A pleasant surprise

Salary, merit increases reward faculty, staff for their hard work

Following a period of stagnated wages among faculty and staff, UND’s merit pool allocations and the Legislature’s state employee raises provided a salary bump across campus. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Tom DiLorenzo received a pleasant surprise recently.

The UND IT team sent hand-written notes to thank him for recent pay and merit raises, which took effect July 1.

“It was amazing,” said DiLorenzo, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “You almost never get a thank you, much less a hand-written one. I opened the card, and everyone on the team said ‘thank you’ differently. They felt recognized for their hard work. I was humbled.”

Paul Todhunter

“Just knowing that UND cares about its employees by giving a merit raise sent a message,” said Madhavi Marasinghe, chief information officer. “We work very hard to fill jobs, especially in IT, and this really boosted the morale of the team. That’s why they sent a thank you.”

The raises were a pleasant surprise indeed, said Paul Todhunter about the campus-wide salary increases and merit raises, which took effect with the July 31 paycheck.

“I was expecting a small bump, and this was bigger,” said the outgoing University Senate chair and geography chair. Todhunter knew the North Dakota Legislature had approved a minimum pay increase for all state employees of $120 per month, and was expecting around that amount when he opened his contract.

Additional increases

UND, however, reallocated funds to provide additional merit increases. Every college, division and department was asked to participate in reallocating funds, and that money was used to develop a merit pool, as well as to bring some staff and faculty up to market level.

“People have gone two to three years without raises,” said Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations and chief operating officer. “There has been a lot of change, and not all of it was easy. We wanted to take what the Legislature generously offered and see if we could augment it. We took a long, hard look at our priorities, and reallocated money, including finding room for merit increases. We also appreciate their support of the health care workforce initiative, fully paid health insurance premiums, and supporting the merit pool.”

The merit pool, Shivers said, was 4 percent. According to guidelines from the North Dakota State University System, increases were based on performance, and were not the same percentage for everyone. State employees will also receive a 2.5 percent raise next year.

“The State of North Dakota, the Legislature, and the governor are all supportive of higher education and UND,” said Shivers. “They are very fiscally responsible, and we are a significant beneficiary of that responsibility. They are cognizant of the importance of higher education, and we are profoundly grateful.”

Jeff VanLooy, associate professor of Earth system science & policy and incoming University Senate chair, says salary raises and progress in faculty compensation can help both in recruiting and retaining quality educators. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

Showing appreciation

The raises are definitely appreciated, said Jeff VanLooy, incoming University Senate chair and associate professor of Earth system science & policy.

“These increases benefit the University and state by showing faculty and staff that they are appreciated,” VanLooy said. “They work hard, and this will boost morale. It will also help us recruit new faculty and staff, who will be more likely to accept a position and stick around. We have to keep up with other universities and states.

“I feel like the University is turning a corner,” said VanLooy. “We’ve had some struggles, especially with the budget. The salary increase is one of the things that make me feel hopeful for the future.”

That sentiment was echoed by Whitney Maine, study abroad advisor and chair of Staff Senate.

“We really are appreciative of the increases,” said Maine. “The raises help with inflation and living expenses. Investing in our staff invests in our North Dakota communities.”

The merit increases took a lot of planning.

Tom DiLorenzo

Tom DiLorenzo

“Sometimes people think these things just happen,” said DiLorenzo. “This took a lot of planning and reallocation. We wanted to show that we value good work and recognize the remarkable caring nature of our faculty and staff. And, we believe in the people of UND. We truly feel like a family and we need to take care of ourselves.

“I also want to thank the State Board of Higher Education and the Legislature. The State Board really values higher education and believes in the state system. I want to thank them for that and for working with the Legislature to maintain a balanced budget with an increase. The Legislature went above and beyond to support higher education.”

Said Shivers, “I think the most important message is that we really appreciate the efforts of our faculty and staff. While money isn’t everything, it’s a way of recognizing the efforts people made during difficult times. It took a lot of effort to make this happen.”

Added Todhunter, “The University is about teaching, mentoring, training, research and service. That’s what we do, and this lets faculty and staff know their work is appreciated.”