Town Hall’s Message: We Are Stronger Together

January 28, 2020    |  

The power of teamwork was on display Jan. 27 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) as its Faculty Senate and Staff Senate combined to hold a Shared Governance Town Hall. The event was so popular that SMC Campus Center staff had to bring out additional rows of chairs for the overflow crowd of 200-plus in Elm Ballroom B.

K-9 comfort dog Archie wanders during the Shared Governance Town Hall.

K-9 comfort dog Archie wanders during the Shared Governance Town Hall.

“Thank you so, so much. It warms our hearts to see everyone here today to get a grasp on what’s going on around campus,” said Kristy Novak, MS, Staff Senate president and assistant director of student services at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. “Over the last year the Staff Senate and Faculty Senate have been working on forging a stronger bond and developing a better collaboration. Now that we see how much interest there is, I’m really hoping this is something we can do every six months.”

UMB’s new interim president, Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, headed a seven-person leadership panel who each spoke about their area before the floor was opened to questions. Jarrell, who took over the presidency on Jan. 6 when Jay A. Perman, MD, stepped down to become chancellor of the University System of Maryland, also mentioned teamwork.

“We have a wonderful environment here for people to participate,” he said. “In giving you a summary of what I think is important, the first thing I want to say is teamwork. If you think leadership is here to have all the answers, you’re wrong. We’re here to listen to your good ideas, to be part of this team, and to guide us in terms of how we can do a better job.”

Jarrell said he would be doing more listening when he begins office hours later this year. “Just to have an open door for people to walk in and talk about a topic and have a conversation. It’s not a lecture, it’s a listening session,” he said. “It has to be constructive to be useful. So I’ll expect to hear your solutions as well as your questions.”

The town hall, moderated by Mark Emmel, MAS, director of employee development in Human Resource Services, then turned to the other panelists. Roger Ward, EdD, JD, MSL, MPA, interim provost, executive vice president, and dean of the Graduate School, explained how the Office of the Provost’s goal “is to add value to UMB’s schools and the leadership of the schools.”

He said this is done in three areas. 1) Creating excellence in teaching and learning, adapting to current demographics and how today’s students wish to be taught. 2) Inclusive excellence, making sure that UMB has a diverse community in every way possible across faculty, staff, and students; and 3) “what I call institutional effectiveness, that we can demonstrate at accreditation time that we are a well-run, well-organized, effective institution at exercising our mission.

Dawn Rhodes, MBA, chief business and finance officer and vice president, discussed changes in the UM shuttle where faculty and staff will pay $1.75 per ride beginning in April. She also discussed the UMB budget, buildings that are being acquired as part of the North Campus Master Plan, Quantum Financials, public safety, and a smoking committee update.

She was followed by UMB Police Chief Alice Cary, MS, who noted new portable radios are helping her officers “get information instantaneously, in real time,” that students will be hired to help monitor the expanded Safe Walk/Safe Ride program, and that 30 new officers are being recruited in a joint UMB/University of Maryland Medical Center initiative. “So if you know of anyone who would like to apply for these new positions, please let us know,” Cary told the crowd, “because you who work here are the greatest recruiters we have.”

Matt Lasecki, SPHR, chief human relations officer, spoke of how HR is evolving at UMB, from a policy interpretation and transactional organization to one that is more solutions-oriented. “So instead of saying you can’t, we’re looking at trying to identify what the ultimate goal is and saying maybe we can’t do it this way but maybe we can do it that way,” said Lasecki, who also mentioned HR’s Office of Career Development for staff and new conflict resolution tools. The PDP evaluation system is being completely re-evaluated for the first time in 15 years.

Joshua Abzug, MD, Faculty Senate president and University of Maryland School of Medicine associate professor, thanked Novak for sharing this event, with plans to add students in the future. “For now it’s great to get all the employees of the University in one room and try to get them on the same page.” He said clinicians such as himself are often “in their own little worlds” in UMB’s seven schools and he has been happy to grow as a collaborator in his five years on Faculty Senate.

After some closing remarks on civility and the need for nominations for the Board of Regents awards from Novak, Emmel took questions from the audience on Live Near Your Work, the UM shuttle, cost-of-living adjustments, and more.

But the star of the show, before the presentations and after, was Archie, the K-9 comfort dog who accompanied Cary. A survivor of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, Archie had a line of UMB employees offering him pets beforehand and the last two questions were on how UMB groups can arrange visits with him and his K-9 colleague Lexi and who takes care of them after-hours (Cary and Cpl. J.R. Jones). “This little guy brings so much heart and soul to so many,” Cary said.

Christina Cestone, PhD, executive director of the UMB Center for Faculty Teaching and Learning, said she attended the event because she is fairly new employee and wanted to learn more about current initiatives on campus.

“I was really interested in the expansion of the campus and the development of the northwest side of the campus because that’s where our offices are located,” she said. “I think a lot of employees and faculty should attend because I think some of the questions in the room particularly are very illuminating for the rest of the group.”

Afterward, there was a resource fair of the aforementioned departments as well as the Office of Accountability and Compliance, Community Engagement Center, Communications, Diversity Advisory Council, Parking, URecFit, Workplace Mediation Service, and more.