Born out of a desire to recognize, represent and advocate UNM’s largest body of employees, Staff Council is celebrating 30 years of service to The University of New Mexico.
After various initiatives attempted staff representation, the Board of Regents approved the creation of UNM Staff Council in December 1989. What began as an organization focused on the interests of staff members is now evolving into a group dedicated to acknowledging and collaborating on issues that impact the University as a whole, while offering vital contributions to faculty and students.
“Our staff have faced incredible obstacles over the last thirty years – probably never moreso than at this moment – and have continuously prevailed. Their resilience is due in no small part to the advocacy, collaboration and representation of Staff Council,” said UNM President Garnett S. Stokes.
Facing and overcoming challenges is not new territory for UNM Staff Council. During the last three decades, staff leaders have navigated deep waters of administration politics to ensure staff employees have a voice in university governance. When faced with potentially losing post-retirement benefits, Staff Council formed the Retiree Health Care Task Force and successfully found a way to reduce the unfunded liability. When New Mexico state lawmakers began debating cuts to higher education funding in 2008, Staff Council’s Government Relations Committee began working with the UNM Office of Government and Community Relations to advocate for UNM’s priorities during the legislative session. When the University faced funding cuts, Staff Council campaigned to have a seat at the yearly budget discussions – and succeeded.
"When I look at the history of Staff Council, I am impressed with its success over 30 years to improve workplace conditions, benefits and compensation,” said Staff Council President Nancy Shane. “Over the years, Councilors have added meaning to our work lives by increasing staff voice and created opportunities for staff to give back to others in the UNM and local communities. They have sought to participate in the most important University dialogues, such as safety on campus, climate change, improving diversity, equity and inclusion. I have gained many skills and met so many committed individuals through Staff Council; and am very proud to be part of it."
Through the continued efforts of Staff Council, UNM staff now enjoy many increased benefits and resources. The elected body advocated initiatives like ‘Staff as Students’ and tuition remission to encourage staff to pursue their education. It has also been a driving force for the Catastrophic Leave, domestic partners and paid paternal leave policies. In addition, it was instrumental in facilitating staff town halls, while recognizing staff achievements through awards, lunches and programming.
“Even now, when many staff are working remotely, they've never slowed or backed down; instead, they've quickly stepped up and risen to meet new challenges head on, adapting to ever-changing situations and providing valuable feedback from across departments and programs,” said President Stokes. “Our staff always ensure students and faculty have the tools and resources they need to succeed and make invaluable contributions to this University.”
As the University moves into a new model of remote working and learning, it becomes even more imperative for staff to have a unified voice. The UNM Staff Council is only as strong as the information it receives, and it’s up to each individual on campus to ensure their questions and concerns are known. Staff are an integral part of UNM and should take pride in their work – even as they strive to make the University a better workplace than the one they were hired into.
Click here to learn more about participating in Staff Council committees or to find a Staff Council Representative.