The University of Oregon is looking for volunteers from all ranks and classifications to fill positions on both appointed and elected committees and the University Senate. This week AroundtheO is running profiles of several of the employees who graciously volunteer their time to serve on the University Senate or a committee on campus.
Q: Why did you choose to join a committee or run for an elected position at UO?
A: I've been encouraged by colleagues to run for elected positions—first for the Officers of Administration Council and then for the Senate. In the case of the OAC, I didn't have much of a predetermined idea of what the OAC was all about, but I ran because a respected colleague, Rachele Raia, urged me to do so (after I was elected, I soon discovered that many of my OAC colleagues had also been nudged toward service by Rachele, who is now retired; she was an outstanding recruiter!) As it turned out, I joined the OAC at a time when it was very deliberately clarifying and "owning" its role as a body that advises senior administration on matters pertaining to OAs and it was great to be part of that transformative phase of the OAC's evolution. As my two-year term was coming to an end, the OAC chair, Miriam Bolton, suggested I run for the Senate, and I did so because of the appreciation I gained for service as a member of the OAC and my desire to continue to represent OAs—and also the College of Arts and Sciences—in this broader capacity. I'm now nearing the end of the first year of my two-year term as an OA Senator.
Q: In what ways do you feel your involvement on a committee or in the University Senate has made a difference at the UO?
A: The UO's University Senate is unusual in that it includes faculty members as well as representatives from other constituencies, such as OAs, classified staff and students (most university senates are faculty-only). In the few months that I've been a Senator, I've had the opportunity to help shape legislation in ways that specifically account for OA interests. I've also been part of a Senate work group that conducted a 10-year review of the OAC, and that has been a rewarding process that involved bringing my experience as a Senator back to the OAC to help articulate and document how the OAC now operates and the mission it serves.
Q: Has anything been unexpected during your tenure on the committee and/or in Senate?
A: I've learned a lot about the politically charged issues that have come before the Senate as proposed legislation—and while I wouldn't say this was unexpected, it's a very different thing to be responsible for voting on these issues. I've also learned that many Senators are on a learning curve just like I am, and it's been reassuring to have a sense that we're all in this together (whether or not we agree on everything, which of course we don't). My sense is that not only is my voice respected, but there's also the opportunity to find my voice as a Senator, and I attribute this to the helpfulness of Senate colleagues and especially to the Senate leadership. Both Senate President Margie Paris and President-Elect Rob Kyr (who is also past President) have been very generous in supporting those of us who are new (or maybe not so new) and still learning. I've had the opportunity to work closely with both Margie and Rob as the OA Senator representative on the Senate Executive Committee and, while that's been an additional time commitment, it's also provided a structure that has hugely informed my understanding of how the Senate functions and what it means to be a Senator.
Q: Why should employees on campus choose to get involved in shared governance?
A: OAs have a vested interest in being part of the larger conversation on campus about who we are as an institution and how we are governed. Because OAs—unlike most faculty and all classified staff—are not represented by a union, it's vital that their interests have a formal channel of communication to university leadership via a body like the OAC, and it's equally important that individual OAs continue to step up to service positions on other committees and elected offices. I realize that it can sometimes be challenging for OAs to get release time for service, but this is exactly the type of issue that can be furthered by OA representatives. At the very least, the OAC and OA Senators want to hear from their OA colleagues.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering joining a committee or running for an elected position as part of shared governance?
A: The OAC has open meetings once a month and everyone is invited to attend. Senate meetings are open as well. Check them out, contact others who are in service position, ask questions, take a chance. In my experience, service is a great opportunity for professional development, making connections with colleagues across campus and learning more about the university.