Faculty and Staff

USAC advances inclusion, equity and wellness at annual summit

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Staff advisory councils and organizations from Penn State Commonwealth Campuses and colleges met virtually on March 30 at the fourth annual University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) Summit to share ideas and collaborate on issues impacting Penn State staff across the University.

More than 75 staff representatives attended the day’s events focused on diversity and inclusion, the challenges of remote work environments amid the pandemic, the potential future of artificial intelligence and the advantages of practicing mindfulness. 

"In planning the summit, our team was committed to opening the lines of communication to represent all staff, share resources and promote engagement," said Cynthia Pristash, chair of USAC’s outreach committee, recognizing that staff have faced the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice issues and the shift to remote work over the preceding year. “We’ve worked to develop our Community Engagement group and the summit was a great way to come together to share support, ideas and best practices. In doing so, we heard of the positive steps many councils are taking to keep staff engaged.”

Speaker sessions included:

  • Daisy Lovelace, associate professor at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, presented on “Winning with Inclusion at Penn State” to share techniques focused on inclusive hiring practices, enhanced active listening skills and efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.

  • Penn State doctoral student Penny Ann Barr and master student Karolina Healy, both in the workforce education and development program, presented “The Dark Side of the New Normal,” a presentation that focused on graduate research they had conducted on various considerations of remote working.  

  • Lee Giles, the David Reese Professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State and director of the Intelligent Information Systems Research Laboratory presented “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work” to provide an overview of how artificial intelligence and machine learning impacts the workforce. 

  • William Brendel, assistant professor of education and workforce education and development at Penn State, presented “Well-being Is an Equal Right: How Mindfulness Helps Us Thrive Together,” which demonstrated how the practice of mindfulness can help individuals balance and regulate emotions to thrive in their daily lives.

March council meeting recap

Lorraine Goffe, Penn State’s vice president of human resources, led the discussion on topics council members had submitted, including campus childcare and early childhood education as well as the current compensation modernization initiative. Goffe provided an update on the Remote Work Task Force, which she referred to as a “rapid action team” and includes three USAC representatives. Following the development of remote work recommendations, the goal is to share guidelines to the University by the summer semester.

USAC’s Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee (IED) also shared its new mission statement, which will help guide the committee’s work to support and advocate for staff members from all backgrounds:

“The greatest ideas and discoveries are fueled by life experiences, education, and individual perspectives from within a diverse community. USAC—along with its Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee—believe diversity, equity, and inclusion are the driving forces behind all innovation and progress. Therefore, we value the opinion, abilities, and background of all University staff.

We pledge to develop and foster a diverse culture where equity is cultivated, and inclusiveness is instinctive. We commit to provide inclusive environments and platforms that allow staff to feel empowered to be their authentic whole selves. We strive to help staff find ways to become allies, increase access, and broaden opportunities for all identity groups. Further, we commit to efforts that build respect and self-worth, advocate caring, and celebrate the diversity within our University.”

The council will meet on April 12 as part of a Next Gen Penn State stakeholder meeting to provide feedback on the presidential search process. On April 21, Shakoor Ward, professional development coordinator in the Affirmative Action Office, will lead a training and feedback session titled “Cultivating Your Cultural Intelligence” as part of USAC’s ongoing collaborations with Penn State’s Affirmative Action Office.

USAC’s May 19 meeting will feature speakers Christy Helms, senior director of talent management for Penn State Human Resources, Sue Cromwell, senior director of organizational change management for Penn State Finance and Business, and SIMBA project manager Matt Scott. USAC will hold its annual spring meeting with Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones on April 30. The semester will be capped off by the USAC Virtual Awards Ceremony on May 21.

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 askUSAC@psu.edu and can also be found on Facebook.

Staff interested in potentially joining USAC can learn more at https://hr.psu.edu/university-staff-advisory-council/get-involved.


Last Updated April 16, 2021