Dear Colleagues,
One year ago, almost to the day, 100+ members of the NU community met for the first time to begin the Budget Response Team process. The teams received a bold charge from President Bounds and the chancellors: Rethink how the University of Nebraska does business – reduce costs, develop more efficient practices and at the same time, advance university-wide goals of collaboration and outstanding service to students, faculty, staff and stakeholders.
Knowing we could not simply tweak our way to the goal, the teams embarked on a major transformation of many of our operations. A year later, here are the results: We are in the process of reinventing ourselves organizationally and operationally in key functional areas — facilities, energy, human resources and payroll, IT, and procurement. Communication, printing and travel are examining their work to achieve needed economies as well. Every team is striving to maintain a strong service orientation to the university community even as they reduce costs.
Fiscally, we’ve saved $6.6 million in real dollars, with twice that amount expected in 2018. Ultimately, we anticipate finding a total of $30 million – it won’t be easy or painless, but we aim to get it done! And, we are doing all of this in a relatively short timeframe, made even more pressing by the urgent fiscal challenges our university is facing.
The campuses have a right to be proud of this work. The fact is that although most of us will be negatively impacted by BRT changes in some ways, we should not lose sight of the reason we went down this path in the first place – we needed to protect the academic core as best we could – educating students, making new discoveries through scholarship and creative activity, and engaging with the community.
Ultimate Impact
Think of it, for every million dollars we save through the BRT process, departments and colleges are buffered from having to find that million dollars among their degree and certificate programs. Likewise, students and families are shielded from having to make up this 30 million-dollar shortfall through commensurate tuition hikes. I can’t stress these outcomes enough, especially as we face additional cuts in state funding and their potentially broader and deeper impacts.
From Last January to Now
The BRT process began with a focus on business operations. Consequently, the BRTs were populated primarily by individuals who lead and manage those areas. They are intimately familiar with the structures, technology, software programs, and best practices within each function – and are the ones within whose areas the most significant changes will happen. Their efforts have been steady and deep – they have spent long hours researching, planning and working through many levels of detail, while still doing their daily work to keep the institution running.
At the same time, we knew all along that wide input from faculty and staff – the ones who feel the impact of the work that is done in business operations – would be essential. To that end, the feedback period for many of the BRT proposals began last fall and is continuing in earnest. The campuses have responded with relevant critiques and useful suggestions. Teams are listening. For example, you may remember that campus feedback led to the tabling of two proposals related to benefits. Renewed work on those ideas is underway, informed by what the HR team heard from you.
And, just a few days ago, several hundred faculty and staff members attended or tuned in remotely to Travel BRT listening sessions conducted at UNL, UNO, UNMC and UNK. Participants offered critiques, explained special circumstances about which they had concerns, and suggested changes. The feedback is still coming in via email from individuals and groups. All of it is being considered and will help shape ultimate policy implementation.
These are just two examples of the impact your input is making on the long-term implementation of BRT-inspired strategies. Allow me to pause and say thank you. It is a significant enterprise in which we are all engaged.
We’re Still Seeking Feedback
Additional BRT team representatives will visit campuses this semester to gather input related to proposals focused on desktop printers, university vehicles, communication strategies, printing and other issues associated with approved BRT proposals. I hope you will attend the listening sessions and open forums being planned. You may also address any BRT strategy using the feedback link at the end of this update. Finally, some teams plan to ask faculty or staff to serve on advisory groups to help guide the implementation of certain strategies. We’ll share more about this facet of the process in the coming weeks.
Bottom line, I urge you to take advantage of opportunities to make your ideas known and to help shape BRT strategies in support of our academic mission. I can’t promise that every suggestion will be adopted, but I can say every one will be heard. Now I’d invite you to read the updates below from each BRT group. They exemplify the spirit of cooperation, commitment to excellence and the focus on our mission that have defined this process from the start. I commend your work over the past year, and I look forward to continued progress together in the year ahead.
Marjorie Kostelnik
Senior Associate to the President

Communication Update

Did you know that printing and promotional items like pens, t-shirts, coasters, and other giveaways accounts for two-thirds of all non-personal communications spending?
With findings like this in mind, the communication BRT team is working to develop university-wide guidelines for printing and promotional items. This will provide guidance and best practice on promotions purchases, and help ensure communication and marketing dollars are spent strategically across the institution.
The team is seeking faculty and staff input before the guidelines are created and invite faculty and staff feedback on how to best develop and use printed pieces and promotional items. Following this feedback period, a draft guidelines document will be created and shared.
Communication BRT team members will conduct a listening session on each campus to solicit input, share direction and answer questions. All members of the university community are welcome, but we are particularly looking for the following groups of people who spend money on printing and promotional items:
  • College communicators
  • Extension communicators and staff
  • Recruitment and admissions staff
  • Business managers
  • Global engagement staff
  • Procurement and printing staff
The listening sessions will be held the week of Feb. 19. They will be moderated by Jackie Ostrowicki, Assistant Vice President for University Affairs and chair of the Communication BRT, and will be hosted by each campus Chief Communication Officer. Please email for more information. The specific dates, times and locations are posted here.
Faculty and staff are also invited to submit feedback via email to the BRT Communication Team Chair, Jackie Ostrowicki, at

Human Resources Update

Retirement Enrollment Dates
Beginning September 1, 2018, new NU employees who satisfy the existing retirement plan eligibility requirements will be allowed to enter the basic retirement program (called the 401A) on either September 1 or February 1. For instance, an eligible employee hired in October 2018, who meets the eligibility requirements would first be able to enter the retirement plan on Feb. 1, 2019. An employee hired in April 2019 who meets the eligibility requirements would first be able to enter the retirement program on September 1, 2019. This change affects only new employees hired after September 1, 2018.
These dates were selected based on past hiring trends with the goal to minimize the retirement plan enrollment delay to our new employees. Prior to September 1, 2018 new employees are enrolled monthly upon eligibility. This new program initiated by the HR/Payroll BRT team will save NU approximately $100K annually.
Employees are required to enroll in the basic retirement program when they are 30 years of age and have two years of educational related experience. New employees coming from other education institutions can receive prior service credit if they apply to the campus benefits office. Once a new employee satisfies the eligibility requirement he or she will be enrolled at the soonest enrollment period of either February 1 or September 1.
Benefits Consultant
On December 18, 2017 three RFP’s were issued on NU’s health, dental and pharmacy programs. An NU wide RFP committee composed of faculty and staff from each campus has been formed and will evaluate RFP submittals, working closely with Gallagher Associates, our Benefits Consultant.
Additionally this RFP committee will be making recommendations on plan design, that is, what we should cover as an employer for these three plans and how they should be offered to employees.
Employees wishing to express any opinion on coverages, tiers of coverage, deductibles amounts or anything generally related to the NU health, dental and pharmacy insurance may do so by submitting a comment here.
All comments/suggestions will be read and taken into consideration.

ITS Update

Information Technology Services continues to drive cost savings through consolidating technology infrastructure and systems as well as managing staff alignment and attrition.
The SAP system, which runs Firefly, received a significant upgrade. Running on mainframe hardware since 1997, the system was migrated to SAP’s newer HANA technical environment. The move will save significant annual support and licensing costs, as well as providing faster, more reliable performance.
ITS also recently consolidated Omaha and Lincoln virtual server installations into a single datacenter environment to leverage consolidated infrastructure and improve security.
IT staff from UNL Shared Services and UNO Business and Finance were transitioned into ITS beginning this month to maximize best practices, IT security, and economies of scale in serving critical administrative technology needs.
IT security across all NU campuses has improved by unifying a team of security experts collectively to support multiple campuses (UNL, UNO, UNK, Central). Previously, each campus had independent small teams with limited resources.

Printing Update

Printing BRT members are continuing to work on university-wide guidelines and are developing a collaborative printing team that will create efficiencies to reduce printing and copying costs across the campuses. The process is already at the drafting level and will continue by engaging stakeholders on campus to provide input. This will involve colleagues on the communication and procurement BRT teams, as well as faculty and staff.
Even before the development and implementation of a formal guidelines document, employees are already finding cost savings through increased collaboration and efforts to reduce printing and copying. For example, UNO recently collaborated with the UNMC print shop to save more than 50 percent overall on their commencement books in 2017.

Procurement Update

In our last issue, Procurement invited participants to take part in a discussion group for one of three strategies: 1.reductions in the use of desktop printers, 2. updated policies related to the use of university vehicles, and, 3. the switch from branded to private brand office supplies. Although we received some responses, several people told us they overlooked our request, so we are offering the opportunity again to share your contact information here if you would like to join us.
The desktop printer reduction proposal team is planning a series of listening sessions in late February/early March to discuss this important initiative and seek direct feedback from all the campuses. Look for details to follow soon!
Another key initiative just completed is a part of our procure-to-pay transformation team, and involved centralizing vendor record management. This team worked to both standardize and shorten the process, by consolidating the personnel responsible for this activity helping to minimize errors and streamline the workflow. This is a big first step in the transformation of all our operations where we are working to analyze processes, optimize workflow, standardize and simplify.

Facilities and Energy Update

The Facilities budget response team has been working to implement a unified Facilities organization to meet the needs of the UNK, UNO, and UNL campuses. The team realized the first round of savings through personnel attrition and is working to finalize the second round of savings that will take effect July 1, 2018.
Implementation of the organizational structure that was approved as part of the BRT process is ongoing, and early results can be seen in cross-campus management of capital construction and minor construction projects as well as collaboration on energy management initiatives.
The Utilities/Energy management group has begun installation of EnergyCaps software at UNMC, UNO and UNK. This software enables Facilities to track individual facility energy use, evaluate facilities where investments in energy projects will produce the greatest results, and further reduce energy consumption on all four campuses.
The Utilities/Energy group has issued an RFP for “energy education.” This effort will provide a public partner to the university to assist with energy education for existing facilities occupants and further reduce energy consumption by an estimated 10-13%.

Travel Update

Early in January, the Travel BRT group released a draft document describing potential university-wide policies for travel. The policy standardizes travel protocol across the university, ensuring that the same requirements for booking, expenses and other travel-related areas apply to all employees. Most importantly, the goal is to make travel easier for university personnel in several ways, while at the same time capturing cost savings for travel-related activities.
The first draft document was developed by members of the BRT group along with other university personnel, who are travel-related experts in a variety of arenas: business and finance, procurement, employee and student travel, technology, and software systems associated with travel. They planned to get a working draft in order and then solicit feedback from critical stakeholders, especially faculty and staff involved in academic travel for a variety of purposes.
As a first step in gathering feedback from a wider circle of university personnel, the travel team conducted four listening sessions (one per campus) from January 16-19, 2018. More than 400 faculty and staff participated in person and many more joined in via video streaming. At each forum, Travel BRT members from across NU explained the policy in its current form and listened as faculty and staff expressed their ideas about what seemed workable and what did not. Below are links to the individual campus presentations if you wish to access them to see the presentations or hear the conversations directly.
Following these sessions, Travel BRT members reviewed all the videos as well as reactions and suggestions coming in through the website. The team is developing a Q & A handout to clarify some of the issues that came up and will soon make that document available on the Travel section of the BRT website.
In addition, the travel team identified several issues needing further amplification and input from faculty in particular (especially those highly engaged in university travel). Some of these include:
  • International travel, especially in remote areas
  • Managing receipts and payments in a variety of circumstances
  • How to manage UBER, Airbnb, and homestay experiences
  • State requirements related to meals
  • Working through conference hotel and organization channels
  • Needs of researchers relative to grant-related travel
The Travel BRT group will be asking the Faculty Senate leadership from each campus to recommend/invite faculty members from their campuses to work with the team to address these issues most productively. The target date for preliminary implementation is July 1. It is anticipated that the faculty advisory function will continue through the initial phases of policy implementation to help hone strategies in response to actual traveler experiences.
Faculty and staff who were unable to attend the campus presentations may submit feedback on the draft policy to

BRT Mythbuster

Myth: I heard that ITS will increase or add new charges to existing services to meet IT BRT goals?
Finding: Not true. ITS will not increase or add new charges to existing services. BRT goals are being met through increased efficiencies and economies of scale realized by unifying resources through the OneIT initiative.
We want to hear your thoughts and comments. This is a very important time when we are testing our assumptions and refining how these plans will be executed. Please email direct feedback to, or submit anonymous feedback through this form. You may also provide comments directly to each team using links incorporated throughout this update.