Exemplary Service

On Thursday, I had the privilege of delivering a speech at the President’s Staff Awards ceremony, which honors staff who have been at the university for 10+ years with “service awards”, as well as honoring 32 Outstanding Staff and Supervisors who have gone above and beyond while at UT. You can read a transcript of my speech below.

Dr. Art Markman (of Two Guys on your Head fame and a UT professor) delivered a message about UT as a “neighborhood” and Debra Kress (Associate VP of Human Resources) talked about employee engagement. Darrell Bazzell (Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer) oversaw the running of the show.

President Fenves’ speech announced an initiative he is calling the Exemplary 140. With this initiative he is encouraging managers to recognize the work their staff do by giving them up to 4 days of time off! The President’s Exemplary Service Award policy (HOP 5-5020) gives more details about who is qualified for the award and how it is given out. The policy also contains a link to the nomination form.

Normally only about 25 staff win this award each year and I am proud to say that three of our Staff Council Representatives earned it recently!

  • Eda Matthews, Senior Software Developer and Analyst with Information Quest, for her role in managing the Staff Lunch with the President program. Eda created the random selection tool used to choose which people of the hundreds of submissions received get an opportunity to have lunch with the President of UT.
  • Dustin Slater, Assistant Director if Information Technology at the University of Texas Libraries, for his role in the behind-the-scenes technology aspect of Staff Council, as well as improving communications to our constituents. Dustin, among other things, is the main “Tweeter” for the Staff Council Twitter account, and sends around 50 tweets per meeting. This requires the ability to listen, quickly assess the gist of the message, take a photo, find URLs, and create messages in 140 characters or less… all within a minute or two.
  • Page Stephens, Assistant Director for Operations at the School of Music in the College of Fine Arts, for her role as an Officer in Staff Council and in communications. Page is the other half of the Staff Lunch with the President team and coordinates the communications between the President’s Office, staff who have questions, and winners of the lottery. She helped create guidelines that ensure the process is fair and has an amazing attention to detail.

This is really cool and I hope to see more winners, now that the goal is to give out 140 of these awards each year.

Congratulations to Eda, Dustin, and Page, to the 30 Outstanding Staff Award winners, to the 2 Outstanding Supervisor Award winners, and to the over 900 employees who received service awards this year!

Jaime, 2017-2019 Chair of Staff Council


April 2018 Staff Awards Speech

I am honored to be with you today. When I started here as a UTemp, I thought I would stick around for just a few months… until I found a “real job.” Considering that was almost 17 years ago, that didn’t really work out, did it?

Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about why people stay at UT. For the majority of us, it’s not because of the money.

In a time when most employees stay with an organization less than 5 years, at UT you’re still the “new kid” for the first 5 years. You don’t even get recognized at this event until you’ve been here for at least 10!

So, if it’s not the money, why do we stay?

The two most common answers I hear are because we like the people we work with and we like the work we do. But I would take it a step further and say that many of us work here because of the sense of community we’ve found at UT.

One example of this spirit of community – a “neighborhood”, as Dr. Markman put it – was after Hurricane Harvey rolled through in August of last year. This storm had extremely high winds and dumped over 40 inches of rain in some parts of south Texas. That’s more rain than those areas typically get in a whole year.

Many UT research and teaching sites were affected by the storm. We had downed trees on our Winedale campus, damaged fences in Smithville, flooding in the Winship building here on main campus. But the largest impact was felt at our Marine Science Institute, which is along the Gulf coast.

For those of you who don’t know, the Marine Science Institute, or MSI, is part of the College of Natural Sciences and offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs. They also offer outreach opportunities and workshops for the public as well as rehabilitation services for animals found around the coastline.

And when Hurricane Harvey came through, it went right over top of their campus and destroyed millions of dollars in equipment and research projects. Every physical structure on their campus was impacted, from their more than 80 buildings to their welcome sign. Not only were our colleagues’ workplaces affected, but some of their homes were destroyed. Their kids’ schools were destroyed. Our UT students lost their classrooms, labs, and their housing too.

Everyone at MSI helped prepare for the storm in some way, whether by securing equipment, trimming trees, or moving items to higher ground. Some even loaded up injured turtles and birds in their cars and drove them to safe locations.

Stan Dignum, who is one of the recipients of today’s Outstanding Staff Award, has been the boat captain for a research vessel called the Katy since 1995. He averages about 400 educational trips in the Katy each year. Before the storm, Stan battened down the hatches, moored the Katy into the center of the marina, and just had to hope for the best.

After the storm, Stan and the other folks at MSI helped clean up debris and assess the damage. They stayed late and worked over the weekends. And, even though this happened in back in August, the recovery work is far from done.

But here’s the part that really stuck with me. Even though budgets are tight and we sometimes feel like we work in silos, when this disaster struck, all that mattered was that we were Longhorns. People from all over pitched in to help out.

UTPD officers were some of the first to arrive on the scene and helped re-secure the campus and prevent looting. Chief Don Verett, who is celebrating 25 years with the university, was one of those who were deployed.

Next in was Environmental Health and Safety, who went to assess water damage and mold in the buildings, as well as check for asbestos and lead, chemical leaks, and biological contaminants.

Project Management and Construction Services coordinated roofing repairs, plumbing repairs, and electrical projects. Chris Brensinger, who is a Mechanical Engineer from main campus and is a recipient of an Outstanding Staff Award, volunteered to go to MSI to help coordinate the repair work. Since October he’s been there 5 days a week, only coming back home on the weekends. Sang Lee, who is receiving a 10 year service award today, is coordinating the rebuilding of a 300 foot research pier that was crushed when a drilling ship drifted into the harbor.

Here in Austin, there was a lot of work to do as well.

The Commons Learning Center at the Pickle Research Campus set up a shelter for evacuees.

Facilities Services employees were on call at the service center to answer trouble calls about leaks, flooding, and damage to property. Our landscape crews cleared downed trees on the West Mall. Petra Martinez and Rodrigo Rosales, who work in our custodial crew and are both getting service awards today, jumped in to clean up flooded buildings.

And then there’s the money! I know many of you donated to fundraising efforts, including the Staff Emergency Fund, and this year that money helped so many. This is what it means to be part of the UT community.

And these are just some of the stories that came out of this disaster.

But what this says to me is that we care about each other, we believe in the mission of the university, and we take pride in what we do. And that’s what we’re celebrating today. It’s more than just showing up to work, it’s about how we impact the lives of our students and our community. Hurricane Harvey is an example of how this can happen on a large scale. But we do it every day. We help make this university and the world a better place.

You have completed a milestone at one of the nation’s finest universities. Not many people can say that. So thank you all for being professionals, for being great team members, and for striving to be your best selves. It is a privilege to call you colleagues.

Thank you.

Fighting Hate on Our Campus


Just after midnight on Saturday, November 4, an outside group came onto our campus wearing masks and carrying tiki torches. This may not mean much at first glance, but you may recall that one of the first incidents in Charlottesville was a group of white supremacists carrying torches. So this recent event did not sit well with me.

Thankfully, the group of demonstrators on our campus was broken up very quickly. UT police officers arrived at the scene within minutes of the report, told the group they needed to leave, and they did. Shortly after, President Fenves released a statement that basically said while we’re committed to free speech, we don’t support hate.

This isn’t the first hate group-related incident we’ve had on our campus. I’m sure most of you are aware of racist flyers that have been posted around campus over the years. Some have targeted Muslims. Some have targeted people from China. Some have targeted African-Americans.

In response to an increase in non-UT affiliates coming on campus, the university has changed how our buildings are accessed at night and by whom. Building managers and police can remove people from our buildings if they are not part of our community. In the near future, the university will be revising our campus violence policy and reviewing guidelines on who can become a registered group on campus.

But it’s not just up to the university administration. This is a community problem and only the whole community is going to help solve it. So this is my call to action for you:

  • When you hear someone make statements that you think are discriminatory, let them know you or others find those words hurtful or insulting. By staying silent, you are implicitly saying what they said is OK. Speak out if you think what they said is offensive and try to engage them in a respectful conversation. If you’re not sure how to start that conversation, contact EAP or the Dispute Resolution Office for ideas. Or, take a Bystander Intervention class from BeVocal.
  • If you see something racist, like flyers or graffiti, around campus, take a picture of it and report it to the Campus Climate Response Team (CCRT). This team tracks bias incidents on campus. It’s important to not post the photo you took on social media because you will be giving free advertising to the group.
  • Talk to a co-worker or write them a letter of support. Ask them what they need from you. Maybe it’s something as simple as walking with them to their car after work.
  • Ask the UTPD Crime Prevention Unit to give a presentation at your next staff meeting. Knowing how to stop crime before it starts can be one of the best plans of action.
  • Learn about a group that’s different from you by checking out books from our libraries, listening to podcasts, or taking workshops like Disability 101 or LGBTQA+ from DDCE. You can also learn from groups that call for more free speech on campus or support things that you don’t agree with.

There are other ideas on the “8 Things you can do to fight hate” handout shown below. Although this is geared toward staff, these are practical suggestions for any faculty member or student as well. Please read through them and see which ones ring true for you.

This call to action is not about shutting down people who have opinions different from yours… but it is about maintaining a professional and safe work environment for everyone. It’s about engaging people in a respectful dialogue when you can. It’s about telling people that we care about what happens on our campus and to our colleagues.

As the BeSafe campaign says, “When we look out for each other, our whole community is safer.” Respectful conversations with people can and will help change the culture.



fight hate flyer

Flyer: “8 things you can do to fight hate on our campus”. Print one and hang it in your work area!

September 2017 updates

Here’s a recap of some of the things that happened with Staff Council this month:


UTSC Core Values

At the July retreat, all 50+ Representatives brainstormed ideas and values that they felt represented Staff Council. There was a surprising amount of overlap that gave us about 20 items to work with. The Executive Committee then refined those into three core values: Advocacy, Collaboration, and Transparency. Those three values exemplify to me what Staff Council stands for and I find it extra fitting that they spell “ACT”. Committees will use these values to help them prioritize the work they tackle this year.


  • Serving staff by representing their best interests to the university community
  • Fostering a pathway of communication between upper administration and our constituents
  • Seeking diversity in membership, perspectives, and ideas when representing staff culture


  • Creating a sense of community by forging effective partnerships with campus stakeholders
  • Executing projects that are valuable to the organization


  • Maintaining honest and transparent communications and processes
  • Remaining accountable to ourselves and to our constituents by holding open meetings and publicizing our decisions
  • Intentionally sharing unbiased information with our stakeholders



Elections opened on Wednesday for districts who had more than one nominee. If you are in one of those districts, please be sure to vote by Friday, October 6. If you have questions, please contact Gordon at elections@utsc.utexas.edu. Once elections results are calculated, new representatives and their supervisors will be notified and our new Reps will join us for the October meeting. We will be scheduling an orientation soon as well.


Presidential Meet and Greet

The President’s Office offered us the opportunity to meet in small groups with President Fenves on September 25. Our representatives were able to chat with him in a more intimate setting and President Fenves was able to listen to the concerns we had on a more personal level. We even got a shout-out from him on Twitter!

President Fenves and some of the 2017 UTSC Representatives give the Hook 'Em sign

President Fenves pauses for a group photo after the meet and greet on September 25



Budget and Employee Engagement Survey updates

We really enjoyed having Mary Knight come speak to our group about the UT budget. It definitely gives us a better appreciation of the complexities of the budget, but it also lets us see the big picture of where our money comes from and where our money goes.

In addition, we loved the energy and realism that Noel Landuyt brought to the meeting when he spoke about the university-wide Employee Engagement Survey results. He also shared with us

You can review the September PowerPoint to learn more.




Looking forward


In October, we will have four guest speakers:

  • Jeff Stellmach on the Staff Emergency Fund
  • Alyssa Manse on Cvent, an event management tool used by some departments around campus
  • Frances Delacruz on UTLearn, the learning management system introduced to campus last year
  • Dana Cook on Workday, the HR system secheduled for a Fall 2018 release

In November, we will have:

  • Bobby Stone from PTS, who will give us an overview of how PTS is funded and to help us understand the new parking permit waitlist policy
  • Jeanne Farahnak will speak on Employee Advisory Council, which is similar to Staff Council but for all of UT System

Each month committee chairs will give updates on the progress their committees have made on their projects.


As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments for me, you can email me at chair@utsc.utexas.edu. You can also reach out to your representative or use our Issues Form to submit issues to the Staff Council.

Take care everyone and have a great weekend,




Committees Taking Shape

Our annual retreat was held on July 20 at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. If you haven’t been there in person yet, I encourage you to go check it out. It’s free admission to UT faculty, staff, and students with a valid UT ID card.

Before the retreat, representatives had an opportunity to fill out a survey asking what types of issues they thought we should work on this year. We had about 32 of our 67 reps respond. We also brought data collected from our 2016 campus-wide survey to see what issues were still relevant.

Some committees are part of our bylaws (Communications, Elections, Issues, and Resources), others were committees that had work in progress from last year (Diversity, Engagement, Flex Work, Professional Development, Sustainability, and Wellness), and others were created based on new topics (Bylaws, Campus Safety, and Staff Benefits).  At this stage, our committees are still in a bit of a flux as we try to narrow our focus on issues we can tackle. As you can imagine, we received more project ideas than we actually have time for. In addition, we will still continue to work on projects like the Staff Lunch Lotto (lunch with President Fenves) and the ReFresh Project (subsidized commuter shower facilities).

While we were working we shot some video footage to use in some upcoming videos. We want to better explain who Staff Council is, what we do, and what positive changes we’ve had on staff at UT.

We still have about 29 open positions on Staff Council, so if your district has a vacancy and you’re interested in joining us, check out our get involved page.

Our August meeting will be held on the 17th, from 2-3:30 in Avaya Auditorium (POB 2.302) and we plan to use the last part of the meeting to firm up our committee projects. Our September meeting will be held on the 21st (same time and location) and will feature Mary Knight, who will talk about UT’s budget and the impact of the last legislative session.
As always, I welcome your feedback and hope to see you at one of our upcoming meetings.
Jaime K Davis
2017-2018 UT Staff Council Chair
Reps hold up signs indicating topics of interest

Groups start to form during the 2017 retreat

A new year and new challenges

As your new Staff Council Chairperson, I look forward to getting to know all of the representatives at our July 20 retreat. A link to the list of current UTSC Representatives can be found on our website.

At our retreat we will brainstorm projects we would like to accomplish this year. In the past, some of our accomplishments include proving Lynda.com would be a valuable resource to our campus, helping establish the Wellness Coordinator and the Staff Ombuds positions, developing the Professional Development Grant Program, and partnering with many campus organizations to help bring you benefits like the Farm-to-Work program, the Employee Emergency Fund, and access to showers and locker room facilities for commuters. I look forward to more exciting projects like these this year!

One of the things I have found in talking with people around campus is that many don’t know who we are or what we do. So one of my goals this year is to help fix that. I plan to work closely with the Communications and Engagement committees to figure out ways we can better market ourselves. What a shame that our mission is to help staff at UT Austin and so many aren’t even aware that we exist.

I know that one of our challenges this year will be the budget. As with the past several years, our budget has been tight and -although the legislature was kinder to us than we thought they would be- I expect this year to be no different. We might be passed the point of “doing more with less,” as we’ve been doing that for far too long. We may need to start thinking differently about solutions and I welcome your thoughts and ideas of what those solutions might be.

I am excited about the coming year and know it is full of promise! I welcome your feedback and hope to see you at one of our upcoming meetings. Our next general meeting is June 15, from 2-3:30 in Avaya Auditorium (POB 2.302).

Jaime K Davis
2017-2018 UT Staff Council Chair


UT System has recently completed a 3-year contract with Skillsoft — a provider of talent management training content — and has made it available to all UT System campuses (all active faculty and staff) at no additional charge.

UT System will be presenting Skillsoft to the various HR functions across UT System in the near future, but in the meantime, you can access the site and browse through the course, video, and book offerings.

Restrictions/Prerequisites for Attendance: UT System employee
Hosting/Administrative Sponsor: Skillport
Price: Varies by program
Venue: Online
Website: utsystem.skillport.com

UT Staff Toastmasters Club

Each Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants hone their speaking, interpersonal communications, and leadership skills by giving a prepared or impromptu speech or taking on a role such a evaluator, grammarian or timekeeper. There is no instructor in a Toastmasters meeting and the curriculum is self-paced. Members evaluate each other’s presentations in a constructive yet positive format; this friendly feedback process is a key part of the program’s success.

Restrictions/Prerequisites for Attendance: Membership is open to all current and former UT Austin Staff.
Price: $20 one time new member fee, $55 club dues (paid every 6 months)
Venue: The club meets every Thursday 12:05pm-12:55pm typically in SAC 1.106; a detailed meeting schedule is posted on the club website that notes any variations in location.
Website: utstaff.toastmastersclubs.org

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Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO)

Bachelor of Arts Degree
A new Bachelor of Arts degree from HDO designed to teach students to explore, learn, and articulate the ways the liberal arts and social/behavioral sciences can address practical problems facing organizations.

Master of Arts Degree
An innovative program offering students from the business and nonprofit sectors the knowledge and skills they need to make their organizations more effective, creative, and efficient.

Professional Training
Professional training for groups and individuals led by UT Austin’s top faculty. Programs focus on the practical value of the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences for solving real-world problems. Training options include:

  • Certificate Programs
  • Custom Programs
  • One-Day Professional Seminars

Restrictions/Prerequisites for Attendance: Designed for Working Professionals
Hosting/Administrative Sponsor: HDO at UT Austin
Price: Varies by program
Venue: On campus
Contact: Lewis Miller lewismiller@utexas.edu
Website: hdo.utexas.edu

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Data Management at UT

Faculty, researchers, students, and support staff across all disciplines at the University of Texas are engaged in research projects that gather, create, and/or use data. The Data Management Program at UT is committed to helping develop and steward that data at all stages of research, from project planning to publication and dissemination. In a collaborative effort between the UT Libraries, TACC, and ITS, we offer resources, training, and consulting services to the UT community. A major focus of the program is to help research and support staff develop the essential skills, good practices, and a basic understanding of the funding body and publisher requirements associated with data management.

Restrictions/Prerequisites for Attendance: None
Hosting/Administrative Sponsor: UT Libraries
Price: free
Venue: On campus
Contact: Jessica Trelogan j.trelogan@austin.utexas.edu
Website: lib.utexas.edu/datamanagement

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Center for Professional Education (CPE)

The University of Texas at Austin Center for Professional Education (CPE) helps individuals meet professional and personal goals and helps organizations develop employees and improve performance through its program, consulting, coaching and facilitation services.

CPE designs and delivers face-to-face and online noncredit programs for individuals interested in improving their professional skills or who seek a credential or a career change. Our programs and instructors help individuals and organizations around Texas and around the world improve personal and organizational performance. Since 1999, more than 18,000 individuals have enrolled in CPE programs. We conduct an average of 300 onsite programs annually within and outside of Texas. Our program participants hail from every region of the United States and from Mexico, Canada, South America, Europe and Asia.

Restrictions/Prerequisites for Attendance: None
Price: varies
Venue: Thompson Conference Center (TCC)
Contact: Liliya Spinazzola lspinazzola@austin.utexas.edu
Website: professionaled.utexas.edu

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