P&S Council looks to help peers share expertise

When Sara Parris arrived at Iowa State in 2015, there was a lot to like about her new job. Managing the finances of the Thielen Student Health Center was interesting and rewarding.

But it also was isolating, she said. There are many budget officers on campus, but nobody else in the human health care field and only a handful in auxiliary units such as Thielen. Finding a colleague to turn to with questions wasn't easy.

"There were many times when I thought to myself, 'Someone on campus has to be doing this. And they have to be doing it really well. But I have no idea who they are or how to find them,'" said Parris, past president of the Professional and Scientific Council. "So I had to create everything from scratch, with a lot of trial and error along the way."

While her sense of isolation faded as she became more seasoned and got involved in council, Parris still feels like she's trying to reinvent the wheel at times, pondering problems someone else on campus has already solved. She's hoping a new council initiative she's leading will make that experience less common.

A peer expert community soon will be available to employees in Canvas, giving ISU staff discussion boards for sharing advice and posting questions about work topics. The forum for lending expertise is meant to be an additional resource, Parris told the council at its March 3 meeting, not a substitute for submitting help requests or reviewing knowledge base articles in the ISU Service Portal.

Parris will chair an ad hoc committee focused on building and stabilizing the peer expert community, continuing in that role into the fall even after her term on council ends in June. A prototype should be ready for council to test by April. She plans to set the timeline for a campuswide launch in consultation with the committee.

"I've had this idea for several years now, and I'm really excited it's finally coming to fruition," she said.

Salary motion approved

The council approved a motion to submit its annual compensation and benefits report and recommendation to senior leaders.

Though it doesn't propose a specific raise for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, the council's recommendation notes that P&S staff are taking on more duties and paying more for health insurance. To retain and recruit talented employees, salaries must get more competitive, the council's recommendation states. Average raises over the last four years have lagged behind inflation, a problem that got worse in 2021 when inflation spiked to 7%, the report said.  

Additions to the report since the first reading of the motion in February address the 6% increase to the P&S salary matrix the state Board of Regents approved Feb. 23. The boosted pay ranges were effective March 1 and are based on recent and projected salary increases in higher education. Raising pay ranges without significant increases for existing staff is unacceptable, said Patrick Wall, chair of the council's compensation and benefits committee.

Officers elected

Council members elected Wall, a Knoxville-based beef field specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, to serve as the president-elect for 2022-23. Current president-elect Jamie Sass, director of the Ivy College of Business Writing and Speaking Center, will serve as council president in 2022-23.

Other council members elected to serve in officer positions in 2022-23 are:

  • Sarah Larkin, vice president for university community relations
  • Marlene Jacks, vice president for equity and inclusion
  • Susan DeBlieck, secretary/treasurer

Council representatives will be elected later this month in an online vote open to all P&S staff. P&S employees will receive an email with an election link for the representative in their division March 21. Voting closes March 27.

Term staff studied

The council's policies and procedures committee is studying a possible recommendation to limit how long P&S staff can be on a term appointment before being considered continuous employees, said committee chair Paul Easker. A little more than 25% of the nearly 3,300 P&S employees are on term appointments. More than half of those appointments end in 2022, and 78% don't extend past 2023, based on data he shared with the council.

The committee's next step is to determine how many of the term appointments are grant funded, Easker said. 

Bowling together

P&S staff are encouraged to enjoy free pool and bowling at CyBowl and Billiards in the Memorial Union from 3-5 p.m. March 10 during the council's annual meet and greet event. Refreshments will be provided and no preregistration is needed.