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New Staff Senate Represents Employees Across the University


Two longstanding employee organizations at UT Health Science Center have merged to become the new Staff Senate.

Formerly the Employee Relations Committee, which represented non-exempt employees, and the Exempt Staff Council, which represented exempt employees at the director level and below, the Staff Senate now represents exempt and non-exempt employees across the university.

The Staff Senate joins the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Executive Council as part of a new and expanded University Council (UC).

The UC will work with the Executive Council; the Leadership Council, which includes the vice chancellors and deans; and the Chancellor’s Cabinet, with a goal of moving away from siloed decision-making toward a more collaborative style of management, Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, said during a UT Health Science Center’s Advisory Board meeting earlier this year.

“The Staff Senate provides representatives who give UT Health Science Center staff a voice to be heard by the chancellor and his administrative leaders,” said Kimberlee Norwood, MA, Staff Senate president and program lead for visiting affiliations and clinical onboarding for the Office of Medical Education in the College of Medicine. “The Staff Senate is also a conduit for the chancellor to keep the staff informed and to ask for help in carrying out the university’s mission and vision.”

Last summer, the university adopted a 2023-2028 Strategic Plan centered on a new vision: Healthy Tennesseans. Thriving Communities. The updated mission statement is: “Transforming lives through collaborative and inclusive education, research/scholarship, clinical care, and public service.”

“Combining the two organizations into one will strengthen the voice of the staff and unify our efforts toward meeting our campus strategic goals,” said Chandra Alston, EdD, vice chancellor for Human Resources.

“We are excited about the Staff Senate’s representation at the leadership level,” she said. “Our chancellor and executive vice chancellor are creating an environment of inclusion and shared responsibility around the strategic efforts to move us forward.”

“Our human resources, our faculty, staff, and students are our most important assets,” said Raaj Kurapati, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer for the university. “Our hope is by formalizing the Staff Senate structure, we are able more actively engage our staff in our shared governance structure, so items of interest, importance, and concern to them are considered, debated, and acted on as appropriate.”

“The Staff Senate provides representatives who give UT Health Science Center staff a voice to be heard by the chancellor and his administrative leaders.”

Kimberlee Norwood, MA

In addition to Norwood, officers include Keisha Giboney, president-elect or vice president, financial coordinator in the College of Pharmacy; Sarah Cheon, secretary, OnBase product manager in ITS; Terri Fought, MEd, membership coordinator, associate director for the Office of Admissions; Elaine Robinson (CAP, OM), parliamentarian, senior administrative associate III in the College of Health Professions; and Peggy Reisser, MASC, communications coordinator, strategic communications manager for the university. Debbie Long, benefits and training associate in the Human Resources Office, serves as adviser to the group.

UT Health Science Center was the first in the UT System to establish an organization to represent employees. The Employee Relations Committee was founded in 1972 to be a voice for non-exempt employees. The Exempt Staff Council was formed in 2010 to expand the ranks of employee representation.

The Staff Senate meets monthly on the third Thursday of the month, either via Zoom or in person.