Dear Colleagues,
This week we welcome 53,000 new and returning students to the University of Nebraska. It’s a time of new beginnings – not just for students, but for all of us. In this positive spirit, I am pleased to report encouraging progress from the Budget Response Team (BRT) initiative.
Results So Far
We began this process 20 months ago with a deceptively simple goal: Find more efficient ways of doing business in order to save millions of dollars in operational costs. Our aim was clear – protect academic quality and student affordability. That was a tall order, especially considering how lean we were already. But NU employees throughout the organization have risen to the challenge – with significant results.
As of today, we have identified $22 million in operational reductions. To achieve this, BRT groups moved forward with 66 proposals to streamline operations and save critical dollars. Every area has worked hard to conserve resources, even as they have sought innovative and better means for providing services.
You can read more about each team’s achievements in the sections that follow. These outcomes are the result of hard work, willingness to address major challenges, the expertise of our University colleagues, and in many cases, personal sacrifice. None of the eventual successes would have been possible without perseverance – as well as input and support from faculty, staff, administrators and students university-wide.
Those who served on the Budget Response Teams, and others who took the time to respond to their proposals, have made an enormous difference in the life of the university. The millions in savings reported above are equivalent to an additional 8 percent tuition increase for our students. I can’t think of a more powerful illustration of positive impact. Although the cuts and changes we have made were by no means simple or easy, they are helping to preserve our promise of affordable, high-quality higher education in Nebraska.
What Comes Next
All the BRT groups described in these updates are moving to the next stage in the program development process – Phase 3 (Interim Products). During this phase, proposed strategies and plans will evolve into more integral ways of doing business.
With this goal in mind, the specially constituted BRT groups will conclude their work this fall. They will hand off responsibility for following through on next steps to the ongoing functional areas to which their proposals relate. Individuals and teams within those functional areas will continue the day-to-day tasks of implementing strategies and monitoring outcomes. Thus, the work will go on in a new and focused way.
During the coming year, we’ll continue to look for savings and pursue best practices. We will communicate what we learn periodically, although I expect this will be my last “regular” newsletter for the time being. This is not to imply that the journey is over. It is merely to acknowledge that work reports will be more intermittent and individualized as we get down to the ‘nitty-gritty’ of operationalizing proposed plans.
Look around and you will see that we are beginning the school year with great academic momentum – an achievement that is possible in large measure due to your collective commitment to meeting our budget challenges head-on and to building a brighter future together. It is exciting to embark on a new academic year in this frame of mind – and to anticipate all the possibilities it brings.
Best wishes,
Marjorie Kostelnik
Senior Associate to the President

Reduction Target

As of July 1st, the University of Nebraska identified 22 million dollars in annual recurring savings achieved through BRT recommendations implemented across the university (including every campus and central administration, as well as centers throughout the state). Finding those dollars has been critical in helping us close a budget gap prompted by three cuts in state funding over the past 14 months.
While the BRT cuts were difficult and impacted everyone within the University in some manner, they ultimately enabled us to keep tuition affordable for students — and minimized further cuts to academic programs and services this year.
In addition, the university’s actions in addressing our budget gap promptly and aggressively were viewed favorably by the external bond rating agencies that analyze the university’s creditworthiness. The rating agencies specifically noted the good work of the BRTs, which gave them confidence to maintain the University’s strong bond ratings.
This will save the University money well into the future as we continue to finance the construction of new and renovated buildings on all campuses, as well as other university facilities throughout the state.
Such outcomes are gratifying — and demonstrate the importance of the work reported in this update.

Communications Update

The Communication BRT’s recommendations centered around rethinking the purpose of the communication function and transforming operations. This involved a sharpened focus on activity that furthers NU’s goals, thinking more creatively across campuses about how services and costs could be shared, and structuring the organization to deliver unified messages.
Examples of Progress:
Because communication is highly localized—delivered and managed at the campus level—and because each campus has its own unique audience, message, and brand, the communications team did not become one U-wide team.
Instead, individual teams remained campus-specific. They focused on better aligning communication operations and professionals at each campus, and strengthening connections between the main campus communication group and those in individual units. This creates stronger communication integration at the campus level—and strengthens the brand of each campus within the NU system.
To this end, each team of campus communicators was invited to a training session last fall to better understand change communication and how to continue their work in an environment that is evolving. They were also invited to participate in a listening session this spring discussing how to better align and make strategic decisions around promotional items and printing related to marketing. The same sessions were held across all campuses.
The communication leader at each campus, the University of Nebraska Foundation and Central Administration meet frequently and consistently as a Chief Communication Officers team to plan and carry out strategic communication activities. Benefits to the University so far:
  • Shared purchasing around resources such as software, marketing-related subscriptions and other technology.

  • Using each other’s teams as internal resources for photography, design, video work, etc. vs. outsourcing.

  • Alignment around key initiatives—which creates the ability to quickly pivot to share and amplify news as needed.

  • Coordination around key messages, which leverages all communication channels for greater effectiveness—for example, creating a monthly U-wide key messaging calendar around how the University impacts Nebraska.

  • Regular briefings on media requests, major events, and other relevant U-wide items.

  • Unified work around crisis communication and issues that affect all campuses.

  • Partnership with the state relations team and alumni leaders around advocacy.

Future Work:
The communication team plans to work with campus communicators on producing a checklist that will help communicators make more effective/efficient communications decisions on promotional items and print items used for marketing purposes. This will lead to a better collective use of dollars to create a stronger reputation for the University.

Facilities and Energy

The Facilities and Energy BRT groups are already beginning to show results in providing more comprehensive coverage to NU campuses at reduced costs. Here are some examples of the teams’ successes.
Examples of Progress
  • A new NU facilities organizational structure was approved by the President and Chancellors this spring. It establishes a unified system across 3 campuses (UNK, UNL, UNO).

    One portion of the organization will provide physical planning, space management, University/campus architectural and landscape architectural services, real estate management, project design and construction management, project inspection, code and fire/life safety review and enforcement, and systemizes the senior management of energy, utilities, and operations and maintenance. The individuals who carry out these duties will work across multiple campuses.

    The new organizational structure also includes a significant number of individuals who provide the “boots on the ground” support for day-to-day operations on each campus. These employees work at one campus only.

    The new Facilities organizational model is truly a hybrid structure, making use of both shared and individualized resources.

  • Under the new organizational structure, the consolidated Facilities Planning, Design and Construction group has assumed responsibility for the design and construction management for 3 LB957 funded projects at UNO.

  • The Minor Construction group, in additional to maintaining services at UNL, has begun managing small construction projects at UNO and UNK. They are providing building code review, construction management, field inspection and project final punch list and closeout.

  • Real Estate Management has begun assisting UNK, UNO and UNMC in negotiating and processing facilities leases, as well as other real estate transactions.

  • The Code Official has begun reviewing construction permit applications, reviewing plans, issuing building permits and conducting building code inspections at UNK and UNO and has received delegated authority from the state fire marshal for all Board of Regent-owned properties (with the exception of UNMC.)

  • The Utilities/Energy management group has installed EnergyCaps software at UNMC, UNO and UNK. This software enables Facilities to track individual facility energy usage, evaluate facilities where investments in energy projects will produce the greatest results, and further reduce energy consumption on all 4 campuses.

  • The Utilities/Energy group has been awarded a contract for Occupant Behavior and Energy Conservation, or “OBEC”. This contract establishes a public partner that will assist with energy education for occupants of existing University facilities, which will further reduce energy consumption by an estimated 10-13%. Anticipated energy savings over the 5 years of the contract could potentially exceed $34M.

Future Work:
  • A new Facilities web site will be developed to inform each campus about how to best access the services available via the new organizational structure – across campuses and on each home campus.

  • Operations and maintenance levels of service are being quantified, as a result of the FTEs given up during the cost-cutting portion of the budget reduction process. This will ensure that as Facilities moves forward with operationalizing the new organizational structure, levels of service remain appropriate and responsive.

Human Resources Update

The Human Resources and Payroll BRT was formed to study and recommend options for cost savings and efficiencies. The original team and the implementation team represented subject matter experts in the areas of Human Resources and Payroll. The service delivery of human resource management remains at the campus level, ensuring faculty and staff receive in-person HR service. HR will continue to evaluate its systems, policies, technology and practices to ensure efficiencies and best practices.
Examples of Progress:
  • Benefits work and the conversion to UMR and Ameritas over the past year have resulted in better prices for employees and cost savings for the university.

  • All of the campus HR organizations are now formally connected as a result of BRT initiatives. Through a OneHR initiative, HR has begun to implement a matrixed organization wherein all campuses can leverage expertise and HR offerings across the NU system. See the new organization chart here.

  • Not only is there now one organization with a unified strategic direction—as opposed to four separate ones—HR will be able to provide better service, efficiencies, and cost reductions for the entire University through our Centers of Excellence.

    HR has identified four initial Centers of Excellence, which include:

    1. Policies
    2. Staff Recruitment
    3. Employee Development
    4. Staff Compensation

    This effort, facilitated by the OneHR change, will leverage the skill and expertise on individual campuses to help employees and leaders throughout NU.

Future Work:
A key employee retention strategy is implementing a consistent set of policies. The OneHR initiative has led to a process, currently in place, to create one set of HR policies for all NU campuses. Initial results are expected in 2019.
Staff Recruitment
HR has initiated a Center of Excellence in Recruitment. This effort will leverage the HR staffing talent on all five campuses to share resources, expand NU’s recruitment outreach and explore technology strategies that will facilitate the desired goal of attracting a diverse quality work force. Initial outcomes are expected in 2019.
Employee Development
Another key employee retention strategy is employee development. HR has begun a Center of Excellence that will facilitate employee development on all NU campuses by sharing resources, knowledge and programs.
Staff Compensation
Systems, processes and technology used by HR in the area of staff compensation are being evaluated by the Compensation Center of Excellence.

Wrapping Up Old Business
During the fall semester, two HR BRT proposals were tabled in response to feedback and suggestions from faculty and staff. One strategy involved adjusting the maximum vacation balance; a second strategy was to discontinue the 1/4 sick leave payout to office and service employees at retirement. The HR team listened carefully and made the following revised recommendations.
  • Vacation Balance
    As a result of faculty and staff feedback, and with further input from NU’s outside benefits consultant, the HR BRT group recommended NO CHANGE in the maximum vacation balance for all employees.

  • 1/4 Sick Leave Payout
    Current Office/Service employees will be allowed to be paid ¼ of their sick leave if they retire before July 1, 2035. Specifically: Office/Service employees who are hired before January 1, 2019, and who retire from the University before July 1, 2035, shall receive a supplemental salary payment equal to 1/4 of their unused accrued sick leave up to a maximum 360 hours with the rate of payment equal to the regular rate of pay at the time of retirement.

    Normal retirement requirements of being at least 55 years of age and having at least 10 years of University service must be met in order to retire from the University and receive the 1/4 supplemental salary payment.

    Office and Service employees hired on or after January 1, 2019, will not be eligible to receive the 1/4 supplemental salary payment upon retirement.

    These recommendations have been approved by the President and the Chancellors.

    HR welcomes input regarding any item listed above, as well as faculty and staff ideas. Please contact your campus HR office to provide feedback.

ITS Update

Information Technology Services continues to drive cost savings through consolidating technology infrastructure and systems as well as by managing staff alignment and attrition.
Examples of Progress:
The OneIT initiative implemented in September 2017 has enabled the University of Nebraska to scale IT services more effectively. For example:
  • Dual reporting among college staff and IT leads has led to a more unified organization. This will promote standardized practices, create improved professional development opportunities, and provide better IT service coverage across the campuses.

  • By unifying a team of security experts to collectively support multiple campuses (UNL, UNO, UNK, and UNCA), IT security across all NU campuses has been improved. Previously, each campus had independent small security teams with limited resources.

  • ITS is implementing a unified technology infrastructure (such as the new NU-wide network) that sets the foundation for continued technology efficiencies and expanded scale across the university.

  • ITS is leveraging common networking and IT systems across campuses for better management and increased capacity.

  • ITS is replacing outmoded business maintenance systems with modern technology, improving performance while greatly reducing operating costs.

  • Combined ITS operational and procurement savings are being realized through unified university-wide contracts. A recent example involves standardized laptop procurement contracts across NU that are driving costs down.

Future Work:
  • Continue to pursue OneIT efficiencies related to best practices – this work remains in progress and will continue to drive savings estimated at approximately 1.5 million by July 2019

  • Continue realignment from a decentralized IT structure to a more connected and mutually supportive operation. This work is expected to be completed next year.

  • Coordinate IT purchasing efforts with Procurement and leverage scale. This is expected to continue as a major initiative throughout the coming year.

Printing and Copying Update

Printing and copying shops touch virtually every corner of the university, including academic programs, admissions and marketing, information technology, and business and finance. The BRT team looked at how printing equipment, supplies and practices varied across campuses—with an eye on streamlining operations and behaviors while continuing to serve the printing and copying needs of the university community.
Examples of Progress:
  • Through the BRT process, the Print/Copy group strengthened relationships among the campus-based print shops to better serve all NU campuses, Central Administration, and affiliated organizations.

  • An MOU has been finalized among the 3 campus-based print shops outlining mutual support strategies, as well as strategies for expanding services and leveraging efficiencies.

Status of Print Guidelines and Results of System-wide Survey:
The Printing/Copy team initially planned to create print/copy guidelines as a means to drive greater savings and use of campus services by university personnel and students. However, the results of a system-wide survey sent to all four campuses and NU centers indicated that the greatest barrier to attracting customers to campus-based print shops is lack of awareness and information regarding the availability and breadth of services offered. The team will address this as part of its future work.
Future Work:
As we move into Phase 3—the Interim Products phase of the BRT process—our goal is to encourage more customers to take advantage of the services provided through campus-based print shops. The first step to achieving this is to improve communication related to campus-based print services. Campus-specific communications will be developed to enhance employee awareness of the depth and breadth of services available.
Three advantages to using campus-based print shops are: 1) convenience, 2) skilled support, and 3) deep knowledge of the university/campus brand. Through increased use of on-campus services, faculty and staff will take advantage of the university’s investment in equipment as well as on-campus expertise.

Procurement Update

The Procurement BRT has created a more aligned organizational model that will increase effectiveness, create a unified approach to procuring goods and services and managing suppliers across the university, and serve the campuses and NU system in a more cohesive and collaborative manner. This model is in the final stages of approval.
Examples of Progress:
  • Several projects focused on cost savings are in advanced stages of development or are approaching pilot phase implementation. An example is the printer pilot in the College of Education at UNK.

  • Efforts to standardize and streamline the vendor record management process continue. Goals include: working toward improving time to completion, protecting Personal Identifiable Information (PII), compliance, and secure data management. Since piloting the new process in January 2018, the team processed over 2,500 electronic forms. This represents a significant increase in productivity.

  • Procurement will soon make a U-wide managed print services offering available that complements the cost-per-copy program that already exists on two campuses: UNL (College of Business) and UNK (campus-wide).

  • The College of Arts and Sciences at UNL will pilot America-to-Go, a food purchase management system for higher education that plugs into eSHOP. This tool has been demonstrated to streamline the approval and payment process related to events and to enhance spend visibility in a way that allows groups to leverage future contract potential.

  • Education and outreach with the campuses has led to enhanced collaboration, stronger relationships, and overall heightened awareness of procurement’s role in how we can help serve unit needs in procurement, contract, and sourcing activities. Such efforts support cost savings and compliance with regulatory requirements.

  • Procurement has made a formal commitment to supplier diversity in conjunction with efforts of the University’s Diversity Officers’ Collaborative (DOC) to expand supplier diversity throughout the university system. With DOC support, Procurement will manage the development of and provide leadership for a University-wide office of supplier diversity.

  • Supplier tradeshow events held at UNL and UNMC were well-attended. These educated potential buyers about new possibilities and reinforced stronger supplier relationships with university customers. We anticipate continuing these events.

  • Collaboration between procurement and campus units has increased and has helped teams identify new and on-going opportunities for savings and process efficiencies.

Future Work:
  • A University-wide procurement website will be developed to inform, educate, and enhance awareness of strategic procurement and sourcing efforts/opportunities for campus stakeholders and suppliers.

  • As pilot projects – such as the ones described above – are completed, procurement will disseminate strategies and results. This information will help other units across the University in making cost-saving decisions.

  • Procurement will continue its collaborations with other teams/units in supporting University-wide efforts to identify savings and efficiencies, a core competency of the procurement function.

  • In addition to already defined initiatives, cost savings opportunities are coming from unexpected places such as process improvements, standardization, and efficiencies. Procurement intends to build on these opportunities in the coming year.

  • The team continues to see positive savings through leveraged contracts. This will remain a significant focus in the future.

Procurement: “Several People Have Asked….”
Question: What about the proposal to reduce desk top printer use on campuses? Is that still being considered?
Answer: Reducing our dependence on desk top printers remains a potentially useful cost-saving strategy. However, Procurement has shifted its attention away from mandating a universal system-wide strategy to working with individual units (e.g., colleges, departments, and centers), by piloting ways to save dollars on desktop printers and printer supplies in their particular contexts.
Such pilots are already underway at UNK and in the UNL College of Business. As these projects generate results, strategies and outcomes will be shared with other interested parties throughout the university.

Travel Update

Since its inception, the Travel team intent has been to modernize University of Nebraska’s travel systems, with two goals in mind: to find efficiencies (both operational and fiscal), and to seek viable ways to lower university travel expenses. The group has addressed these goals in multiple ways, as described below.
Examples of Progress:
  • With assistance from SAP experts, the Travel BRT supported the adoption of Concur Expense, a software tool that streamlines pre-trip authorization and travel expense reimbursement processes. This product is an outgrowth of SAP (which is already used University-wide) and is intended to supplement the current Concur Booking tool. It will provide University travelers with a single travel portal to address multiple travel needs, including related reimbursements.

  • The Concur software was purchased system-wide—and in partnership with the Nebraska State College System—thereby creating the conditions to maximize the buying power of all the entities involved.

  • In preparation for introducing the Concur reimbursement system, numerous travel workshops were conducted for staff who support employee travel. The workshops were held earlier this summer at UNO and UNK, and more recently at UNL, UNMC and UNC. Additional workshops for faculty and staff are planned for fall semester.

  • The Concur system went live at UNO and UNK on July 1, 2018. To date, users have reported a positive experience with the software. Some staff members have already found new efficiencies in the travel process and are enjoying the available apps within Concur. This software will go live at UNMC on September 10, 2018 and at UNL on on September 24.

  • Following a 6-month review period, the Travel team produced an updated, comprehensive travel policy. To achieve this, the team collaborated with numerous individuals and university entities—including subject matter experts in travel, faculty groups, individual faculty travelers, Accounts Payable managers, export control experts, international offices, and others.

    The team reviewed travel policies from a variety of institutions, in addition to the results of various campus forums focused on travel and approximately 450 emails with written input. That feedback made a significant difference in the final policy as written. The policy will be in full-effect system-wide as of September 2018.

  • A new system-wide travel office has been established to support travelers, leverage University resources, and facilitate developing new travel efficiencies. Trouble-shooting and problem solving to enhance travelers’ experiences is a major responsibility of this office, in addition to travel-related contract management as appropriate.

    University travelers and those responsible for supporting those travelers across the university are encouraged to reach out to Melody Stark at or by phone at 402-554-3456 for assistance.

Future Work:
  • Continue system-wide training in the Concur software applications throughout the fall semester.

  • Develop a U-wide travel website that includes the Travel Policy, sample Questions and Answers, and tips for making the most of the Concur software.

  • Refine services offered through the NU Travel office as appropriate.

  • Meet periodically with faculty who are associated with the travel BRT to gain input and feedback about ongoing travel processes through the end of the fiscal year.

  • Solicit information system-wide from faculty and staff that will contribute to developing an RFP for a University travel management company.

Digital Education Update

The Digital Education group has made tremendous strides in Year 1—the most notable being a 10% increase in gross Digital Education tuition for the 2017-18 academic year. Click here to see a one-page summary, and read below for additional successes.
Examples of Progress:
  • 10% growth in gross Distance Education tuition for AY17/18 (summer projected)

  • Instructional Design Summit held during Summer 2018

  • Increased capacity and sections in online bottleneck/gateway courses during AY17/18

  • University-wide agreement for system-wide video captioning tool

  • Expanded open access textbook initiative

  • UNO developed and launched ‘Learn to Learn Online’ course

  • NESIS team developed and implemented intercampus registration within SIS

  • Completed phase I and began phase II of Lead Nurturing Initiative

  • Convened system-wide online marketing and recruitment subcommittee

  • Five new undergraduate online courses funded – inclusive of pedagogical research component

  • Two market-demand online programs added to the online portfolio – Social Work, BS (UNK) and Social Work, MSW (UNO)

Future Work:
  • Evaluate potential of a single rate / flat rate tuition for several online programs

  • Offer multiple collaborative programs between NU campuses

  • Continue development and/or conversion of high-demand courses and programs online

  • Research and assess potential for flexible academic sessions (winter session courses, short-session fall / spring courses)

  • Enhance NU Online website with online course listing

  • Identify platform and infrastructure for non-credit/professional development programs

  • Engage in collaborative review of effective practices to support online students

Moving Forward

The BRT future work described in this newsletter will be carried out within Phase 3 (Interim Products) of the BRT program development process. During this phase, BRT implementation will shift from the original ad hoc BRT groups to related functional areas in the University (e.g., Facilities, HR, ITS, etc.)
Over the next year, the work will be devoted to implementing strategies, refining processes and documenting outcomes for approved BRT proposals. As this goes on, your observations and feedback will be useful and welcome.
Please email comments to, or submit anonymous feedback through this form. You may also visit the BRT website for ongoing information.