News From ERAC: The Year in Review

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Thursday, September 10, 2015


by Carla Kologie, Past Chair


As Lehigh begins its yearlong Sesquicentennial celebration, many campus groups will be looking back at past accomplishments and looking forward to reaching goals - those known and yet unknown.  The Employee Relations Advisory Committee  is no different, and we thought now would be a good time to share with the campus community what’s happened in this past year and what lies ahead for the coming year.

Following successful focus groups with the Lehigh community in spring 2014, ERAC took that feedback to map out a plan for this past year.   Employees were uncertain about ERAC’s purpose and its ability to effect change on campus.  To be honest, ERAC members had the same questions, as the group found itself unsure of how it even fit into the university’s structure.  Were we part of HR?  What does it mean to advocate for staff?  Was there any real access to senior leadership, as indicated in the bylaws? 

ERAC’s executive committee along with Pat Johnson, Vice President of Finance & Administration, and Chris Halladay, Associate Vice President of Human Resources, came together in regularly scheduled meetings to create a purposeful and lasting connection between ERAC and senior leadership that allows us to maintain an identity separate but connected to HR and that involves ERAC early in discussions related to staff issues. 

While Lehigh was and still is transitioning leadership across various areas, it was important to ERAC not to get lost in the shuffle and lose its new-found momentum.   ERAC determined early on that, rather than focus on the negatives and the things we can’t do, we would approach the challenges from a positive perspective and find things we could do.  We created a three-pronged approach focusing on staff communication, recognition and morale and began by communicating this with staff through a sharing session with many staff who had attended the focus groups.

One of the first things we did was to create a new logo and add our tag line:  Staff Matters. 

We increased our communication with staff regarding ERAC programming and have created a new website that continues to take shape.  There you can find more information about ERAC’s members, meetings and events.  In addition, the High Five recognition program has worked out some new-program kinks and will be accepting new nominations beginning this month.

ERAC’s programs and events continue to expand to include more people.  Resources to Engage, Accomplish, Connect and Help (REACH) completed its fourth year of providing small-group networking to employees interested in learning more about various areas of the campus community.  Look for information in campus announcements and future Spotlight articles about registering for the newest REACH cohort.

Last year, ERAC hosted six Knowledge @ Noon programs with a minimum attendance of 60 for each session.  More than 400 staff members participated in these sessions.   If you have ideas for this year, please contact Katrina Kraft, ERAC events chair.

As a way to increase staff recognition and to demonstrate parity across staff levels, ERAC recognized one nonexempt and one exempt staff member with its Distinguished Service Award.  Recipients Julie Scheller and Jeanne Monnot were among 35 individuals nominated for the awards.

This year’s ERAC elections saw more nominations and more voting than ever before.  In response to this increased interest, ERAC has increased its membership from 18 to 20 staff members from various areas across campus. 

ERAC continues to develop its liaison program to establish and maintain connections.  One result is that more people have approached ERAC: to request help in sharing information, to seek volunteers, to solicit feedback on staff issues and to explain new University policies. ERAC welcomed the following staff members to seven of its general meetings:  Bill DeWalt, Gary Falasca, Toni Lee Febbo, Chris Halladay, Carolina Hernandez, Heather Hosfeld, Jenifer Jensen, Gary Lutz, Delicia Nahman, Henry Odi, Catharine Patterson and Karen Salvemini.

If your department/area/office would like to be included in our liaison program, or if you have information you’d like to share with ERAC, please contact  ERAC’s new executive committee:  Bob Bruneio, chair;  Angela Scott, vice chair; or Morgan Nelson, secretary. 

Another result of our campus connections is successful programming, including the popular CPR/First Aid Training and the Zoellner Arts Center discount.  In May, ERAC organized its first solo community outreach event, the Broughal M.S. Backpack Pals collection in which the Lehigh community contributed more than 2,000 items to help fill backpacks with food for long holiday weekends during the school year.

ERAC also increased external opportunities for staff/faculty.  In addition to the annual Iron Pigs game, where about 160 Lehigh folks attended, ERAC sponsored two Phantoms Hockey events for 335 people.  In addition, Lehigh staff members can enjoy discounts at the PPL Center and certain ArtsQuest events.  ERAC will continue to look for opportunities to bring staff together.

Looking ahead, ERAC plans to participate in Lehigh’s Sesquicentennial celebration by building on its successful events and developing new projects.  To that end, we are asking all previous ERAC members still on campus to contact Carla Kologie indicating the years you participated in ERAC.  We would like to include a list on our website of all previous members but need your help in updating our records. 

Moving forward, ERAC relies on you, Lehigh University’s staff members, to help us provide the programming you want.  Feel free to contact any ERAC member with your concerns, ideas, suggestions and questions.  ERAC meets the second Wednesday of each month, September through June.  While we may not be able to answer every question or fix every problem, we are able to get the conversations started around issues important to staff.  You can be involved by reaching out. Working together, we all can ensure that at Lehigh, Staff Matters.