November 9, 2015

November 2015 APAC News Vol. 8, No. 5

University Undergoes Strategic Plan Process

UNIVERSITY OF Illinois President Dr. Timothy Killeen is leading the 2015 University-wide strategic planning initiative, a process that will chart the institution's path to the future for its campuses.

DR. KILLEEN called the strategic plan a roadmap for the University's future. He expects the plan to touch every aspect of the institution's operations. The plan will be "rooted in evidence and guided by experience," he said. The planning process is a team effort involving all of the U of I's stakeholders, including Academic Professionals and other employees.

DR. KILLEEN was directed by the University of Illinois trustees in March 2015 to begin the strategic planning process, which is expected to take 12-18 months.

THERE WILL be a Town Hall meeting about the process on Monday, Nov. 30, from 3-5 p.m. in Student Center East, Room A.

SEVERAL INDIVIDUALS from UIC are on the President’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee, including Chancellor Michael Amiridis; Student Trustee Jauwan Hall; Dr. Barbara Henley, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; Mark Murphy, Chair, University Employee Advisory Committee; Dr. Sara Rusch, Regional Dean, College of Medicine, Peoria, Chicago campus; and Deon Thomas, Assistant Coach, UIC men’s basketball. Michael Bohlmann, Assistant Dean of Technology and Chair of the University Professional Personnel Advisory Committee (UPPAC) from the Urbana-Champaign campus, represents Academic Professionals.

THE PLANNING committee welcomes employee input and suggestions, noting that “your participation in the planning process is vital to the development of a plan that represents the range of perspectives on our campuses and in our communities.”

FOR MORE information or to provide input, go to

Your Productivity Toolbox: Maximizing Your Efficiency in Your Workplace

THE APAC Professional Development subcommittee on Sept. 30 hosted a workshop entitled, “Your Productivity Toolbox: Maximizing Your Efficiency in Your Workplace.”

Julie Kong.
Kimberly Mayfield.
USING A lean principle learned as students in the UIC Lean Six Sigma program, APAC Professional Development co-chairs from the School of Public Health, Julie Kong, Director of Research Services, and Kimberly Mayfield, Director of Finance and Administration, talked about the use of the “5 Why Tree” as a strategy for teams in figuring out the “root cause” of a problem.  This strategy recommends asking “why” at least five times to identify underlying causes of problems that may appear easy to solve.  After discussing the basic principles, workshop participants tested the principle in small groups and reported their findings back to the group.

Christine Rapp.
THE SECOND half of the workshop was presented by Christine Rapp, a dual MBA/MPH candidate with over ten years of Excel experience. Her projects have used Excel to examine data sets with over 200,000 entries and create multiple levels of reports from these data sets. She explained step-by-step how to create pivot tables from scratch, and at a moment’s notice, and specialty reports by moving and adding fields to reflect the needed information. Participants at the end of the session remarked that the workshop was very useful. A webinar of Christine’s pivot table presentation is available at: or via the UIC APAC website under Careers > Professional Skills.

SURS Will Pay Annuitants Despite Lack of State Budget

By Christy Levy, UIC News

ILLINOIS COMPTROLLER Leslie Munger announced Oct. 14 that the State would likely delay its pension payments in November and December, but University annuitants will still receive their payments from the State Universities Retirement System.

THE DELAY would mean that SURS will receive its money from the State later than promised, but SURS will continue to pay University retirees, said Brenda Russell, President of UIC-SUAA, the UIC chapter of the State Universities Annuitants Association.

“THE STATE will delay the money because there’s no budget, but they have to move the money eventually,” said Russell, Professor Emerita of physiology and biophysics. “SURS benefit payments are not tied to that transfer — SURS has their own money in their accounts. People are really worried that they are not going to get their pension, but they will.”

SURS HAS a safety net of funds to make sure university retirees are paid on time, Russell said.

“THE ONE who is getting shorted is the SURS agency,” she said. “It’s the same situation for the University — the State is not paying the University but the University is still paying its employees.”

THE STATE may delay payments to pension agencies such as SURS, but it is required by law to pay its pension obligations without making cuts. The Illinois Supreme Court in May unanimously declared unconstitutional a 2013 State pension law that would have diminished employee benefits.

“THE STATE is spending at a faster rate than they’re taking in — you don’t need to be an economist or mathematician to know they can’t do that,” Russell said. “This is a crisis and everyone should be contacting their House representatives and State senators and Governor Bruce Rauner and saying, ‘Do something.’ People are worried and they should be. They need to lean on the politicians.”

Nominate for Honorary Degree; AP Chair of Process

(Photo courtesy UIC Photo Services)
Journalist Maria Hinojosa (center) received an
Honorary degree from UIC earlier this year.
ACADEMIC PROFESSIONALS may nominate someone for a UIC honorary degree. Nominations are due Tuesday, Dec. 1. Any submitted after that date will be considered for the next year.

AN HONORARY degree may be awarded for contributions to the scholarly or professional world, to public service, or to UIC’s achievements and the ideals of its missions of teaching, research, service, and economic development.

NOMINEES CAN be persons of national or international renown in or outside official academic disciplines. Some relationship with UIC is desirable but not required.

THE APPROVED guidelines for awarding honorary degrees at UIC, including eligibility criteria, nomination procedures, process and timelines can be accessed at:

THE UNIVERSITY Senate External Relations and Public Service Committee examines honorary degree nominations before sending qualified nominations to the full Senate. At its last meeting, the committee named APAC member and AP Senator William S. Bike as Chair of the Committee.

“I AM honored that faculty and students on the committee put their trust in me and named me Chair,” Bike said. “This is a great distinction for Academic Professionals.

BIKE ADDED, “While honorary degree nominations often come from faculty, there is no reason an Academic Professional cannot nominate a worthy individual for this highest of University honors. In fact, we’re hoping for more nominations from APs and faculty.”

FOR MORE information, contact Elizabeth Dooley, Clerk of the Senate, at or (312) 995-2926, or Bike at (312) 996-8495 or

Rhode Island Solves Pension Crisis and Without Raising Taxes

(Photo courtesy AFSCME)
Rhode Island dealt with its pension crisis, although
workers and retirees ended up with reduced benefits.
By William S. Bike

THOSE WHO think that Illinois’s public sector pension crisis is too big to solve need only look to another state, Rhode Island, to see that the problem is not intractable—although the solutions have been tough for Rhode Island public workers and retirees to take.

RHODE ISLAND Governor Gina M. Raimando, a Democrat, recently finished a four-year pension overhaul that she started when she was State Treasurer, without raising taxes or issuing pension obligation bonds.

IN 2010, according to the Pew Center on the States, Rhode Island’s public pension plans were only 49% funded and considered the worst in the nation. (Two years later, in 2012, Illinois’ public pensions, in contrast to Rhode Island’s would be only 39% funded.)

ELECTED STATE Treasurer in 2010, Raimando persuaded the legislature to pass reforms that cut some benefits, delayed retirements, suspended cost-of-living increases, and required public workers to trade in part of their traditional defined-benefit pension plans for more risky like 401(k)-like plans.

UNION LEADERS initially fought the changes, but ultimately dropped their opposition after they negotiated more favorable terms with Raimando, who was elected Governor in 2014. The pension reforms also survived lawsuits by workers and retirees.

STILL, MUCH of the medicine was tough to take. Public retirees’ annual increases are gone, and there now is some risk of loss of benefits due to market downturns. To soften the blow, a court settlement gave one-time payments to current retirees who were losing cost of living adjustments.

THOSE ANNUAL cost of living adjustments, which used to be 3% per year, are suspended until the Rhode Island system is at least 80% funded. When COLAs resume, they will apply only to the first $25,000 of a retiree’s pension. Pension credits earned through 2012 remain the same, but those earned in subsequent years are smaller. The retirement age for which Rhode Island retirees earned a full pension used to be 62; now retirement age is pegged to the Social Security retirement age.

RHODE ISLAND pension reform contained many provisions that workers and retirees objected to, but financial experts agree that the system is now on a firm financial footing and no longer is in danger of bankruptcy.


APAC HAS 15 members and the capacity to fill three more seats, and Academic Professionals are invited to apply to fill them. For more information, contact Ahlam Al-Kodmany at (312) 996-7458 or For  a nomination form, contact William S. Bike, editor of APAC News, at

APAC Meetings Scheduled

ALL APs are invited to the monthly APAC meeting at 12:30 p.m. on scheduled dates Meetings are held either in Room 4175 of the College of Medicine Research Building, 909 S. Wolcott, or Room 2750 of University Hall on the East Campus. Next meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 11, in Room 2750 of UH. Starting in January, APAC meetings will be held the second Tuesday of every other month in UH 2750, and the second Wednesday of every other month starting in February in CMRB 4175.For information, call (312) 996-0306.

APAC Profile

Tracy Sikorski.
Tracy Sikorski: Volunteering with APAC to help others grow professionally

By Monica M. Walk

SHE CALLS her employment at UIC her own personal “Cinderella Story.”

“I SPENT the better part of my adult life floating, not sure what to do or what I wanted to be,” recently elected APAC board member Tracy Sikorski said, noting she based her early work decisions on circumstance, not on mentoring or interest in a specific organization.   “At first, UIC was just a job—then I realized the mission of the university is amazing. We serve an inner city population with integrity. “

SHE HAD no prior specific experience—other than assuring her future employers she was “good at math and learned fast”—but Sikorski discovered she was good at the entry-level job she landed in the Office of Social Science Research in 2009. So good, in fact, that she was promoted to Associate Director a few months later. Before 2015 ends, Sikorski will hold the title of Office Director.

“IT HELPED me find myself,” Sikorski said of the University. “It is personal to me to help people find out what they want to do.” 

SIKORSKI SEES connections in APAC’s abilities to help other University employees find their callings, and develop and grow in their careers. She expects to focus her volunteer energy on APAC’s professional development work. “It’s hard to find a mentor in a large work environment like UIC,” she said. “I want to help other professionals grow.”

SIKORSKI’S INTEREST in and commitment to APAC runs deep.  “The Academic  Professionals on campus constitute a declining class, because of changes the campus is going through,” she said. “I have a vested interest in being sure the campus understands the Academic Professional  role.  I want to be part of the conversation and influence what happens to this group of people.”

CITING THE nature of academic work, Sikorski noted that employees may not come in contact with many other individuals during their workday. Busy schedules leave little time for sharing both successes and problems.

“APAC GIVES voice to the Academic Professional:  They can come to me and talk, and I can bring something up at a meeting,” Sikorski said, citing that Academic Professionals at UIC number about 2,000 and are one of the few non-union groups on campus.  “They need a voice and APAC does that for them.”

SIKORSKI’S OWN UIC position does provide interaction across departments. The Office of Social Science Research provides all-inclusive grant support—from finding funding to handling the spending— for faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including both social sciences and humanities.  Sikorski describes the unit as “like a giant bank,” with 40 different accounts and $16 million in current grant money (up steeply from $4 million in 2010) from 25 different funding agencies across ten academic departments.

“I HOPE to take those interactions to the next level with people I already interface with and put those interactions to good use,” she said.

SIKORSKI’S COMMITMENT to education includes pursuing a PhD –not to do something different with her career, but because she feels intensely about the topic. She is researching the relationship of college content and its relevance for success in the workforce for new graduates.

“I REALLY want to support Academic Professionals,” she said.  “I hope they come to events and reach out to APAC members, with good or with bad.  We are a resource to use and they should use us.

“BEING AT UIC is an amazing experience, in and of itself,” Sikorski said.  “Being involved in APAC is a bonus.”

SIKORSKI CAN be reached at or (312) 996-4408.

Move Your Career Forward

THE UIC Office of Career Services and UIC Human Resources are collaborating to raise awareness about how to move your career forward.

A WEBSITE designed for UIC staff and students is filled with recommended actions to manage your career. Access this website at throughout November. Explore information on the site and learn more about what you can do now to grow in your career.

QUESTIONS OR comments? Send an email to


Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy Resource Guide

THE UNIVERSITY of Illinois at Chicago has a long-standing commitment to the support and maintenance of a drug-free environment for its employees and students. Below is a link to the existing UIC Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) policy, which you will find below. The focus and message of this policy are not new; however, the format has been updated to make it easier to read and to provide resource information.

THE POLICY and resource guide was prepared in accordance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. It describes the health risks and legal sanctions associated with alcohol and other drugs. It outlines the University's standard of conduct and disciplinary actions taken against students or employees who violate the standard. It also provides University and community resources to help with a drug or alcohol related problem.

THE AOD policy represents UIC’s continued commitment to creating a healthy learning and work environment: (PDF file)

EMPLOYEES SHOULD contact UIC Human Resources-Administration at (312) 355-5230.


SURS to Host Fall Retirement Education Seminar

THE STATE Universities Retirement System will offer a fall Retirement Education Seminar for members enrolled in the traditional and portable plans on Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Naperville, IL, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration is required, and there is a fee of $20 per member and $10 for a non-member guest. Lunch will be provided. To register call (800) 275-7877. For more information, go to

Vol. 8, No. 5, November 2015

APAC News is published by the Academic Professional Advisory Committee of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
ISSN 1946-1860
Editor: William S. Bike
Staff: Gail Mansfield, Susan S. Stevens, Mary Voelker, Monica M. Walk
Chair: Colleen Piersen
Vice Chair: Ahlam Al-Kodmany
Secretary: Mary Berta
Treasurer: Kathy Stauffer
Web Chair: Jeff Alcantar