2015-04 From the President: UMRA and the University

April, 2015 UMRA and the University

From time to time, UMRA leaders have puzzled about the organization's relationship with the University of Minnesota. From its beginning in 1978, UMRA was incorporated as an independent organization, although closely associated with the Campus Club. While independence has not kept the organization from thriving, there have been times when a formal connection between UMRA and the University could have been to the advantage of both. And, it is thought that future initiatives might benefit from such a connection.

When John Adams became UMRA president, he raised that question, and we believe that the time is ripe to determine whether we should pursue a formal connection with the University. I have asked John to write this column so that you, UMRA members, can consider the question.
— Hal Miller, UMRA President

UMRA's stated mission 
UMRA exists, according to our mission statement, "to promote, protect, support and advocate for the interests, rights, needs and welfare of persons who retire from the University of Minnesota." 
UMRA-sponsored activities toward that mission are to:

  • Help retirees deal successfully with the retirement process, both during their retirement year and into their retirement years;
  • Provide all retirees broad intellectual stimulation as well as social and recreational services;
  • Oversee and assist in the ongoing provision of benefits affecting the health and wellness of retirees;
  • Facilitate opportunities for voluntary service to the University and community; and
  • Contribute to the development and welfare of the University, its mission and goals.

UMRA's legal status 
UMRA is incorporated; it is a 501(c)(4) entity. This independence has presented a continuing challenge in maintaining active communication links with University retirees in ways that would not only help retirees but also facilitate retirees' continuing contributions to the University's mission.

As an example: as separate legal entity, we face obstacles in working as a full partner with the University's Office of Human Resources (OHR) in planning and facilitating pre-retirement and post-retirement programs that would help both the University and our retirees. Moreover, OHR cannot share with UMRA the contact information of University retirees in the years following their retirement.

Despite this obstacle, we have begun discussions with three colleges (College of Liberal Arts, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and College of Education and Human Development) to figure out how UMRA might work on these challenges at the college level. We recognize that when some faculty and staff members retire, they prefer to move on—and that's fine. But others want to remain connected. Their loyalty to the University's mission and their willingness to put their professional knowledge and skills to work on occasional assignments in the classroom, ongoing research and professional activity, committee service, administrative assistance, and community outreach, represent untapped resources for the U.

UMRA's relationship with the U of M 
At the August 2014 meetings of Big Ten and AROHE retirement organizations, the question of the most appropriate links to their respective universities was an important topic of discussion. Some of us feel that a closer arrangement would be good for the University—and for UMRA. Others are unsure, so we're exploring the options.

The ACE link. 
The provost's Office has agreed to work with the American Council on Education's continuing study on retirement and retirees that is underway. UMRA has offered to help with this effort.

The University's Strategic Plan. 
We sent the provost a detailed commentary on the University's recently issued strategic plan, highlighting ways that faculty and staff retirees could help implement the plan.

A Capital Campaign link. 
Finally, the University Foundation is considering a future capital campaign. Faculty and staff have been exceptional benefactors supporting the University mission. But if the U expects retirees to continue their generosity in a new round of capital campaigning, now is the time to bring them closer to the University and to find ways to keep them engaged with the University mission in ways that are appropriate—not only for them, but also for the departments and programs where they spent their careers and with which they may remain attached and sympathetic.

Going forward from here. 
As these discussions with University leadership continue, your UMRA board seeks your comments on these matters. 
Based on our current understandings, and recognizing the alignment of the missions of the University of Minnesota and of UMRA, the UMRA board may pursue a formal connection with the Office of the Provost. 

Please, let us know your views.

— John S. Adams, UMRA Past President adams004@umn.edu 
— Hal Miller, UMRA President miller@umn.edu