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June 14, 2001

New SAC president assumes post

Drawing on her own job experience, the newly elected Staff Association Council president said SAC "should be more like an advising center for staff. We are here to listen to your concerns; not tell you what to do, but suggest options and opportunities. And if we can't help you directly, we could tell you where to forward your issues or find out more information. I see SAC as a resource that should be used much more by staff."

Barbara "Babs" Mowery, associate director for College of Arts and Sciences advising and a Pitt staff member since 1972, began her two-year term as SAC president yesterday, June 13.

Although she has been a member of SAC for several years, Mowery said that inexperience as a SAC officer is her biggest shortcoming as its new president. "I've only been an officer for one year. I barely got my feet wet and I'm still learning. I want to let staff know they can contact me by phone, or e-mail or even drop off a letter [if they want to remain anonymous]."

Mowery said that SAC officers will be meeting soon to discuss the council's goals for the year. Among the agenda items she supports are helping staff who take classes at Pitt have full student privileges; establishing an adopt-a-student program, and organizing a flea market fund-raiser for the SAC-sponsored books for children of staff fund.

Currently, staff who enroll in classes are not given a separate student I.D. card, Mowery said. "So a staff person doesn't get the student discounts from outside vendors, for example. I'd like to see that changed. Being a student is not how old you are."

A perennial student herself, Mowery earned a B.A. in the humanities concentration in 1991 at the College of General Studies and a master's degree in instructional design and technology from the School of Education in 1995. She is working on her dissertation for a doctorate in the education school, while working full time.

"Maybe it's because of my job, but I think that staff should have more contact with students, if they're interested," Mowery said. "We're letting in more students who are not from this area or not familiar with Pittsburgh. I think we could start a program where staff 'adopt' a student, be there as an adviser or mentor or someone just to talk to."

Mowery said SAC is planning a flea market fund-raiser Sept. 29 to help support the children of staff book fund, which she helped establish during the past year. Staff, faculty and other vendors will be charged for sale tables, and that money will go to the book fund. Sellers will keep all profits from their sales, Mowery said.

Mowery cited the role of SAC in the University's shared governance structure as one of its most important functions. SAC has representation on University Senate standing committees and members are often appointed to dean's search and other recommending committees.

The new president said she particularly valued the role SAC officers have as liaisons to Human Resources. Mowery said SAC officers meet once a month with Ron Frisch, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources. "These meetings are confidential, but that's intentional. We can speak freely to him, raise issues, and he can bounce stuff off us as staff. When he has ideas he'll run them past us. And they do value our input."

Mowery said her overall goal was to make SAC a more visible resource on campus. "We have to get more people involved, either as SAC members or as staff who bring concerns and issues to SAC. I think if staff only knew how rewarding the experience is, they would be more willing to participate. We need each other and we can help each other."

–Peter Hart

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