USAC kicks off spring semester with focus on inclusion, equity, diversity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – At its virtual meeting on Jan. 20, the University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) welcomed newly hired Penn State Assistant Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Lisette Garcia, and introduced the co-chairs of USAC’s new inclusion, equity, and diversity committee.

Garcia shared some of her plans and goals for the upcoming year, including future meetings with USAC’s inclusion, equity and diversity committee to identify ways to collaborate on initiatives. As part of her current listening campaign across the University, Garcia also answered questions and gathered feedback to gain a better understanding of Penn State’s ongoing commitment to fostering and supporting equitable and inclusive work environments for Penn State staff, with a focus on the areas of talent acquisition and talent management. 

USAC voted to create its new inclusion, equity and diversity committee during the fall 2020 semester with the goal to create new programming and advocacy for all members of the University community. Karen Armstrong, director of inclusion, equity, and diversity at Penn State Outreach and Online Education, and Adidi Etim-Hunting, program coordinator for the Millennium Scholars Program, have now been named committee co-chairs. 

Together, they are charged with leading efforts to identify programming and resources that will educate, increase access and broaden opportunities for all identity groups across the University. The committee strives to build community across University staff with professional inclusion, equity and diversity growth opportunities throughout the Commonwealth and by welcoming non-USAC members to be involved. 

“We look forward to the opportunities this newly formed committee will provide and how we can be a source of advocacy for inclusion, equity, and diversity for staff,” said Armstrong and Etim-Hunting.

Personal identity access management and Affirmative Action Office collaboration

Tom Rodgers from Penn State’s Office of Information Security also joined USAC to share updates on identity and access management and the University’s policy on preferred names and gender identity. 

Rodgers said upcoming changes will make it easier for Penn Staters to self-assert their personal identity information in one place, while promoting a more reliable syncing of that data across University systems, such as Zoom and Office 365. 

Updates are also being made to allow employees who previously used LionPATH or Workday to update personal information for students and staff, to update this information centrally, ensuring that changes are consistent across systems. Staff can expect important details to be communicated in the upcoming months.

USAC and the Affirmative Action Office (AAO) also announced plans to collaborate on ways to improve the delivery and education of sensitive matters crucial to the success of achieving an equitable and just workplace for all Penn State employees. One of the plans invites USAC members to participate and review newly created AAO professional development sessions.   

“Since our first meeting last year, this collaboration provides USAC members with diversity education while providing me with immediate and genuine feedback from employee perspectives,” said Shakoor Ward, Penn State professional development coordinator for the AAO.

Staff recognition, appreciation and awards

Nominations are now being accepted for USAC’s three annual Staff Recognition Awards: the Staff Excellence Award, Staff Morale Award and Staff Leadership Award. Endowed by President Eric Barron and Molly Barron, these awards recognize staff across the Commonwealth and all full-time staff members from every campus and all work units are eligible. Any faculty, staff, administrators, and students are encouraged to submit a nomination. Award criteria and nomination forms for each are currently available until the deadline of March 1, 2021.

USAC also encourages staff members to take every opportunity to give deserved recognition to their fellow Penn Staters for any extra effort and achievements that benefit the University as a whole. Staff members are encouraged to show their appreciation for their fellow Penn Stater’s through both USAC’s Positive Paws program as well as the Office of Strategic Communciations’ series of “We Are!” shoutouts that appear in Penn State Today

About the University Staff Advisory Council

USAC—the voice for Penn State staff—consists of dedicated staff who act in an advisory capacity to the central administration; explore issues, policies and practices that impact staff; suggest revisions to policies and new policy initiatives; and advocate for staff welfare and development. USAC serves the president and his administration through the vice president of human resources and accepts new members annually. USAC can be contacted via email at and can also be found on Facebook.

Staff interested in joining USAC should look for the Council’s invitation to apply for membership in early February. Visit USAC’s website to learn more.


Last Updated January 28, 2021