Professional News

Staff Senate Inspires Change as Voice of the Staff

Photo by Mark Corneilson, UKPR
Photo credit: Mark Cornelison
Photo credit: Mark Cornelison

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 5, 2021)  Established nearly two decades ago, the University of Kentucky Staff Senate was created to serve as the official representative body of university staff. With a growing membership of 130 senators, UK Staff Senate works to represent the interests of staff to strengthen relationships at UK and foster a climate that promotes and empowers all university employees and students to participate in the decision-making process.

The Staff Senate values integrity, the principles of shared governance, democratically elected representation, partnerships with all aspects of the university community and inclusive decision-making. Leading the charge on these values is the Staff Senate Chair Olivia Ellis.

Ellis splits her work at UK between the International Center and Staff Senate, serving as an Education Abroad advisor and a staff leader. Raised in Eastern Kentucky, Ellis came to Lexington for undergraduate and graduate studies and now works to involve staff in inclusive decision-making in university operations, while also empowering students to expand their horizons beyond the Bluegrass State.

“Staff Senate is where change happens,” Ellis said. “We have regular conversations with university administration and leadership, and we consistently work to meet with staff across UK, both on and off main campus and including our UK HealthCare employees. With over 15,000 staff at the university, representing all our interests is no small task, but we do the best we can to ensure that UK is adapting to the needs and priorities of staff. And in doing so, ensuring that we still balance the impressive work and inspiring service we provide to UK students, faculty, our communities, our state and our world.”

UK Staff Senators have influenced policies and program enhancements for the university, continue to work diligently with UK leadership, network with professionals across the university community to strengthen relationships and gain professional development opportunities.

Staff Senate hosts monthly "Conversations with the President," the annual UK Appreciation Day and Outstanding Staff Awards events, and other ongoing series such as a campuswide mentorship program, Lunch and Learns, the Kentucky WildCast podcast, community service events and more.

Along with engaging staff and our campus, Staff Senate works diligently to help the university meet staff needs. Through conversations and work with university leadership, Staff Senate's accomplishments are many. The Staff Shared Leave Pool, CRISIS Program, increase in minimum pay rates, well-being leave, parental leave, elder care leave and more have been a result of Staff Senate’s continued presence in leadership at UK.

“We have a lot of work to do, but it is our goal to continuously mold our membership, our leadership, and our direction to the needs and realities of staff,” Ellis said. “More recently, we have been working with administration on creating a safe workplace as we combat COVID-19. But we are also looking ahead. What does the future of the university look like when considering the workplace? How do we weave hybrid and remote work into our roles to make the university more competitive and compassionate for the needs of individuals and their jobs? How do we make sure the people we work with are paid appropriately and taken care of as people and not just employees? Solutions take a while, but we must start and continue the conversations. And that is exactly what Staff Senate does.”

The UK Staff Senate meets every second Thursday at 1 p.m. and the meeting is open to the public. For questions or comments, please reach out to the UK Staff Senate at or search for your representative at Engage and become involved for positive change.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.