Monthly Archives: December 2013

Happy Holidays!

For the third year, East Carolina University will go green again during the winter break using a utilities setback plan that saved the university more than $75,000 last year.  The university will shut down at regular close of business Dec. 20 as part of a plan to allow employees a longer break and to help reduce utility expenditures and energy use. Buildings will reopen Jan. 2, when employees return to work.  As you leave your workspace, everyone should be sure to turn off all devices that use electricity.

If for some reason, you find the need to work during this 12-day shutdown, beware – the heat in most buildings will be dropped back to 66 degrees.  You can check a list of the buildings affected by the holiday temperature setback here.

ECU Physicians will follow a different holiday schedule and observe only December 24, 25, 26, 31 and January 1.

As for our Blog, we will also be taking a break and will see you again on January 7, 2014.  Until then, we would like to wish you all a safe and joyful holiday season!!


Break Out Your Mixing Bowls and Pre-Heat Your Ovens!

Because it’s time to get ready for our Cookie/Candy Exchange!

After our December 17th Staff Senate Meeting, we will be having a cookie/candy exchange, in celebration of the holiday!  I’ve heard of cookie/candy exchanges in the past, but this will be the first time I’ve had the opportunity to participate in one.  I feel silly admitting that I had no idea what a Cookie/Candy Exchange was until last week!  Especially since I’ve now discovered how common Cookie/Candy Exchange Parties are.  It seems I’ve been living in a cave, because Cookie/Candy Exchanges have been around since 1936 (if you are interested in learning about the origins, click here) AND for years, most of the popular “Women’s” magazines have devoted large portions of their December issues to Cookie Exchange ideas and recipes! 

I may have been uneducated about the Cookie/Candy Exchange idea, but I can assure each of you, I know a little something, something about baking cookies!  I’m from a huge mid-western family and was always “grandma’s helper” as she pumped out 200-300 dozen cookies, to give away to friends and family each year.  We would often start the day after Thanksgiving and mix and bake almost every evening through December 30th.  On good nights, we were able to crank out 20-25 dozen, on other nights, when the little ones wanted to “help,” we were happy to do 10 dozen.  Grandma would let all the cookies cool on the dining-room table over-night and in the morning, we would delicately pack them up and freeze them (often discovering that we had lost 1-2 dozen through the course of the night as people came in and out sneaking some each time grandma looked away :)).  The weekend before Christmas, we would start assembling boxes, with 4-5 dozen cookies in each.  After Christmas, we would assemble smaller boxes to give as hostess gifts at my grandparents’ annual New Year’s Eve Party (this was huge, because “friends of friends” would come, sometimes just for the cookies!).  I don’t ever remember anyone bringing cookies, either as gifts or to exchange.  But I do remember how everyone looked forward to their cookie boxes each year (I even remember the priest talking about his cookie box during Sunday Services!).  Now days, my grandmother has scaled back significantly, but still manages to produce cookie boxes for each of her children and grandchildren and she always makes certain to send a few extra cookies in mine 🙂     

Since moving to North Carolina, I don’t have much of an occasion to bake cookies, so as you can probably tell, I am SUPER excited about our Staff Senate Cookie/Candy Exchange!!  AND I’m dedicating this post to the subject in hopes of MAXIMUM participation (I love cookies and want to make sure there are plenty to choose from 😉 )! 

Many of us probably have our own wonderful family cookie recipes to bake from, but if you didn’t happen to have a grandmother who ran a cookie-sweat-shop like mine, then you may enjoy finding a recipe from one of these web sources:

If you are the traditional type and look forward to delicious, timeless, cookies, you may want to check out these Old-Fashioned Classic recipes which include hits such as sugar cookies, wedding cookies, and gingersnaps.

You may enjoy making a recipe from England, Poland, FranceAfrica, Asia, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Mexico (here are many other cultural favorites to browse through for inspiration)!    

Maybe you prefer to enjoy your cookies without a side of guilt or the need for a New Year’s diet after indulging?  Check out these awesome lightened-up recipes from Cooking Light or these Healthy Recipes from Eating Well.

If you are looking for something new or maybe even a little unusual, you cannot go wrong with one of Betty Crocker’s Prize Winning Holiday Cookie recipes.

If you are not much of a baker, or short on time, step away from the refrigerated “break and bake” section of the grocery store and give one of these simple cookie recipes a go.

Maybe you don’t know what an oven is?  You could always choose an oven-free, delicious, recipe such as no-bake cookies or cookie-cake balls!

And of course, our list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include plenty of candy recipes too!  There’s fudge, brittle, bark, divinity, caramels, nut clustersturtles and so much more here, here and here!

Looking forward to seeing you, and your cookie/candy exchange goodies on December 17th!!


Meeting with Vice Chancellor Sheerer

On December 2nd, the Academic Affairs Division Staff Senators, Mandee Lancaster and I had the opportunity to sit down and have a discussion with Provost and Sr. Vice Chancellor Sheerer.  Dr. Sheerer shared with us her concerns about staff participation, during this meeting as well as during professional development and training activities.  It was mentioned that one of the most well-known reasons for the limited staff participation was lack of support from the immediate supervisors.  Dr. Sheerer stated she and all the other VCs, Deans, and administration are highly supportive of staff participating on the Staff Senate as well as all other University Sponsored professional activities, but they are also aware that the “middle management” support is somewhat lacking and the “trickle down communication” and leading by example is not as effective as they had hoped.  In attempts for communications to trickle down to the management/direct supervisor groups, Dr. Sheerer said she would like to initiate a training and awareness campaign to identify the exact issues preventing senator/staff participation and professional development opportunities. 

As part of our participation conversation, Dr. Sheerer gave an example of unintentional intimidation, where a manager would regularly work late and include a staff person in the projects that required extended hours.  Eventually the staff person found another job and during the Exit Interview mentioned that the extended hours presented a problem.  When the manager was made aware that the person left because of all the late hours, the manager was shocked and exclaimed “S/He never said anything to me about not wanting to stay late.”  The manager had assumed that the staff person would feel comfortable enough to say “no” when it fact, that wasn’t the case, and the department lost a valuable employee because of the lack of communication.  Dr. Sheerer continued with this conversation saying that she would really like to see the university offering more “I” communication training and that she feels this is the most valuable piece of education we can provide as employers, because in her experience, employees that don’t feel treated fairly will either seek other employment, or they will accept the situation and accept, and accept until one day they snap and communicate their frustrations in aggressive and unproductive ways such as:  “You are the worst person I’ve ever worked for!  I’m sick of this job!”  rather than productively saying “I am unable to work late on such a regular basis, and would appreciate it if we could work something else out.”   

Dr. Sheerer suggested that maybe the Staff Senate could advocate for employees in situations such as the above, by defining a clear input mechanisms for staff to file grievances.  Dr. Sheerer was very specific in stating that she is not advocating the Staff Senate provide any Human Resources functions or services, but rather assistance with the “Chain of Command” an employee should follow if they would like to file a grievance.  Dr. Sheerer said Human Resources would definitely be in the Chain of Command, but she has seen many instances where an employee would have been better served by having a conversation with their supervisor before becoming so dissatisfied that they feel the need to go to Human Resources or coming directly to her.  She even stated that she tries to enforce communications herself by first asking the employees to discuss the issue with the direct supervisor/department head/dean before scheduling an appointment with her.

Dr. Sheerer concluded our discussion with a reminder about her “First Monday” emails which are sent out monthly, on…you guessed it….the 1st Monday of each month.

Discussion with Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy

On November 25th, the Student Affairs Division Staff Senators and I had the opportunity to sit down and have a discussion Vice Chancellor Hardy.  Dr. Hardy is so humble and down to earth!  She began our meeting by asking if there might be a time that she could come and present to the Staff Senate, like she does for the Faculty Senate.  She then continued our discussion by telling us about her beliefs that it “takes a village” in order to achieve student success and said she firmly believes the ECU village begins with the dedicated staff manning our front lines.

Dr. Hardy shared with us the plans for the new Student Centers (one on main campus and the other on the Health Sciences Campus).   She also emphasized that both Student Centers were still “in the air;”  the plans have been finalized; however there we still need approvals from the Board of Governors and other groups before it’s a “done deal.”  The plan is to begin “turning ground” by 2014-2015, but before then, there will be student surveys and focus groups to help determine exactly how the space will be used and the needs assessments.  I found it interesting to learn that the state will not pay for any construction or maintenance of student centers; we can only use state funds for academic buildings, therefore both the new Student Centers will be on 30 year payment plans and completely paid for by the Debt. Service Fees (part of the student fees collected).

The construction of the new student center on main campus will leave both the Student Store and Mendenhall (mostly) vacant.  The fate of these buildings is still uncertain;  Dr. Hardy said they will either have to be gifted to the university or taken over in order for state funding to kick in, at which time there are plans to renovate both spaces and institute a vetting process for the space allocation (both buildings will maintain their current names).

Other questions and topics of discussion included:

  • New transit program to assist students getting to and from RDU – This was a big concern of parents and students and even though Dr. Hardy admitted to being VERY nervous about transporting students in university vehicles (they are using the vans) on Interstates 40 and 440, the program has taken off and is receiving VERY positive feedback!  Since I have made staff-transportation to away athletic events a goal of mine, I asked if Dr. Hardy would consider an initiative to transport students to away games, and allow staff to purchase any available seats.  Dr. Hardy didn’t seem too excited about the idea (as stated above the RDU shuttle has her very nervous, so additional transportation = additional concern 😉 ).  But, she didn’t say “No” so I don’t think the idea is completely off the table (I’m chipping away, Penney!).
  • Initiatives designed to deter student drinking such as Pirate Nights, Barefoot on the mall, Midnight Madness, etc…have been hugely successful!  Dr. Hardy shared with us some insider information regarding inflatables (aka bouncy houses) – but with the internet being permanent record, I will limit my comments and encourage you to ask David Forrest, Jennifer Harris, or Suzanne McDonald for more information 😉 .  Dr. Hardy stated Midnight Madness (the ECU alternative to the downtown Halloween party) has become so huge (3000 – 4000 students attending!) that they worked with athletics and moved the party to the football stadium this year!
  • Expectations of the New University Wellness Committee – Dr. Hardy hopes the group will realistically look at how we can become a well-campus.  Things such as having a percentage of the vending machines dedicated to healthy options and increased information on how we can all make healthier choices which will help us to change our overall culture and mindset. She stressed realistically because she said if the changes are too intimidating, people will get turned off quickly – for instance, if the chocolate was suddenly removed from all vending machines, people would be VERY unhappy.  She then said “It’s a matter of quantity; a cheeseburger every few months is perfectly healthy but having one everyday is a different story.”
  • Reorganization/restructuring of the SALT committee in a manner such as the Staff Senate, which would allow members to serve for a pre-determined “term” then have a process to select new members.
  • There was a concern raised about employee morale and a request for ECU to consider adding back the third free class at a university level.    Dr. Hardy was receptive to this idea and said she is in support of it as there are other benefits that are university-based, but we would need to discuss this further with Chancellor Ballard.
  • The discussion about the classes led to a question about the possibility of ECU initiation a “home-grown” program, where the university would allow employees to earn their degree for free (or start a reimbursement program), and take classes during the workday using either a reduced schedule (maintaining regular pay) or flex schedules.  The employee would enter into a contract and be required to maintain their university employment status on a year-for-year basis (4 years of education = 4 years promised future employment or the employee is required to payback all education expenses).  The premise behind programs such as this is for the university to benefit from the employees education and also to maintain some of the intellectual capital employees gain when attending and working at ECU (it’s disheartening to see so many employees utilize the free classes, earn a degree, then leave and take their knowledge to another organization).  Dr. Hardy said she could definitely see the benefit of a program such as this, however she had not heard of any other universities offering such programs and we would need to investigate into this further and present her some data regarding the effectiveness and we would also need to make sure this was a possibility from a state perspective.

Dr. Hardy concluded our discussion with some information on Title IV – which deals with sexual harassment, assault etc…protection of women on campus.  Dr. Hardy explained that many people think Title IV is only for students, but it’s not, it’s a solid process for both staff and students.  She then asked again if she might come and speak to the Staff Senate Collective regarding this important topic, and Jennifer Harris and I have worked together to arrange for Dr. Hardy to present at our March 13th Staff Senate Meeting.

Many thanks to the Division of Student Affairs for allowing me to join in their meeting!  It was a truly interesting and informative afternoon!

For those of you in the Division of Academic Affairs, your opportunity to have a discussion with Vice Chancellor Sheerer is coming up on Monday, December 2nd, and I’m really looking forward to seeing you all there!