Changes on the Horizon

April 28, 2014

The one constant at UC Merced is change.

The most tangible changes underway today are to its sense of place — from putting the finishing touches on Science and Engineering Building 2 and the new Wallace-Dutra Amphitheatre to preparations for the Classroom and Office Building 2 groundbreaking and expansion of the Central Plant.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, work continues around the 2020 Project, which will even more dramatically change the campus landscape as it expands to accommodate 10,000 students.

But the other change is to the institution’s character. At this moment in our history, we are faced with the question of what we want to be as a campus, most crucially academically, but also as an employer.

This means grappling with critical questions such as what is UC Merced’s value proposition — why should someone want to work here? What are the skills we need for the 2020 Project and beyond? What unique personal attributes must we attract, not just in regard to job skills but to a sense of mission, an appetite for risk and a commitment to innovation?

These questions are all being addressed as part of Chancellor Dorothy Leland’s initiative to develop a clear compensation philosophy and strategy that will help guide the campus to the next stage of its development.

Through listening sessions with both managers and staff members over the past several months, we have already learned a great deal:

  • UC Merced staff members possess a level of pride often lacking among staff at other, more mature campuses. However, there is also an understanding that we are no longer campus “founders;” we are now “change agents” in an institution in transition, and collectively we are excited about the possibilities but daunted by the challenges.
  • Across the organization, we feel overworked and underpaid. UC Merced staff members must juggle multiple job responsibilities, which allows for opportunities to learn and grow, but at pay generally lower relative to peers at other campuses doing similar work.

Compensation strategies are opaque. It’s often unclear how and why salary decisions are made. This has been exacerbated by Career Tracks. Even today, many UC Merced staff members do not understand the intent of Career Tracks much less why it was implemented the way it was.

In answering these questions with the chancellor and other campus leaders, we will develop a clear compensation philosophy for UC Merced. The philosophy will guide development of a strategy to begin to address some salary inequities, both within the campus and with sibling UC campuses and other markets whose pay scales make it difficult for UC Merced to compete to recruit new talent and retain the valuable staff members who are here today.

I can make two promises: The first one is that the final strategy will not please everybody. The second promise, however, is that our strategy will be clear, understandable and most crucially, it will be transparent.

It will be a shared roadmap to an even better future for the unique institution that is UC Merced.

 

* * * I can’t let this Panorama opportunity pass without also announcing that applications are being accepted for the new Career Advancement Mentoring Program (CAMP), which will provide opportunities for staff members looking for one-on-one help from more experienced UC Merced staff members regarding goal setting, increasing job satisfaction, enhancing their current jobs or developing new career strategies. For further information or to apply, email Yazil Navarro or visit go to the program's webpage.