By Adam King
Her learning curve shrank, and the ability to plan ahead was priceless. As such, Krystyne Savarese felt she was a much more effective chair of the University Staff Advisory Committee this year.
In July 2011, USAC, which advocates on behalf of staff with the university’s senior leadership team, went with a chair-elect model that allowed Savarese to be the first USAC chair to shadow the position before ascending to it.
“It gave me some time to not only pick up the political and logistical landscape of the university, but to really start to form a vision of what I would do with my year as chair and have some time to think in advance rather than just show up on July 1,” said Savarese, an assistant director in Residence Life. “It made me feel like I had a full year to be chair rather than taking the first few months to learn the basics.”
That freed Savarese to spend more time to reflect on staff feedback obtained in the previous year and work with USAC members to process it, which she said increased the effectiveness of her engagement.
The other benefit of spending a year as chair-elect, Savarese said, was the opportunity to be a familiar face to university leaders before taking the chair mantle.
“Since we have regular meetings with (Chief Financial Officer) Geoff (Chatas) and AJ (Vice President for Human Resources Andraea Douglass), as chair-elect you have time to get to know them in advance and build a rapport,,” Savarese said. “It also allows you to understand which part of the university’s mission is important to each leader so that, over time, we can craft initiatives and ideas that not only serve the staff but serve the institution, and those are the ones that move forward.”
Emily Meyer, program manager of the Prairie Nature Center at OSU Marion and current chair-elect, said holding a leadership position in USAC has opened up new horizons for her. Having spent most of her time at a regional campus, she is now more intricately aware of the broader university.
“I’ve been exposed to the larger concerns and thoughts of staff and what’s going on around the university that you might not hear about at a regional campus,” Meyer said. “That broader vision of the university landscape is a unique benefit of my involvement in USAC.” Meyer and Savarese said they have similar leadership styles, so Meyer doesn’t expect USAC members will need to adjust to a different style when she begins her year-long role as chair July 1. Both said they listen to others’ ideas and like to bounce ideas off the 27-member group as a whole to take advantage of the members’ diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Savarese said she wraps up her year feeling good about the accomplishments USAC achieved, including building more partnerships with other groups, like faculty leaders and staff from the Office of Outreach and Engagement. USAC co-sponsored a professional development workshop in May with Outreach and Engagement. USAC also continued to receive support from university leaders like President Gordon Gee, Chatas and Douglass. Discussions continue with leadership regarding the best way to engage USAC members and leadership regularly.
“I always felt USAC was heavily supported by Gee,” she said. “When he came back for his second term, USAC was one of the first groups he met with. When there were major changes going on, USAC recieved a call. He and his team did a good job of thinking of us and using ‘staff’ in the university vernacular. He’s been a real positive force for us in a genuine way.”
Looking forward, Meyer hopes USAC continues to enjoy a strong relationship with university leaders.
“I hope the next president is a person willing to engage with us honestly and genuinely and keep us in the loop on things that matter so we can think constructively about the work we’re doing,” she said. “I hope for someone who sees the real benefit staff add to the picture on campus and how we support the students, academic mission and overall goals of the institution.”