Dr. Delphine Harris, executive director of business process innovation for UA’s Division of Finance and Operations, is president of the Professional Staff Assembly, a democratically elected voting body committed to representing the needs of professional staff to UA administration.
Harris holds a bachelor’s degree from Stillman College, and an MBA and Ph.D. in higher education administration from UA. She has 22 years of combined service with UA and the UA System.
Harris recently reflected on the past year for PSA and provided an outlook for the future.
What were some of PSA’s highlights during the 2020-2021 year?
PSA worked with the Return to Operations committee to provide feedback from and information to the assembly. We also began a comprehensive review of our documented business processes for PSA committees to assist in transition and continuity every year. Finally, we worked together and stayed informed via Zoom and social media through a pandemic. This contributed to our social media followers increasing by 22% over the past year.
What are some of PSA’s goals and major projects for the 2021-2022 year?
We are working alongside colleagues in Faculty Senate and OCTSA, as well as the University’s Faculty/Staff Benefits Committee to address the issue of paid parental leave. We have seen progress on this issue at some of the institutions we frequently benchmark against, and we know that it will make a big difference in recruitment, retention and promotion of employees at this institution.
PSA is working to promote the innovative tools and practices that navigated us through the pandemic, including telecommuting and alternate work schedules, to meet UA work/life balance goals and remain competitive in the marketplace.
We are initiating projects to increase our recognition as an assembly that seeks input from staff members and represents their interests to the administration. This starts with recognizing the service and dedication of the PSA committee chairs, officers and assembly representatives who serve in vital roles. Recognition serves to increase member investment in PSA roles and the PSA process, but also to enhance visibility of these members and their work among colleagues.
We feel these projects will culminate in the campus community recognizing these staff members as resources for a variety of things including information about what’s happening on campus; staff representation on university committees; colleagues who spend their time and energy in service to others; who are ready to hear your concerns; strategize with you and work toward solutions that are good for both employees and this institution we serve.
How can fellow staff get involved or stay informed?
Share feedback with representatives from your area or with committee chairs. We want to be a voice for professional staff members, so your insights are invaluable!
The last year was challenging both for individuals and groups as they pivoted for the pandemic. As the University transitions operations to resemble more “normal” times, how does PSA intend to adjust to this and how do you intend to support your constituents?
We want to “return to” the practices that have made this the university of choice for all students who seek exceptional educational opportunities, but we also want to embrace the innovative tools and practices that got us through the pandemic. It would be a shame to waste the collaborative technology skills (Zoom, UA Box and others) that many of us developed and refined during the pandemic.
Similarly, we learned a lot about making our workplace more accessible through technology, remote work options, flexible scheduling and more. We encourage staff and administration to leverage these beneficial work options, which are included and have existed for many years in the Staff Handbook.
What was the biggest lesson the assembly learned from the past year that will continue to make an impact on the body and how it conducts business?
The importance of cross-disciplinary work, using the diverse skill sets we have on campus, drawing from best practices in different areas, etc. This is another opportunity to emphasize the importance of flexible time/place arrangements for staff. One of the best lessons we learned as a campus is that we can work remotely and still efficiently and effectively continue the mission of The University of Alabama.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.