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Dunnagan Inspires, Engages as Staff Senate Chair

Photo of Cathi Phillips Dunnagan at the podium.
Cathi Phillips Dunnagan is the Staff Senate Chair for its 23rd session. Photos by Thomas Crocker.

DELTA’s own Cathi Phillips Dunnagan serves as a voice and advocate for staff as the 2017-2018 NC State Staff Senate chair.

The NC State Staff Senate advises the chancellor and performs a variety of functions related to staff. With 60 senators from across NC State, the Staff Senate is designed to hear the needs of staff members and relay information to higher administration and back down.

Each senator serves on a committee to fulfill Staff Senate’s duties. Committees include Diversity, Elections/Governance, External Affairs, Human Resources, Public Relations, Resources and Environment and the Computer Loan Program.

A true advocate, Dunnagan noted that the work of Staff Senate is done through the senators and committees. “I am a facilitator for all these amazing people. My role is to help them do the amazing things they are coming up with and to tell the story as many ways as I can,” she added.

Cathi Dunnagan addresses the Staff Senate during a meeting.
Dunnagan addresses the Staff Senate during a meeting.

As Staff Senate chair, Dunnagan is responsible for serving on the University Council and the UNC Staff Assembly. She also presents quarterly reports to the Board of Trustees among many other tasks such as handling senate correspondence, coordinating and leading meetings.

Because of the extensive time commitment, Chancellor Randy Woodson provides funds to DELTA to cover 50 percent of Dunnagan’s time so she is able to focus on her responsibilities as chair along with her role at DELTA. With this support, DELTA was able to hire a part-time instructional designer to help fulfill Dunnagan’s project workload.

“I look for opportunities for personal and professional growth, and this was an unbelievable opportunity,” said Dunnagan. “I appreciate and celebrate the amazing support from DELTA to do this in the first place.”

Her journey with Staff Senate began in 2012 when she was elected as a senator and joined the Public Relations Committee. Four years later, Dunnagan was nominated for chair. In this three-year role, Dunnagan served as chair-elect in 2016-2017 to become familiar with her upcoming duties and will serve as past chair in 2018-2019 to mentor the current chair.

Communicating, Collaborating, Connecting

Staff Senate’s shared vision is to create a positive working environment through communicating, collaborating and connecting, which was also the theme of the Staff Senate retreat held July 19, 2017, in Hunt Library. At the retreat, Dunnagan worked to start the year strong with a special message from Woodson and team-building exercises.

When it comes to the shared vision, Dunnagan knows a thing or two about inspiring it. Prior to becoming chair, Dunnagan completed both paths in the Pathways Leadership Development Program to hone her leadership skills. She was awarded the Inspire a Shared Vision award from her peers.  

“And that’s what I feel like my role is as chair — inspire the shared vision, tell the story and connect with people,” she added.

Dunnagan facilitates Staff Senate meetings.

Dunnagan is able to connect and communicate at every meeting she attends or presentation she gives. At the UNC Staff Assembly meetings, attendees are able to look across all institutions and talk about issues that relate to staff. “We can share out solutions at individual institutions and encourage others to take some of the steps we have taken,” she said.

For the most recent Board of Trustees’ report, Dunnagan explained the role of Staff Senate as a conduit of communication from staff to senior administration. “I share the story of Staff Senate to ensure the voice of staff is heard,” she added.

Service and Engagement

Through NC State Extension, the university has employees in all 100 North Carolina counties which aligns with our land-grant mission. Engaging each and every staff member is important to Dunnagan.

“We connect people across campus, across units and across the state. It’s those connections that let us know we are all part of NC State. We are the Pack!”

The sense of connection is further encouraged at events such as Dancing Around the World, a social dance and gathering for employees and students. Planned by the diversity committee, the event has dancers from around the world to demonstrate and teach.

“We are finding opportunities to engage in casual ways across not only students, faculty and staff but also across age ranges, religions and genders. It is a chance to come together, expand your mind and see life a little bit differently,” Dunnagan said.

In addition to the fun events, Staff Senate is involved in a variety of service activities across campus. During the month of October, staff members collected items for NC State’s Feed the Pack food pantry and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Dunnagan explained that Staff Senate saw a need where staff members among other members of the Wolfpack community were experiencing food insecurity and worked to fill it. Staff in NC State Extension offices across the state also made donations to their local pantries.

For November, a coat drive is the focus for Dunnagan and the Staff Senate. Other events include having booths at Packapalooza, the Wellness Fair and helping to sponsor employee appreciation events throughout the year.

Through each committee, event, meeting or casual interaction, Dunnagan hopes senators will dial into the theme of communicating, collaborating and connecting with their constituents and with each other. She noted she has a group of people who are excited to help find solutions, which is what Staff Senate is all about. She added, “My vision as chair is to inspire and develop strong and engaged leaders.”