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November 6, 2014

University Senate Matters: Adapting to a changing environment

The mission of the University Senate’s benefits and welfare committee includes advocating for, protecting and advancing highly competitive benefit programs for faculty, staff, retirees and students.

Last year the committee focused on improving communication and creating greater awareness of the benefits and resources available to the University community. This was accomplished through several initiatives such as committee members keeping their schools informed about committee discussions and initiating outreach programs, such as school-based individual/group financial advisory sessions with a TIAA-CREF representative. Similar sessions will be scheduled this year with a Vanguard representative.

The committee also decided to poll their colleagues about benefit and health concerns. John Kozar, vice chancellor, Human Resources, assisted me in creating a survey that identified topics of interest for committee discussion. As a result of the survey, the benefits and welfare committee meetings this year will focus on health care reform; funding of benefit programs; employee discount programs; mental health resources; health promotion (including stress management), and the services provided by Human Resources’ Benefits department. The survey confirmed that the implications of health care reform to the University remains an important issue to faculty and staff.

In addition, the benefits and welfare committee plans to collaborate with the Office of Human Resources to develop programs supporting health promotion and wellness. For example, two committee members, Linda Tashbook of the law school and Irene Kane of nursing, are developing programs to augment existing stress management offerings and to provide additional mental health resources. Tashbook will develop content and concept resources for mental illness, while Kane will focus on stress management programs.

Committee members are interested not only in the development of these stress management and mental health programs, but also in advancing established evidenced-based programs, continuing to advocate for health promotion, and identifying opportunities in health promotion offerings. The committee’s initiatives support the University health plans’ emphasis on prevention programs, such as tobacco cessation, health coaching, wellness visits, nutritional counseling and the Fitness for Life program.

The benefits and welfare committee will continue to partner with Human Resources to develop programs for faculty, staff, retirees and students, providing updates as programs evolve. The collaborative effort between the committee and the Office of Human Resources, and the ongoing communication outreach, are key ingredients in a growing partnership with the University community.

Angelina E. Riccelli, a faculty member in the School of Dental Medicine, is chair of the Senate’s benefits and welfare committee.