Dear Colleagues,
In a few days, the University of Nebraska will award 6,700 diplomas to our newest graduates in Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha. There is no more joyous academic occasion than commencement. Each credential represents an individual achievement – and every person reading this newsletter can be proud of the role he or she played in helping our students to the finish line. Most importantly, we can all be proud that those degrees are grounded in outstanding teaching, research and engagement programs that are strengthened by first-rate business and operational support staff.
I mention commencement because it is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do. Whatever our job titles, each of us shares in the mission of making sure the University of Nebraska continues to provide affordable, high-quality education to our students.
This is, in fact, the guiding principle of the Budget Response Team process. We are on this journey because we owe it to our students to do everything we can to uphold academic excellence while keeping higher education accessible. This process is not easy, and we will be impacted in ways small and large, but we should all celebrate in the good work we have done so far on behalf of students and those we serve in the community.
We are making progress in reducing our operational spending by $30 million to help bridge the budget gap created by multiple rounds of state funding cuts and our own rising costs. While we are still processing specific details, I am pleased to tell you that we are almost halfway to our goal. Behind the raw dollars are new, more efficient, more collaborative ways of doing business in areas like:
  • Communications, marketing and public relations
  • Facilities management and energy
  • Human resources and payroll
  • Information technology and services
  • Printing and copying
  • Procurement
  • Travel
Please read the updates associated with each of these areas in the sections that follow. You will see that teams are taking the need to be more efficient and save dollars very seriously. I again extend my gratitude to the BRT team members who are doing this hard work and the many additional staff and faculty who are contributing to the process.
Candidly, the need to find savings has only grown with the conclusion of the recent legislative session which included another round of cuts to the University, as President Bounds and the chancellors have explained. I realize that the news of additional cuts is a bitter pill to swallow when we have already worked over several decades to become a leaner institution. And I know that the position eliminations and process changes associated with BRT have increased workloads and created disruptions that are difficult to deal with on every campus.
Yet, I would also remind us that it is thanks to BRT that we have only recently begun to make direct cuts to academic programs. In the end, each of us will be impacted by the budget reduction process. Budget challenges on the scale we are facing are great equalizers: no one escapes the pain.
What’s Next?
As noted in past BRT Updates, we have been in Phase 2 of the BRT Development Model: Program Installation. We devoted the past four months to gathering your feedback and suggestions regarding proposed BRT strategies, and we will continue in that vein through May and June. Your feedback has played a significant role in helping us shape our strategies so far. Thank you.
By July 1, campuses will enter Phase 3 of program implementation, the Interim Product Phase. During this time we will test out the strategies we are putting in place and compare the outcomes we imagined with the ones that are real. More information about your role in Phase 3 will be forthcoming in our next Update.
In the meantime, please take advantage of the next few weeks to provide further suggestions. I can tell you, teams are listening.
Marjorie Kostelnik
Senior Associate to the President

Communication Update

The Communication BRT members continue to develop a draft of print and promotional guidelines. Their goal is to share the draft guidelines and solicit feedback either digitally or through another set of listening sessions. The team continues to welcome feedback, observations and sharing of best practices as these guidelines are being drafted.

Human Resources Update

Over 22 percent of NU faculty and staff increased their life insurance in the special life insurance open enrollment period created by the BRT process. Thank you to all the HR benefits offices that helped faculty and staff through this process.

ITS Update

Information Technology Services has hit its savings target by implementing strategies and projects such as:
  • Leveraging common networking and systems across all campuses for better management and increased capacity.
  • Replacing legacy business mainframe system with modern technology, improving performance while greatly reducing operating costs.
  • Reducing 30 ITS positions achieved largely through attrition.
  • Other ITS operational efficiencies and ITS procurement savings, such as unified university-wide contracts.

Printing Update

The Print/Copy BRT team is conducting a Qualtrics survey to learn more about what faculty and staff are looking for in print and copy services, as well as any barriers people have in accessing services.
The information you provide will be used to improve services, and to inform the team as they develop printing and copying guidelines. The guidelines will share best practices to make printing and copying more cost-effective and user-friendly across the NU system.
Questions about the survey or input about the guidelines can be directed to

Procurement Update

The Procurement BRT group has considered several different strategies to improve services and save dollars across the NU campuses. Three of these proposals involved reducing widespread use of desktop printers, reducing cell phone costs, and reducing food costs.
All three of the proposals are being forwarded to campus-level decision makers for their input prior to any formal action. This will ensure that any decisions made make sense across the campuses, create deeper understandings of how to implement strategies effectively and fairly, identify logistical considerations that should be taken into account, and determine what timelines are most feasible. Once this feedback is received, a more formal set of guidelines and recommendations will be made.
In the meantime, other strategies to be implemented within University procurement operations continue to take shape. These are:
  • Office supplies: The team is reviewing products eligible for private brand substitution with NU’s prime supplier, Office Depot, to save money on thousands of commonly purchased items. This includes responsible choices for sustainability and diverse supplier purchases.
  • Lab and research supplies: Similar in concept to office supplies, the team is working closely with NU’s prime scientific supplier to aid researchers with options for viable cost-savings.
  • Inbound freight: Finalizing a contract that will allow the team to implement a pilot program on one campus. This program will help the University leverage a heavily discounted freight contract when suppliers ship products on NU’s behalf.
  • Equipment maintenance: Once a data gathering phase is complete, the team will begin preparations to issue an RFP for third party companies that can streamline the purchase of extended warranties on equipment, as well as provide cost savings.
  • Vehicle procurement and maintenance: The team has been focused on developing consistent procurement procedures and fleet administration guidelines that will benefit the entire University.

Facilities and Energy Update

The Facilities Budget Response Team has made great strides in implementing a unified Facilities organization for the University of Nebraska, while simultaneously reducing operating expenses. The new organization model is built around two important groups of people – each critical to future u-wide success.
One group consists of individuals at UNK, UNL and UNO who deliver essential daily campus operations and maintenance. These are our ‘boots on the ground personnel’ – the people who keep each campus running smoothly every day and who are immediately available to ‘trouble shoot’ as necessary. The second group consists of personnel who will address system-wide tasks, enabling the organization to capitalize on their talents where most needed for specific projects.
To achieve this vision of improved services to the university, the Facilities BRT group proposed a new organizational structure, which was approved on April 9th, by the Presidents Council. The new Facilities organizational structure is attached here for your reference.
The changes include realignment of the Facilities Planning and Construction branch; results will quickly be realized through new approaches to our work, including:
  • A single work estimate request system.
  • Our migration to a single e-Builder web-based project management system.
  • Cross-campus management of capital construction and minor construction projects.
  • Collaboration with ongoing energy management initiatives.
All of this reorganization kept cost savings in mind. The team met the dollar targets established by the President through eliminating vacant positions and by increasing the scope of responsibility for a number of individuals in supervisory positions. We are grateful for those who have stepped up to fill the gaps as needs have arisen.

Travel Update

The newly expanded Travel BRT continues to make progress in developing travel practices and policies aimed at improving consistency and efficiency across the University system. A 10-member, University-wide faculty travel advisory committee, whose members were appointed by the faculty senate presidents from each campus, is helping to shape the new travel policy this semester. This committee will also help evaluate policy implementation and outcomes over the first year of policy implementation.
Thank you for the many suggestions made so far. Your comments have made a difference. Here are a few illustrations of how faculty and staff feedback from numerous sources has led to revisions in the ‘first draft’ policy document that was circulated in January.
  • Travelers wanted to be sure Airbnb was included among the lodging options – it is.
  • Travelers wanted to make sure they could use Uber and Lyft – they can.
  • Travelers wanted to make sure that blanket authorizations were good for a year at a time – this is an explicit part of the policy.
  • Travelers wanted to make sure they could book their own modes of transportation in other countries versus being required to use Travel & Transport (planes, trains, busses, boats etc.) – this has been incorporated into the policy.
  • The original draft identified a specific number of miles required for a person to fly versus drive – The revised draft policy has eliminated the mileage standard.
  • Travelers were concerned that references to the lowest economical means of travel translated into inconvenient travel times, multiple and long layovers – It does not. The lowest economical means of travel incorporates the traveler’s business purpose, timing, cost efficiency, and academic needs.
Other suggestions are being addressed as well. These are just a few examples, but as you can see, the Travel BRT is striving to listen to the faculty and staff and to respond in ways that will support their work. Your input will continue to be addressed as the document is further refined.
Statewide Travel Collaboration
The University has partnered with the Nebraska State College System on implementation of Concur, an updated software system that will allow for standard electronic submission of travel booking and expenses. The partnership will make Concur a go-to software for travel for public higher education in the state of Nebraska. Approved by the Board of Regents last August, the Concur system is expected to make it easier for travelers to comply with state and federal travel regulations, as well as reduce paperwork and save staff time by automating expense reporting.
University Travel Office
Finally, a University-wide Travel Office recommended by the Travel BRT is being formed to serve as a resource for all University travelers. The office will be led by Melody Stark, previously a reimbursement associate at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Melody is known to be a problem-solver and facilitator, and is well equipped to carry out this role. She has more than 35 years of customer service experience, focusing primarily on travel. In her new role, she will be responsible for assisting University travelers, helping to problem solve as needed, partnering with travelers and campus decision-makers to implement and update travel policies and practices as appropriate, and working closely with campus procurement offices and NU’s travel agency and other travel partners to secure better services for NU travelers. Melody can be reached at
Members of the University community are welcome to submit additional feedback and questions to More information on the Travel BRT, including full membership of the team and other relevant information, is available on the Travel BRT webpage.
We are still in Phase 2, Program Installation, of the BRT program development process. This is the phase when we are testing our assumptions and refining how the plans described in this Update will be executed. Please email direct feedback to, or submit anonymous feedback through this form.