Lessons learned: Faculty and Staff Senate presidents share what they learned during their terms
One year is not enough. That’s one of the lessons that Dan Hofmann learned as president of the Staff Senate. Hofmann, who handed over his gavel to 2019-2020 Staff Senate President Janeen Putman at a ceremony last week, said that the Senate embarked on a number of important initiatives during his term, many of which he had to juggle. A multi-year term may have helped provide continuity from start to finish.
“I found myself in the middle of several initiatives, which I knew were long term, but then others took precedence,” he explained. “So I tried to focus on specific things where we could make a difference. Others will be addressed by my successors.”
The Staff Senate made a difference under Hofmann’s leadership. In collaboration with Clemson Athletics, the Staff Senate hosted an appreciation event for first responders and emergency personnel in the University’s Coliseum Club. More than 100 police, fire and EMS personnel from Clemson and surrounding areas were treated to a lunch and well-deserved recognition.
The appreciation did not end with first responders. During Hofmann’s tenure, the Staff Senate also worked with Student Affairs and a corporate sponsor to host a lunch for veterans during Military Appreciation Week and collaborated with Human Resources, Undergraduate Studies and Graduate Studies to offer a recognition event for faculty and staff who earned their degrees at Clemson while working as full-time employees. The lunch will now be an annual event.
Hofmann said he is most proud of the efforts between Staff Senate and the Clemson University Foundation to increase employee payroll deductions for the Staff Senate Endowed Scholarship, which awards academic scholarships to children of the University’s staff members. The collaboration led to an increase in the number of annual scholarships from 12 to 15 per year. The annual scholarship award amounts also increased from $1,500 to $2,500 annually.
“Collaboration was the biggest part in making all of these great things happen, and it is my hope that the momentum of this past year continues so that we can continue to make a difference for the staff at Clemson University for years to come,” he said.
Two other lessons became clear to the 2018-19 Staff Senate president during his term.
There really is a Clemson family. Hofmann said there are a lot of passionate people around the University who are committed to Clemson and its employees.
“I was able to work with various Senate committees. I gained perspective from their experiences – and it demonstrated how they really care about what they are doing in their jobs and about the University as a whole.”
As he collaborated with University committees, departments and schools, the Staff Senate president said his experiences cemented his already strong sense of family and connectedness he felt in dealing with faculty and staff who see no silos when it comes to working to benefit others in the Clemson community.
“That made a difference for all those people who worked really hard in addition to their full-time work at Clemson.”
None of us is more powerful than all of us together. Hofmann explained that efficiencies were gained when he and his committees worked together as a group, found common ground and focused on specific goals.
“You have to condense your time and be as efficient as possible,” he said. “Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew, and don’t be afraid to delegate.”
Set your agenda. Like Dan Hofmann, Jan Holmevik believes that it’s best to avoid biting off more than you can chew. With a strategic focus, the 2018-19 Faculty Senate president and his team made exponential strides in creating policy changes to benefit the university and its faculty. During Holmevik’s term, the Senate passed more than 10 resolutions, including the addition of a third-rank, principal lecturer for non-tenure track faculty.
“The third lecturer rank was a top priority from the start,” he explained, “I wanted to make sure that we got that done to provide a better career opportunity for our excellent teaching faculty, and to help retain them and reward them for their work.”
Two amendments to the faculty constitution were also passed, one which allows for tele-presence going forward. This means faculty who work in areas outside Clemson will be able to participate in faculty governance without having to travel to the main campus. With more than 1,000 faculty, some of them across the state, Holmevik said attaining the required quorum can be tricky.
“The constitutional amendment is important because it extends the reach of the University into all of its campuses and satellites around the state and brings faculty from these off-main campus locations into the faculty governance realm.”
There’s value in building relationships and partnerships. To represent faculty’s interests, you have to build relationships. Toward that end, Holmevik met with incoming administrators–many of them during their first week on the job. He talked to new (and existing) deans, the new executive vice president for finance and operations and others.
“I wanted to welcome them to Clemson and also wanted to let them know about the Faculty Senate and what we can do to work together,” he said.
In addition to creating connections with new administrators, Holmevik said he also maintained frequent communications with existing leaders at all levels of the University, including the president and all members of the executive leadership team, the Clemson police chief and the board of trustees.
“I’ve tried to build and sustain really good working relationships, so when we have a problem, we can reach out and get resolution fairly quickly,” he said. “When I first took office, I pledged that we would be a strong partner with the University administration. I’m happy with our progress.”
You can’t do it alone. While the Faculty Senate made important strides, Holmevik was quick to credit his colleagues and staff for the Senate’s success.
“At the top of the list of lessons I’ve learned is the value of your colleagues and your staff in completing what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Being a leader, he said, means you have to have people around you to help accomplish goals.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had dedicated senators working on committees, executive chairs of those committees, lead senators and the senate office staff and interns. They have made a tremendous effort to help me accomplish the goals that I set out and more. I am very satisfied with what we have been able to do this year.”
As the Senates transition to new leaders both presidents had advice for their successors.
“Continue to build and maintain good relationships,” said Holmevik. “Make sure that the Faculty Senate stays high on people’s radar and ensure that the Clemson community sees the Senate as a good partner that supports its membership.”
“Hold on to your hat, because things move quickly,” Hofmann said with a laugh. “There’s a lot to be done and there are a lot of demands on your time. But it’s time well spent. It’s absolutely worth it.”