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Lori Ann Vicich with her husband, young daughter, and infant son.

Lori Ann Vicich and her family in 2002. During two months in the hospital, Vicich experienced the value of U health benefits and workplace support.

A great place to work

Attracting and retaining a strong workforce

By Gayla Marty

From Brief, July 27, 2005

When U employee Lori Ann Vicich was expecting her second baby, she went into early labor. During nearly two months in the hospital, she had a revelation.

"In addition to battling pre-term labor, most of the other women in the hospital with me were battling employers," she says. "Many of them had health insurance issues, some were afraid they wouldn't have a job to go back to, and some had no pay whatsoever."

Vicich says she had tremendous employer support. "And not a day went by that I didn't receive a phone call or visit from my friends and colleagues at the U," she adds. She eventually went home with a healthy baby boy.

Being part of the change

During her eight years at the U, Vicich has witnessed an ever-changing landscape. She herself has worked in three departments and now directs communications for the Office of Human Resources (OHR). Part of the job is to tell people just how good the University is as an employer--"which is perfect for me because I truly believe it," she says.

Vicich sees the University holding to its original mission, educating the future work force, curing diseases, making discoveries, inventing machines and processes, and contributing to the economy and vitality of the state and beyond.

"It can be hard to endure constant change, but constant change is what this institution is all about," she says. "Only at the University of Minnesota do you find such a broad range of choices and unique opportunities. As employees, we get paid to be part of it all."

Coming to the U--and staying

Among employers nationwide, the University is an anomaly in employee length of service. In 2004, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average tenure of employees nationwide was only four years. At the U, civil service and bargaining unit employees stay an average of 11 years, academic professional and administrative employees 10 years, and faculty members 17 years. Altogether, the average tenure of a U employee is 13 years. The recent Pulse survey suggested that employee satisfaction is the reason.

Why work at the University of Minnesota?

The University of Minnesota is a premier employer for Minnesotans and a talent magnet attracting leading faculty and staff from around the world to the state. As one of the Minnesota's largest employers, with over 18,000 faculty and staff members systemwide, the University offers an unparalleled employment package. Only at the U do you get:

* Pride in working for one of the top public research universities in the world, with a mission and track record of being a leader in education, research, and outreach
* A rich set of career opportunities, with over 18,000 jobs and over 100 unique job types
* A comprehensive benefits package: medical and dental plan options, short-term disability, long-term disability, fixed and optional retirement plans, flexible spending accounts for health and child care expenses
* More than a hundred training and development opportunities in leadership, supervision, technical skills, service improvement, and career enrichment
* Dedication to employee wellness and work/life balance, with programs to promote a healthy workplace as well as a healthy lifestyle
* Tuition benefits for University of Minnesota courses taken for academic credit through the Regents Scholarship Program
* A rich academic environment where diversity is valued and ideas are the cornerstone of the institution

Vicich was self-employed and working endless hours in 1997 when she did some research and actively sought out a job at the U. In the past eight years, she has discovered the "why" behind the numbers. She's enjoyed steady career growth with increasing responsibility. She has tapped into professional development opportunities, continued her education for free, and "had the pleasure of working with some of the most brilliant minds anywhere, ever."

But most importantly, she says, she's found balance between her personal and professional lives.

"I was there on my daughter's first day of kindergarten, and I was the mom crying out loud at her kindergarten graduation," says Vicich. "I've been to every ballgame and recital and chaperoned field trips. I'm an active parent, and I owe that, in part, to the University of Minnesota."

In addition to statistics, Vicich has recognized that employees' stories of why they came to the U and have stayed are important to understanding what the U as an employer is doing well--and what it needs to continue and build upon--as it moves from its position as a very good public research university to a great one.

"The work I love to do"

Bilin Tsai joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1976.

"I liked the faculty in the department--that was the number one reason I came--and I liked the institution," she says. "I stayed because it's given me the opportunity to do the work I love to do."

Tsai, trained as a physical chemist, enjoyed teaching. But in the 1980s, she took an administrative opportunity, and during her UMD career, she has served 10 years as department head. Currently, her focus is on curriculum innovation and how students learn, and she is directing the UMD Bush Grant on developing effective learners.

"It has just been a very rewarding career for me," she says.

Growth and community

The Crookston campus was a two-year technical college when Don Cavalier was hired in 1976. Since his first job as director of placement, Cavalier's expertise has grown as the campus has grown. He's filled roles from baseball coach to program developer: UMC's alumni association, counseling program, diversity services, disability services, and an alcohol/tobacco/drug-use prevention program are assets he has helped to start from scratch, often with the smallest of resources.

"You try to create something out of nothing--and then it grows into something that's really good," says Cavalier. "It's inspiring, and it has kept me real busy."

Working at UMC has also allowed Cavalier to raise his family in a small community, which he says has been a good experience for them. Both his sons work in higher education, one in aerospace engineering and one in plant biology.

Opportunities and flexibility

Tell your story

Attracting, retaining, and developing top talent are a priority for the University. The Office of Human Resources (OHR) is planning a campaign about the benefits of working for the U, told from employees' perspectives. If you have a University of Minnesota employment story to share that illustrates how you've benefited from your employment at the U, please send it to the Office of Human Resources. Stories will be posted online and used as testimonials in recruitment materials next year.

Dane Sorenson came to the Twin Cities campus in 1986. His first job was with building and groundskeeping. Later, he moved to parking and transportation services.

"I knew there were a lot of opportunities at the U because it's so big," he says. "I wanted to be home with my kids, so I took a night job; then, when they went to school, I was able to move to days. That flexibility is a big reason I'm still here."

Sorenson is now a senior parking attendant at the Church Street Garage, where he greets hundreds of employees and visitors each day.

"The other day, a couple of ladies visiting from Japan asked about museums," he says. "I was able to tell them about the Weisman and the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and give directions. People really appreciate that, and the fact that you work at a prestigious institution gives you a bit of pride."

More information about working for the U is on the Web at

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