When it came time to fill out college applications, Amber Seaton had her sights set on one place and one place only: The University of Iowa.
“I really think I always knew that I was going to be a Hawkeye,” Seaton says.
The Ridgeway, Iowa, native—who assumed the role of UI Staff Council president on April 1—received a degree in finance from the Tippie College of Business, and has been a full-time UI employee for nearly 10 years since, most recently in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science in the College of Pharmacy. And now, in her fourth year on Staff Council, she looks forward to serving as a conduit of sorts for UI staff and members of the administration.
Seaton spoke with fyi about her decision to run for Staff Council president, what she enjoys most about serving on Staff Council, and the pressing issues facing the council this year.
This is your fourth year on Staff Council. What prompted you to get involved?
Friends encouraged me to run. I was interested in University issues, following the news, and decided running for Staff Council was a good way to get involved and meet other people on campus.
You’ve been a member of the council’s executive committee since your first year—your term as president marks your fourth year as an officer. What inspired your level of commitment?
This speaks to my personality: If I’m going to do something, I do it. The executive committee provides a good way for UI staff to learn more about the University. Members of the executive committee meet with President [Sally] Mason every month and with Provost [Wallace] Loh every other month. Mason is so forthcoming with us, and she values staff input. Communication with her is a two-way street—she really wants to hear our opinions.
What do you enjoy most about Staff Council?
Getting to know so many people, meeting people I wouldn’t have met as part of my job. One particular highlight is visiting the recipients of Staff Council awards, presenting them with their gift, and reading excerpts from the nomination papers. It’s great for staff morale, and we get to see the interesting things people are doing across campus.
It’s safe to say one of the bigger issues during your term will be the change to the benefits program on Jan. 1, 2011.
This has been an ongoing issue with Staff Council, and we’ve had very good conversations with President Mason on this topic. We brought our thoughts to the table in 2008, which I believe was one factor in Mason delaying the implementation of the Committee on Funded Retirement and Insurance Charter (FRIC) recommendations until Jan. 1, 2011. It’s still not a popular choice for everyone—I am a double-spouse employee with kids in day care, so I will feel the impact—but the delay gave people time to make choices.
FRIC did not make any recommendations to change its past proposal. We’ve been talking with Faculty Senate about whether we should have more forums on the topic, but since there are no alterations to discuss, there’s nothing new to put forward from our end. Details on changes to the program can be found at www.uiowa.edu/hr/benefits/benefits09/index.html.
Any bright spots on the budget front?
We’re starting to talk about salary policy proposals that will be put forward to the regents for approval—more specifically, the possibility of raises for professional and scientific staff and faculty. Mason has indicated support for such salary increases should the budget allow, which speaks to how she feels about staff. She recognizes that staff help the University continue to function at a high level, which is rewarding in its own right.
Are there other big issues you expect Staff Council to address this year?
The Compensation and Classification Redesign Project has seen a great deal of progress. The classification phase is nearing completion, as the placement committees have been busy slotting employees into appropriate job families. This project highlights the benefits of being involved with things like Staff Council: the Job Information Form might have seemed a bit tedious to some, but after hearing updates and knowing how—and why—the project was being done, the process seemed more bearable and useful. Karen Shemanski, a Staff Council member from Compensation and Classification, does a great job updating the council.
How can staff get involved or stay informed on University issues?
Staff can get involved by talking to Staff Council members. Our web site (www.uiowa.edu/~staff) includes contact information, and the officers have access to the general Staff Council e-mail account, email@example.com. Staff Council serves as a conduit for staff and administration. We can provide answers to staff or we can pass along concerns to people further up. Talking with one’s supervisor can also be very effective: if you have a suggestion for improving efficiency, supervisors can help turn these suggestions into reality. Voicing these ideas helps us all be more successful.
What do you like to do outside of work?
My husband, Brad, who works in the Carver College of Medicine Dean’s Office, and I have two young boys. Our older son, Carter, is playing soccer, t-ball, and flag football—those activities keep us busy. Our younger son, Cale, also keeps us on our toes! I enjoy digital scrapbooking and participate in a wine club and book club with friends. Our family likes to travel, and in the summer we’ll try to take in baseball games at Wrigley Field.
by Christopher Clair