INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
Internal promotions top 40% on campus
By : Rachel Coker
The University’s internal promotion rate for professional positions has ranged from 40 to 48 percent in each of the last five years.
Hiring from within is a reflection of campus policy as well as philosophy, noted Sylvia Hall, assistant vice president for human resources. The University’s strategic plan and its contract with United University Professions (UUP) emphasize the issue.
“When you hire excellent people,” Hall said, “you want to provide career opportunities for them.”
The benefits of internal promotion are clear, she said. Employees want opportunities to advance, flexibility and skills that travel well. Promotions allow the University to retain employees’ knowledge of the campus and its traditions.
When an employee and the University develop a trust over the course of someone’s career, that results in a certain loyalty and pride, too.
“How can you buy that?” Hall asked. “You can’t buy that with a salary.”
Darryl Wood, UUP chapter president, agreed. “I am convinced that once somebody realizes, ‘I’m being paid essentially what I’m worth,’ that money becomes less of an issue,” he said. “At that point, it’s all about other forms of recognition.”
That can mean a change in title or even being sent to a conference, he said.
“The most important thing, and it really starts with individual supervisors, is to recognize the work that the individuals in their office do,” Wood said. Honest, regular feedback and clear expectations help employees succeed, he noted.
The University’s agreement with UUP requires that internal candidates be considered first. They often then get mixed in with a wider search that includes external candidates.
Wood said it should be easier and simpler to seek an internal promotion, but he’s pleased that there is a process as well as an appeal mechanism.
Hall noted the University seeks a balance between promoting from within and seeking fresh thinking from outsiders. Diversity is also a concern, she said.
Still, she believes Binghamton is doing an exceptional job with internal promotion. At another university center in the SUNY system, the rate hovers around 14 percent, she said.
“I think we’re leading the pack,” Hall said. “Binghamton is a very special place to work. I think we really do invest in our people.”
Terry Kelley-Wallace is a prime example of that tradition. The 1986 graduate of the University took a part-time job as assistant to the chair of the physics department in 1987.
After 13 years in that position, she became assistant registrar. A mere five months later, Kelley-Wallace was promoted to associate registrar.
That’s the job she held until about a year ago, when she was named acting registrar. Kelley-Wallace recently was appointed registrar.
“It’s been a really good progression,” she said. Kelley-Wallace now supervises about 12 people and said she does what she can within Civil Service Employee Association rules to advance existing staff members. “I believe that if you have a good internal candidate you should take advantage of that experience,” she said. “I think it’s important to show people that you’ve recognized their dedication.”
Kelley-Wallace, who has been a UUP member throughout her nearly 20-year career at the University, is now taking advantage of the “space available” program to work on a master’s degree in public administration at a reduced cost.
“It’s a great benefit,” she said. It’s also exactly the kind of education that will help her in her new job and prepare her for challenges to come.
Participating in the MPA program gives her a chance to experience life as a student again, which keeps her grounded in the issues people are dealing with on campus. “You can have a lot more patience and understanding with students” when you, too, have exams to prepare for and homework to do.
Kelley-Wallace enjoys the atmosphere on campus and the students and professional staff at the University. So does her boss, Michael McGoff.
McGoff, now vice provost for strategic and fiscal planning, began as a research assistant for the Center for Integrative Studies in the School of Advanced Technology 39 years ago.
Like Kelley-Wallace, he said one key to his success is that he doesn’t pass up opportunities. Serving on a committee or volunteering for a new project helps employees add to the toolbox they’ll need for bigger jobs down the road, he noted.
“If you just go in with a positive attitude, that’s half the battle,” he said.
McGoff holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University. He came from a humanities background and then worked in a technical school, he said, and that helped him gain the respect of people in both of those worlds. He also credits good organizational and communication skills with helping him to advance.
McGoff, whose father never enjoyed his job as a police officer, said he considers himself fortunate to work with supportive and collegial colleagues.
“The most important thing is I love this place,” McGoff said. “I look forward to coming into work every day. I love my job. I’ve been a very lucky guy.”