By Katherine Tam
Juliann Martinez had worked at UC Berkeley for 21 years, but it was not until she became staff advisor to the Board of Regents that she fully grasped the enormity of the university, everything it does and the people who make it possible.
"One of the most rewarding experiences was meeting staff throughout the system, and hearing and feeling their commitment to the university," said Martinez, who served as staff advisor from 2009-2011. "At the time, we were starting to implement furloughs, changes were being proposed to post-employment benefits and fee increases were in the works. Despite all that, what I heard was a tremendous commitment from staff at all levels to maintaining the quality of the university through the work they do every day"
Apply by March 1 to become the next staff advisor-designate
The staff advisor program, now in its seventh year, allows for two staff and/or non-Senate academic employees to participate in open sessions of designated committees of the board. The staff advisors bring the voice and perspective of staff and non-Senate academic employees to board deliberations.
Kevin Smith, chief administrative officer for the UCLA Chancellor's Organization, and Kathy Barton, executive director of strategic initiatives at the UC Riverside School of Medicine, are the current staff advisors. Smith's term expires on June 30.
The chance to become the 10th staff advisor since the Staff Advisor program was launched is here. Applications for the 2013-2015 staff advisor-designate will be accepted through March 1.
In 2007, the regents created two staff advisor positions to help foster two-way communication, and bring the perspective of staff and non-Senate academic employees to policy deliberations.
Staff advisors hear staff's concerns and ideas during campus visits, systemwide forums, and by email and phone. They meet regularly with UC leaders including the president and regents, providing valuable input to help shape policies and programs. They are non-voting members of the Board of Regents, and serve on several regents committees.
Dave Miller, director of Diversity Outreach in the Office of Diversity and Faculty Development at UCLA, was one of two inaugural staff advisors appointed in 2005 to build the program.
"There are less than a handful of higher education institutions that allow staff to be a member of the board of regents," Miller said. "It is an incredible opportunity for people who are passionate about this institution, who have an agenda to move forward the interests of staff, and have the ability to bring forth recommendations to the board."
"The level of access to senior leaders of the university, to each member of the Board of Regents, and as we've seen, even to the governor and the lieutenant governor is unparalleled," he added.
Past and present staff advisors say the role has exceeded their expectations.
Current staff advisor-designate Kathy Barton, who will transition to staff advisor in June and help mentor the incoming candidate, said one of the most rewarding experiences so far has been the ability to bring to policy deliberations the perspective of staff who might not otherwise have a loud voice.
The role has also given her a deeper understanding of the complex issues facing UC.
"You may be aware of the big issues, but you aren't necessarily studying the details or looking at the impact in a comprehensive way," said Barton, executive director of strategic initiatives at the UC Riverside School of Medicine.
"At first the scope of these issues seems daunting, but as you get into the role, you become more and more conversant."
The past nine staff advisors have helped leave an indelible mark on programs and policies. Their input shaped how furloughs were administered at campuses around 2009, and ensured that the university understood the value of offering a traditional pension plan at a time when the idea of shifting to a defined contribution plan was bandied about.
Former Staff Advisor Lynda Brewer of UC Irvine served on the selection committee that recommended Mark G. Yudof as UC president in 2007. And the climate survey currently underway at all campuses grew out of recommendations from the Study Group on UC Diversity on which a staff advisor served.
More critical issues facing the university await the next staff advisors.
"State funding has been a big issue and that's going to continue," Barton said. "Prop. 30 is helping us tread water, but we need a long-term solution that will help protect the quality of this university. UC is under a lot of pressure to find administrative efficiencies and generate new sources of revenue."
Other issues that will affect staff and the university include the initiative to deploy a single systemwide Human Resources and payroll system known as UCPath, and projects that increase administrative efficiencies through the Working Smarter initiative.
Martinez, who is handling applications for the staff-advisor designate opening in her new role in employee relations at UC Office of the President, encourages staff to learn more about the position.
"It's a fabulous experience," Martinez said. "You get to see the university in a way that changes you forever and have an impact on shaping its future."
Katherine Tam is Employee Communications Coordinator in Internal Communications at the UC Office of the President.