The Winthrop Board of Trustees unanimously voted to designate Winthrop as a Purple Heart University during their annual retreat on Feb. 22. 

Present at this vote were veterans Rich Roszelle and Kirk Clark, representing the Chapter 2008 SC of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and student veteran Drew Russell, president of student veterans for Winthrop. 

Lisa Cowart, vice president for HR, employee diversity and wellness updated the board on the results from a yearly employee satisfaction survey. 

“We were happy that the overall satisfaction rate went from 51 percent with that 2016 survey up to 61 percent, so that’s progress. We’re happy to say that. We still have a lot of work to do, and we know that. Sixty-one percent isn’t something to brag about,” Cowart said. 

There were some areas where employees were most unsatisfied: compensation, benefits and lack of advancement opportunities. 

Cowart reported that employee turnover was measured at 15.45 percent in 2018, a significant increase from 8.58 in 2014. 

“Obviously pay and compensation, we know, is at the top of that, but it’s not the only reason,” Cowart said. 

Retirements, lack of advancement opportunities and general dissatisfaction have contributed to this increased figure. 

The satisfaction survey is one of many initiatives to help improve employee satisfaction and collaborate with faculty and staff. 

“We’ve heard all the rumors. We’ve heard all the talk. This is data. This tells us what folks perceive and that’s where we’re wanting to look to see where we need to jump off. What can we use from that data to make a difference,” Cowart said. 

One of the actions taken to make a difference was the implementation of focus groups in the summer and fall. The results showed employees felt there was a lack of communication, responsiveness and slow decision making in senior administration, as well as a lack of training. 

However, there was a “strong commitment” to Winthrop among employees, Cowart said. Employees also reported that supervisors were accessible and support learning and development. 

Shelia Burkhalter, vice president of student affairs, updated the trustees on various issues involving student affairs. 

Burkhalter reported that four finalists have been chosen in the provost search for on-campus interviews. 

She also provided updates on the transition of food service providers from Aramark to Sodexo. Some of the partnership highlights were opening Mein Bowl in Markley’s, student engagement events like the Pancake-Cram Jam Breakfast in the fall and allowing the sale of alcohol at sporting events, beginning with baseball in the spring. 

“There’s a perception out there that students are paying so much more money for their meal plan. This is an inaccurate perception,” Burkhalter said.

She reported that meal plans costs are up 2.5 percent, compared to what would have been 5 percent with Aramark. 

“They’re actually better off than they would have been had they stayed with the previous provider,” Burkhalter said.

Cafeteria to-go boxes were removed from Thomson due to cost inefficiency, though to-go boxes in Eagle Express are currently being tested. 

“We tried to come up with a solution for [not offering to-go boxes in Thomson] so we now offer to go boxes in Eagle Express. That has worked out well for some people. The other thing we learned about, just two days ago, is we’re introducing a reusable to-go box. There will be a way for them to come in and exchange that box. So you’ll never have more than one box and it will be a way to monitor differently,” Burkhalter said. 

Domino’s will not be accepting café cash anytime soon, since Domino’s is not a vendor that works with Sodexo. Despite the introduction of brick oven pizza in Markley’s, Burkhalter said this issue is not completely resolved. 

“They’ve come up with a brick oven pizza option in Markley’s, but we’re continuing to work on this because it’s not like Markley’s is going to deliver pizza to your room. They still have to physically leave their space and come into Markley’s in order to get that,” Burkhalter said.

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