Working closely with President Morton Schapiro and getting to know him on a personal level has defined the tenure not only of Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council’s (NUSAC) current chair, Joan Trimuel Williams, but also those of the four council leaders who preceded her.
“Morty, we appreciate your partnership and willingness to listen to the issues that concern staff,” Williams said at a recent NUSAC reception to honor the outgoing president, thanking Schapiro for unrivaled access to and advocacy on behalf of staff.
Founded in 1973 to improve communication between the University’s administration and the staff, NUSAC has a long history at Northwestern. At no time in its history has NUSAC’s relationship with Northwestern’s president been stronger, Williams said.
“Working with you has been the highlight of my career,” said Rhea Banks, Chicago campus liaison and former NUSAC chair. “I’ll miss you, and I wish you the absolute best with whatever comes next.”
“Thank you for coming to NU and making the lives of staff better. You have always showed up for us and have always been a strong advocate and ally,” said former chair Tracey Gibson-Jackson, in a letter read aloud by Banks.
At the reception, held in the Wilson Club in Welsh Ryan Arena, they lauded Schapiro for his support of the Winter Recess, the first-ever staff survey and increasing lactation spaces across campus.
“Somehow you were able to help NUSAC get to ‘yes’ no matter what,” Gibson-Jackson said.
With approximately 7,500 Northwestern staff members, getting to know all of them — as Schapiro attempted to do as president of Williams College — was not possible, he said.
But with a willing partner in the president’s office, NUSAC organized the first “Conversations with the President” and “Coffee with the President.”
“Coffee with the President,” held four times a year for more than a decade before the pandemic, has enabled intimate discussions between Schapiro and several hundred staff members in small group settings about what brought staff to Northwestern, what keeps them working and the concerns they have.
“As a participant in Coffee with the President and then as a member of NUSAC, I witnessed first-hand how you drew out the most reticent of staffers” said former NUSAC chair Kimberly Nightingale Cornwell. “You looked us in the eye and listened, you took notes. You never forgot we are as vital to the mission of this institution as are faculty and students.”
For his part, Schapiro said he has always considered himself a staff member first.
“I’ve always known that it’s the staff that makes the difference at Northwestern; people who are working around the clock for the greater good of our community, people who don’t always get appreciated as they should, but who deserve to be appreciated every single day,” Schapiro said.