Leading the staff’s advisory body, setting priorities, enforcing policies and serving as the primary liaison between staff and administration are among the many challenges facing University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) Staff Council President Isidro Grau.
Grau works as the director of Academic Support Center here at UHD. He oversees the daily operations of the Writing and Reading Center and Math and Stats Lab. He’s worked at UHD for 20 years and has seen a lot growth and retention.
Grau received a bachelor’s degree from the University of St .Thomas, a master’s from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston. He recently was elected to lead the Staff Council for the 2016-17 academic year.
Grau sat down with Skyline News for an informal Q&A session. Among the topics discussed were his ideas and goals for Staff Council.
Q: What experiences have prepared you for the role of president and how do those experiences impact your leadership?
A: Essentially, working with different groups within the University community. On a daily basis, I work with faculty and students in the support center. It has helped me prepare for now, as I work with staff council members in a different capacity, which is being a liaison between staff and administration.
Q: What is your role as Staff Council president?
A: Part of the mission is to recognize staff members and their accomplishments. We have fun events and awards as an opportunity for staff to engage and get together and celebrate. Part of the focus of the University is community engagement and we want to expand what staff council does with community engagement and service opportunities. Last holiday season we had a shoe drive called “Soles4Souls.” We had a great response.
Q: What are your goals when coordinating Staff Council events?
A: We want to revive things. This year we’re ready to go back to monthly meetings. All staff are welcome to attend and engage in an open forum. We want to have that transparency, and we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to know what we’re doing and also an opportunity to have a say.
Q: It seems like Staff Council is constantly planning fun events and activities for staff. How do you and your team keep coming up with such great ideas?
A: Brainstorming. The creative thing is that we want to find opportunities that we can participate in within the University community. We also want to create more opportunities to include our families in different university events.
Q: If you had to choose one type of Staff Council event to create for staff, what would it be?
A: A holiday get-together in the evening, so staff then can bring their families and their spouses. This will allow us to have a more social, informal opportunity to get together.
Q: One of the most important parts of this job is being connected and approachable to the staff and be a voice for staff members’ concerns and opinions. What sort of things will you do to remain connected?
A: A town hall meeting, and having more opportunities for staff to connect. We are also in the process of updating the Staff Council’s website, so we can list our calendar of events, which is very important. More so, we want to incorporate the Zoom option. For those who cannot attend a town hall, they can stay involved and watch it from their computer. It’s important that we take full advantage of the available technology because we have staff in the other buildings here on campus, and at our satellite locations — Northwest and Kingwood. We want to find a way to bridge the gap and give them opportunities.
Q: What are your ideas and goals for your year as Staff Council president and how do you see Staff Council growing and developing?
A: One of the priorities is to look at the appraisal process and its effectiveness. ESL will work with Staff Council to evaluate and give feedback on the appraisal process. Commuting options with Metro and discounts for staff is another priority.
Q: What is Staff Council’s biggest challenge?
A: Reviewing our bylaws. We’re also working on getting annual awards organized and streamlining the application process.
Q: If a staff member has an issue they’d like the Staff Council to review, what should they do?
A: We have a number of different ways to get in touch with Staff Council. We have ambassadors that represent each of the four academic units. The Staff Council officers are available as well. And, we have the UHD Staff Council email, which we frequently check and respond to quickly.
By Toni Carter