but if you have to make the decision to leave and come back to serve, do what’s best for the people who elected you.
One of the requirements of being a Staff Senator is that you SERVE on two committees. Committees are where the real work in Senate is done. It is not the Executive Committee. Don’t get me wrong-Exec. works extremely hard and gives tirelessly of their time, but real change comes through committee work. We can’t have four of the members of a ten-person committee doing all of the work. It leads to burnout and dropout. I expect everyone to participate and that all Committee Chairs submit monthly committee reports. We must be transparent with our constituents on the work being done by our organization.
Moving past those expectations, let’s talk about this year. We’re going to work hard and have a whole lot of fun. We’ll continue some initiatives and events from previous years and start some new ones. Do you know who is going to provide the ideas for all of these things? YOU! So, find what you are passionate about and do it. It improves the lives of our colleagues and prepares you to serve on Exec if that’s a goal for you.
It is extremely important to me that we continue in our efforts to move LSU to being a top workplace in Louisiana. This includes the elimination of fees for attending classes, opening LSU Online to staff at all campuses, and providing professional development and training opportunities for all employees. Senator Hopkins and I have talked about using the Plus-25 program to admit staff members with no college credits into LSU to successfully complete a degree program and broaden career opportunities. I can promise you that we WILL get a process for applying for and receiving funding through the Professional Development fund at the Foundation.
Benefits are eroding and cost is increasing which is prohibiting more and more staff from taking advantage of them. We need implement physical and mental wellness programs if we plan to keep the best and brightest staff at LSU.
We also need to collaborate more closely with Clay Jones, Niki Norton, and HRM staff to discover trends revealed through information collected through exit interviews to stop the loss of so many talented staff members and improve the experience of working on campus. We must help this university and its administration realize that staff are a valuable asset that directly influences the success of the university’s mission.
We must continue to strengthen our working relationships with Faculty Senate, Student Government, and our caucuses. I’ve already met with the Faulty Senate President and she has pledged to work with us as much as possible. We are so much stronger together than apart!
Most importantly, we have to communicate what we are doing to administration, HRM, and our colleagues. That means our communication efforts must improve. The most effective way is for you to speak at department, training, and safety meetings about what we are doing and to get feedback from staff on their concerns and needs. One of the most effective ways you can do this is by having one-on-one conversations with your colleagues. Share information and ask questions. That’s external communication.
How about internally? We’ve had two very difficult years that have caused many organizations, including ours, to need to connect again on a personal level. I’m reaching out to UREC to set up a fun team building activity. I want us to get together outside of meetings to learn about each other, what’s going on within our departments and on campus, as well as build relationships. The question has been asked, “What are the benefits of being a Staff Senator?” We need to answer that question and add to those benefits if we plan to continue to have a healthy and thriving Staff Senate.
Today, I look at a Staff Senate that is much more representative than it was when I joined so many years ago, and that makes me proud. Internally, we are growing in size as a Staff Senate, yet I feel like many people join Staff Senate and just get lost. They end up not feeling like a part of the organization or that they’re even contributing. We lose good people like that, so I want to set up a mentor program that helps Senators in their first year and establishes a pipeline to Executive Committee and Presidency positions.
Each one of you has unique talents and gifts that are desperately needed, so I challenge you today to really serve with all of your heart and be involved. If each one of us does that, our success is guaranteed.
Thank you and let’s GEAUX!