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Staff concerns addressed

Jenn Metz | Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two of the University’s top leaders shared their views on Notre Dame’s progress toward achieving its central goals at a standing room-only town hall-style meeting for staff members Wednesday.

Robert McQuade, associate vice president for Human Resources, introduced University President Father John Jenkins and Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves to the audience in the packed Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

McQuade said the University hopes to host smaller sessions in the future so more people can have the opportunity to listen and ask their questions about the University.

Affleck-Graves emphasized the importance of the town-hall meeting sessions.

“This is where we think the University is going,” he said, “And we want to hear from you.”

He said the academic and the administrative/business sides of the University cannot exist without each other.

Using Duncan Hall as an example, Affleck-Graves emphasized the teamwork and mutual responsibilities that the staff contributes to the University’s visions and goals.

He mentioned custodial services, landscape services, the Office of Residence Life and Housing and academic departments, since Duncan is the first residence hall with a classroom, as well as University architects, to name a few of the departments involved in the project.

The teamwork that goes into every part of University life was continually emphasized in Affleck-Graves’ presentation, using services for undergraduate students and the current construction of Stinson-Remick Hall as examples of the ways different departments work together.

A hallmark of Notre Dame is its Catholic character, Affleck-Graves said, and that can be seen in many forms, citing specifically maintenance services that worked on the renovations to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, human resources that help familiarize employees with Notre Dame, Campus Ministry and the new Office of Sustainability with its many initiatives.

He said he encouraged all who comprise the campus community to “act responsibly” in advancing the University’s sustainability by recycling and turning off lights.

“There are 15, 16 thousand people on this campus; together we can all make an impact,” he said.

Notre Dame is working to “provide a comprehensive employee experience,” Affleck-Graves said, with competitive wages within the market, wellness programs, benefits like health and life insurance and employee development and training. A main focus of the University is creating a safe work environment, he said.

As an employer, the University is very passionate in its need to offer benefits to its employees, Affleck-Graves said.

The University addressed several of the issues raised by the ND Voice survey administered to employees in 2006.

One such issue regarded pay rates at the University, and how they compare to other positions with similar work. After analyzing data from a compensation service of 51 organizations in the Michiana area including, for example, the City of South Bend, Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) and Western Michigan University, Affleck-Graves said 40 percent of Notre Dame employees are compensated at rates significantly above the market range, 57 percent are compensated within the market range and three percent are below the market range.

The University is continually working to expand its employee development and training programs, including its learning at work program, which offers employees the opportunity to take broad education courses, as well as career management courses, Affleck-Graves said.

The ND Voice 2008 survey will be administered Oct. 6-27 by an outside consulting organization called Towers Perrin-ISR. The University “only gets data amalgamated by at least 10 people,” Affleck-Graves said, so employee responses are kept confidential.

Affleck-Graves concluded his presentation by briefly discussing a major University initiative: the Eddy St. Commons, which “will make a big difference to the South Side of campus,” he said.

Companies that have already signed lease agreements for lots in the Commons include Follett, White Lodging Marriot, Kildare’s Irish Pub, Doc Magrogan’s and Hot Box Pizza.

Other possible tenants may include restaurant chains, especially a sandwich or coffee shop, a cellular phone provider, clothing retailers, a bank and a salon or day spa.

‘Great progress’

Jenkins thanked those in attendance for their hard work, dedication and service to the University.

The feeling of welcoming that the staff gives to people at the University is “what makes Notre Dame special,” he said. “When someone visiting campus meets one of you, they meet Notre Dame.”

He addressed three of the University’s central goals in his portion of the presentation, namely: to offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education, to become a pre-eminent research university and to ensure that the University’s Catholic character informs all its endeavors.

His presentation was “a summary of things we have been doing to move us forward,” Jenkins said. “We have farther to go, but we’ve made some great progress.”

Undergraduate education, Jenkins said, is “the core of Notre Dame.”

He presented three strides the University is making toward pursuing that goal: providing students with the best teachers possible, new opportunities for undergraduate research and continued opportunities for service.

The recent changes to the course/instructor feedback system will allow for “efficient, effective and informative feedback,” resulting in “better teachers,” he said.

The University is also aiming to expand its undergraduate research opportunities, which provide students with a different sort of education than the kind that occurs in the classroom.

“We learn best by undertaking our own inquiries,” Jenkins said. “[Research] is really where true learning goes on.”

He said the Office of Undergraduate Research was established to help students as much as possible in pursuing those inquiries.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Center for Social Concerns, which has encouraged the incorporation of service in education during its history at the University, Jenkins said.

“Students are able to use their talents and abilities to serve,” he said. “At Notre Dame, we educate not only the mind, but the heart.”

In working to become a premier research University, Notre Dame is working to expand opportunities for research funding and fellowships. It currently participates in research partnerships with other universities and organizations, like the Midwest Institution for Nanoelectronics Discovery (MIND) and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

The planned Innovation Park, an addition south of campus, will “help make more discoveries” and has the potential to create a better local economic situation, he said.

The Catholic mission of Notre Dame should be seen as “a guide, something that makes the University distinctive,” Jenkins said.

An articulation of Catholic values to all employees is important, Jenkins said.

“We should all embrace the dignity of individual service to the world,” he said.


Using a PowerPoint, Jenkins introduced some of the newer faces in the University’s central administrative group, including: Janet Botz, the new vice president for Public Affairs and Communications; Marriane Corr, vice president and general counsel; Greg Crawford, dean of the College of Science; Erin Hoffman Harding, associate vice president for strategic planning; Peter Kilpatrick, dean of the College of Engineering; John McGreevy, dean of the College of Arts and Letters; Gregory Sterling, dean of the Graduate School; and Jack Swarbrick, director of Athletics.

“This is a time of growing opportunities with new energy and fresh perspectives,” Jenkins said.

A short question and answer session followed the presentation. The town hall meeting was followed by refreshments on the new Irish Green at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.