2022-02 From the President: Who are we?

Have you ever had a conversation with someone about to retire from the University and heard something like, “I’ve heard about UMRA, but I don’t think I want to join the organization because it’s mostly retired (insert faculty/staff/other category)”?

If we look at ourselves through the lens of the employment categories we were in while working at the University, we find that our membership is roughly balanced between non-faculty and faculty employees. In Office of Human Resources parlance, 58 percent of us were professional and administrative, civil service, or bargaining unit employees, and 42 percent were faculty. (Thank you, Virgil Larson and Cathy Lee Gierke, for providing those numbers from the UMRA member database.) 

There is a similar balance on the UMRA Board and other governance leadership positions. And when the Nominating Committee does its work every year to identify candidates for our organization’s leadership, there is attention paid to finding candidates who represent the diversity of our members, including their former work experience.

So, keep talking to your former colleagues and new retirees and encourage them to join UMRA. We need their diverse points of view.

Do the categories matter?
In our individual retirement relationships with the University, sometimes the categories do matter. Administratively, there are University policies that affect some employment categories differently from others, and UMRA, as an organization for all retirees, needs to be aware and supportive of the interests of all our members.

But for the most part, the categories that meant so much when we were in active work mode are superseded when we retire and find ourselves anew in this stage of life. If you’re with other UMRA members learning about family history, or out on a hike, or volunteering on a project, or serving on the board, the old categories aren’t there. They dissolve in the richness of your new experiences.

For me, that’s been one of the subtle pleasures of doing things with other UMRA members.  The old work edges melt away and it’s just you and me and who we are as people. I think we are Driven to Discover that, too.

- Jan Morlock, UMRA president, jam@umn.edu