Staff weighs in on UT’s future at forum

Aria Jones

UT staff members listed student employment after graduation, stress culture management and increased collaboration between departments as potential goals for the University’s next ten years at the Council for TEXAS Impact staff engagement forum Monday. 

UT President Gregory Fenves announced TEXAS Impact in fall 2019 as a council to research the University’s priorities for the next 10 years. There are two University staff members, three students and more than 20 faculty members on the council.

More than 30 staff members gathered at the McCombs School of Business for the third and final broad invitation staff TEXAS Impact forum. Staff were asked to answer questions about UT’s impact on the world, how the college is preparing students and research ideas that will make UT a global leader of change. Sandra Catlett, chair of the staff council, said the initiative is exciting because staff aren’t always included in this type of future planning initiative.

“It’s really special to me that we were invited to participate in this process,” Catlett said at the meeting. “If they ask for our opinion, then we need to tell them because otherwise they’ll stop asking.”

Larrimie Gordon, chair of staff council operations, said he wants to see staff work more collaboratively with other employees at the college.

“It’s great that we’re part of this process, but it still does seem a little bit lopsided in the council itself,” Gordon, employee engagement coordinator for Facilities Services, said at the meeting. “There are over twice as many staff as there are faculty (at UT). Administrative staff in all of the academic units have probably just as much impact, if not more in some cases, on the students that come to campus.”

Gordon said forums like the one Monday should happen more often, so staff members from different parts of the University can be more aware of what’s happening on campus as a whole.

Melissa Taylor, a member of the council and assistant dean at the College of Natural Sciences, said she has seen several themes reiterated at meetings with staff, including the need for equity and access, concerns over the climate crisis and sustainability and UT as a model for the city, state and country.

“I was intimidated to lead these conversations because it is so broad and vague and thought that would be paralyzing, but people have no problem jumping in and thinking, ‘10-year goal? I’ve got ideas,’” Taylor said.