Volume 1 - Issue 1
A periodic source of information intended to be beneficial for the Supportive Professional Staff of Northern Illinois University.
It has been my pleasure this past year to serve the Supportive Professional Staff at NIU. The SPS Council has been active working on issues to improve work place conditions. This past year SPS Council championed the approval of University Council Bylaw, Article 11: Grievance Procedures for Faculty and Staff. These changes helped improve language in the article, consolidating the guidelines and procedures of the grievance process. This year, the Council has set its priority on reviewing and proposing benefits for Temporary SPS. This will be a challenging endeavor but a worthy cause.
All signs indicate that NIU will continue to shoulder the financial burden of supporting the operation of Northern Illinois University as the state’s ability diminishes. As the General Assembly returns for Veto Session we need to be more prepared than ever for legislative action on pensions, contributions, and terms of eligibility. I would encourage you to keep up to date with changes and issues by monitoring the NIU Budget and Pension website at http://www.niu.edu/statebudget or http://www.niu.edu/spsc.
I assure you that the SPS Council is diligently working on your behalf to address issues pertaining to job evaluations, job descriptions, work load, employee morale, salaries, mandatory supervisor training, and benefits. Earlier this year, SPS Council submitted to Human Resource Services a proposal to establish a recognition system acknowledging SPS service to the university throughout one’s career. It is currently under review.
Looking forward I ask that you continue to support the mission of NIU and Vision 2020. I encourage you to interact with other SPS and the SPS Council in exchanging ideas to improve the working relationships at NIU, visit the SPS Council website often for information and updates, be aware and be active. Together we can make a difference in making NIU a world class university and experience for all. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the SPS Council at email@example.com.
SPS Council President
We hope you enjoy this first edition of the Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) Council newsletter. With more than 900 SPS employees on campus, this newsletter is a forum to share SPS events and information with fellow colleagues. After reviewing this edition, please tell us what you liked or offer suggestions for what you might like to see in future newsletters ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Now is the time to become more involved with your SPS Council. The Council is here to represent the needs of SPS employees and voice concerns through shared governance. This can be accomplished through the Council and its representation as well as service on other university committees. The Council offers lunch time networking opportunities by hosting informative speakers on topics of interest to SPS employees. It also sponsors “After Hours” networking events, provides timely legislative updates and information, addresses work place issues, and recognizes SPS Presidential Awards for Excellence, SPSC Service Award and Certificate of Recognition. You can get involved now by nominating a colleague and supporting award winners during the Annual SPSC Awards Ceremony each Spring semester.
President Todd Latham and Council members welcome and invite all SPS employees to attend SPSC meetings, normally held the second Thursday of each month. Be sure to check out the rest of the articles in this newsletter.
If you would like to learn more about the SPS Council, please visit the Council web page.
In 2011, four members of the Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) were chosen to receive the university’s Awards for Excellence.
The recipients were Kate Braser, program coordinator for the Honors Program; Abby Chemers, associate director of Budget and Planning in the Division of Finances and Facilities; Dan Nichols, head of recording services in the School of Music; and Patricia Sievert, coordinator of NIU STEM Outreach in the Center for P-20 Engagement.
The quartet was honored at a reception on April 19 2011, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center. Each received a plaque and $1,500 in appreciation for their outstanding contributions to NIU.
SPS Council President Todd Latham, assistant to the chair of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, received the SPS Council Service Award.
Kate Braser’s job description with the Honors Program is a fairly misleading document: Nowhere in it are most of the things she takes on.
As program coordinator since her arrival at NIU in 2008, Braser develops and organizes activities for the more than 900 students enrolled in Honors. The long list includes welcome-back barbecues, movie nights, flag football games, course previews at a local pizzeria, open mic nights, game nights, “Floor Wars” and “Souper Wednesday” lunches.
She selects and oversees students who help her implement her work, including four Honors House leaders and four community leaders. She has facilitated a team for NIU Cares Day and served as a staff leader for Alternative Spring Break.
Consequently, participation in the Honors Student Association has grown from just eight members in 2008 to more than 60.
But Braser also has maintained and upgraded the program’s website, created and distributed a weekly newsletter, developed service projects for Honors students (including the popular Project Prom) and launched an alumni group and its Facebook page.
She co-chairs the program’s 40th anniversary committee, co-wrote a grant application to bring Honors-eligible high school students to campus for a summer camp and taught a section of UNIV 101.
“(Kate) helps to bring out the best in our students, and they, in turn, give the best of themselves back to the campus community,” her colleagues wrote. “She has performed each task undertaken with unwavering competence and enthusiasm. Student enthusiasm for the program and its programming is at a high.”
When it comes to numbers, Abby Chemers has a brilliant mind.
As associate director for Budget and Planning in Finance and Facilities, with 31 years of experience at NIU, Chemers coordinates the preparation of critical reports submitted to the Illinois Board of Higher Education and possesses a keen knowledge of its financial structure.
She thoughtfully guides individuals around the university regarding financial policies and procedures, recalling situations from the past and providing sage advice on how to handle current circumstances.
When urgent and often-complex requests for information arrive weekly (if not daily) from Illinois lawmakers or the governor’s office — “How many tuition waivers did NIU issue last year?” “How much has NIU spent on unfunded mandates?” — it is Chemers who reaches out across campus to collect the necessary data, assemble and draft responses and work with Executive Vice President Eddie Williams to finalize responses.
Chemers also served as assistant project manager for the implementation of the university’s financial management system, logging countless hours to ensure a smooth transition.
The longtime secretary of the University Benefits Committee and treasurer of the Supportive Professional Staff Council also serves on the Enrollment Management Task Force, offering unique and vital insight.
“Abby is always available to assist in the unexpected,” NIU Controller Keith Jackson wrote. “Her goal has always been to make it easy for a department to do its job and succeed at it. She (also) knows why we currently do something a particular way, and yet is completely open to re-engineering it.”
Many students in the NIU School of Music know Dan Nichols as their teacher for instrumental techniques for flute, clarinet, saxophone and double-reeds.
But to the faculty, Nichols is Mr. Audio-Video.
Prior to his arrival, “faculty were generally dissatisfied with the quality of (audio) support and recordings, and they were requesting funding to bring in outside professionals to do the work,” wrote Paul Bauer, director of the School of Music. “Currently, the quality of the School of Music’s audio recordings is the envy of many other institutions.”
Nichols, an NIU alum who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, began his work in audio recording as a student. He has tested hundreds of pieces of equipment and cables, overhauled the school’s recording facilities, trained and supervised student audio technicians and even constructed several essential recording components.
With the addition of video and live webcasts, it was the technical expertise and dedication of Nichols that vaulted NIU to national and global recognition. People in all 50 states and in more than three dozen countries and five continents have tuned in via Internet.
Most recently, his knowledge and tenacity has positioned NIU as a national leader in interactive video technology and Internet2.
Other colleges and universities consult him, as do several technical staffers from across the NIU campus; his suggestions from earlier work as a “critical tester” of new Internet2 software resulted in the late addition of those capabilities and features.
“Quite literally,” Bauer wrote, “(Dan) does the work of several people.”
When it’s time to “round up the usual suspects” for STEM activities, whether at NIU or across Illinois, Pati Sievert’s name is called.
As outreach coordinator for STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — Sievert plays a critical role in increasing the numbers and diversity of the future STEM professional workforce in northern Illinois, which is critical to the region’s vitality.
“In K-12 schools, science has been somewhat neglected during a decade of emphasis on high-stakes testing in reading and math. Worse, the pipeline of students interested in STEM subjects has diminished,” wrote Anne C. Kaplan, vice president for Outreach, Engagement, and Information Technologies at NIU. “This is where Pati Sievert comes in.”
It was Sievert who launched the Haunted Physics Lab in the Department of Physics, where her NIU career began in 2002.
As Sievert’s role at NIU expanded, so did the haunted labs. They are now a portion of STEMfest, for which Sievert organized NIU’s STEM departments to bring more than 100 hands-on STEM activities to thousands of children and parents in the Convocation Center last October.
While STEMfest might rank as the most visible of Sievert’s efforts to date, other items on her plate include physics demonstration shows for thousands of school children, summer STEM camps and middle school engineering clubs.
Sievert has served as chair of the Committee on Science Education for the Public of the American Association of Physics Teachers, and she regularly presents papers, posters and workshops for state and national science teaching organizations.
In 2011, the Awards Committee worked on identifying SPS for a variety of awards, which were presented at the annual SPS Awards Ceremony. This past year’s ceremony was held on April 19, 2011.
First and foremost, the committee made selections for the prestigious Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) Presidential Award for Excellence (see the previous article). Awarded annually, the Presidential Award recognizes SPS who demonstrate outstanding service through significant contributions to the NIU community, support for the university’s mission, and professionalism. After a campus-wide call for nominations, six nominations were received, and the committee recommended Kate Braser, University Honors; Abby Chemers, Finance & Facilities; Dan Nichols, School of Music; and Patricia Sievert, Outreach to NIU President John Peters.
In addition to the SPS Presidential Award for Excellence, the committee selected the recipients of the SPS Certificate of Recognition (for continued professional development, achievements, and contributions) as well as the recipient of the SPS Service Award (for outstanding service to the SPS Council and SPS at large). Recipients of the SPS Certificate of Recognition were:
The SPS Awards Committee encourages all SPS on campus to consider nominating their colleagues for consideration for these awards in future years. Deadlines and requirements are released during the fall semester each year. Direct inquiries may also be made to any SPS Council member. The SPS Awards Committee is working hard on this years's awards, to be presented at the SPS Awards Ceremony is on April 17, 2012 in the HSC Ballroom, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m., presentation begins at 2:30.
The annual Supportive Professional Staff Council (SPSC) Elections were held last spring to elect new members for terms running from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013. This year's elections are coming up soon. You should have recently received an e-mail soliciting nominations to the SPS Council. Consider nominating yourself and/or your colleagues. The time commitment is minimal. The SPS Council meets once a month. In addition, Council members are asked to serve on a committee, many of which meet as needed.
Every spring, nominations are solicited from SPS employees for candidates from each of the six SPS Divisions. Nominees are then confirmed for eligibility and interest and become candidates. Candidates receive votes from their fellow SPS employees in their division via an online ballot. At the end of the voting period, the candidates are ranked in descending order of votes received and assigned to Council vacancies (with representative vacancies taking priority over alternate vacancies and two-year vacancies taking priority over one-year vacancies). Any relevant ties are manually resolved.
|Division Number||Division Name||Seats|
|1||Academic & Student Affairs - Provost’s Office||2|
|2||Academic & Student Affairs - Student Services||4|
|3||Academic & Student Affairs - Liberal Arts and Sciences||3|
|4||Academic & Student Affairs - Other Colleges and Graduate School||5|
|5||Finance and Facilities - General Administration/Development/President||8|
All SPS employees are members of one of the six SPS Council Divisions. The assignment placement of SPS employees into the divisions is determined from their department. (A list of the departments belonging to each Council division can be found on the SPSC website.)
The Council consists of 24 representatives, 24 (non-voting) alternates, and one president. The president is elected at large and does not represent any particular division. Each representative is elected from and represents his or her division. Each representative also has a single designated alternate (also elected from the specific Council division).
The proportion of the 24 representative seats across the six divisions is based upon the proportion of all SPS employees in each Division. Every few years, the Council reexamines the proportions to ensure the Council membership reflects the base employee ratios (although there is a two-representative/alternate minimum for all divisions).
The SPS divisions and their current associated Council composition are detailed in the table entitled “SPS Divisions.”
|Division Number||Division Name||Member Name||Position||Term Ending|
|1||Academic & Student Affairs - Provost’s Office||Dana Gautcher||Representative||2013|
|2||Academic & Student Affairs - Student Services||Holly Holiday-Jones||Representative||2013|
|3||Academic & Student Affairs - Liberal Arts and Sciences||Samantha Fisher||Representative||2013|
|4||Academic & Student Affairs - Other Colleges and Graduate School||Gail Hayenga||Representative||2013|
|5||Finance and Facilities - General Administration / Development / President||Deborah Haliczer||Representative||2013|
|6||Intercollegiate Athletics||No Candidates|
The members elected to the SPS Council are detailed in the table entitled “Elected Council Members.“
A complete list of SPS Council representatives can be found on the Council website.
The SPS Council hosted several events in 2011.
In March, the SPS Council hosted a luncheon in the Chandelier Room. Dr. Brian Hemphill, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, spoke about enrollment and budget implications. Later in March, during NIU’s spring break week, SPS Council and Operating Staff Council co-sponsored a brown bag luncheon series. Featured guests were Ken Zehnder, Dr. Steve Cunningham, Dr. Joe Grush, and State Representative Bob Pritchard. These speakers addressed concerns about what was happening in Springfield as related to pensions and the budget.
The final Chandelier Room luncheon took place in April. We were proud to welcome President Peters to talk about the Vision 2020 initiative.
In October 2011, the Council brought Jim Lockard to campus. Jim is NIU's representative to SURS, and he provided insight to potential changes in pensions and other issues. In November 2011, a tailgate event was held at Pizza Pros. The Council also hosted the first-ever holiday open house on December 15, 2011. Guests enjoyed a chocolate dipping station and the opportunity to mingle and network. The Council recognizes all of the contributions that SPS make to NIU and was pleased to provide this acknowledgment.
The events hosted by the Council are open to all NIU faculty and staff members, and are a great opportunity to network and learn about important campus issues. On February 23, 2012, the Council will host a luncheon featuring a presentation by Mr. Dennis Barsema. A panel of NIU faculty and staff to discuss student engagement is planned for April 4 2012 in Diversions Lounge. Watch your e-mail and the SPS Council website for more information about upcoming events. We hope to see you there!