The world of work is different than it ever has been before. Many UCCS employees have worked remotely since March, and many will continue to do so through the fall semester. Large events are postponed. Public spaces on campus are operating at limited capacities. But none of this has changed Alex Baker’s focus on the future.
For Baker, case manager in the Office of the Dean of Students and the new president of the UCCS Staff Association, the work of the shared governance body is more important than ever before.
Baker is the first openly gay president of Staff Association – something that imbues his work with a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion.
“Staff Association is on a really good trajectory,” Baker said. “We’ve gained significant credibility as a shared governance body. It’s my responsibility to take the groundwork we’ve laid and continue to turn it into something bigger and better – to give the opportunity for more voices to be heard.”
“My dream is to ensure that every staff member at UCCS feels included,” Baker continued. “There’s a seat at the table for everyone. And if there isn’t space at the table, then obviously, we need a bigger table.”
This year, Staff Association will prioritize improving policies and processes regarding the staff hiring process, especially around equity and pay. The body will work towards transparent communications regarding the impact of the incentive-based budget model on staff as well as protections for staff in the COVID-19 era. In line with its commitment to diversity, the governance body is also working to create two new temporary committees, one focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and the other focused on women’s issues.
Staff Association also aims to improve its own communications to campus – including by offering listening sessions each semester, developing new digital communications strategies and creating a feature on its website allowing staff members to raise anonymous concerns.
“This year, more than ever, it will be important to hear staff concerns,” Baker said in a recent Staff Association retreat. “I want us to be able to offer an open door to hear those concerns and then bring them up to leadership.”
Baker’s commitment to diversity isn’t the only facet of his personal values that he brings to his leadership role in Staff Association. He also highlights the importance of recognition.
Last year, Staff Association created a new staff recognition program called Clyde’s Kudos. The program allows any member of campus to submit a shout-out to a UCCS staff member for doing good work – work that is often invisible to the rest of campus.
“We all do things that perhaps only our supervisors or our own teams know about,” Baker said. “Clyde’s Kudos is a way to celebrate the good, hard work we do as a campus, as a department, as a unit and as an individual. It was created so that all staff can feel that what they are doing is recognized.”
“Even if people say they don’t like to be recognized for things, there’s a deep part in all of us that wants to know that the work we are doing is good,” Baker continued. “I love the idea of a cheerleader – and sometimes we can’t be our own cheerleaders. Having a net of people encouraging you and reminding you that the work you’re doing is visible and valuable is so very important.”
For Baker, the program is emblematic of where he wants Staff Association to go in the future – and how he wants to show up as a leader. His approach to his new role shot through with empathy. He also brings to the role an understanding, especially in the midst of a pandemic, of the need to tune in to the concerns of staff members and respond on both an organizational and a human level.
“I want to find a way to show up for our staff in the specific ways that they need,” Baker said.
“Sometimes we get defined by the work we do. Sometimes it’s hard – even for us – to remember that there is a human being behind the work. But everyone deserves to feel empowered to do their job. Everyone deserves to be recognized for the work they are doing and feel like they can show up to work fully and wholeheartedly. Isn’t that all of our responsibility?”
All staff members are part of the Staff Association, the official voice of UCCS staff in shared governance. The governance body believes that valued and empowered staff who engage as their best selves are successful both personally and professionally. Any staff member may attend the monthly Staff Association meeting, which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. Learn more about Staff Association and find out how to get involved online.