Outgoing Staff Advisor to the UC Regents Kathy Barton Reflects on her Role

Staff Advisor to the Regents Kathy Barton is executive director of strategic initiatives at UC Riverside’s new School of Medicine.

Kathy Barton

Kathy Barton is the ninth person to hold the role of Staff Advisor.


Kathy Barton will conclude her term as staff advisor to the regents in June. She talks about her experience and how she juggles the role with her job as executive director of strategic initiatives at the new School of Medicine at UC Riverside.

How would you describe the role of the staff advisor to the regents?

It is absolutely the experience of a lifetime. If you are passionate about the mission of the University of California, this is a chance to take something of a fellowship, if you will, to learn about the university and its place in California and California politics. It is also a calling to provide a staff perspective to the university.

Why did you apply to be staff advisor?

UC is a place that I discovered 28 years ago and knew right away that it was where I wanted to spend my professional life. What resonated with me was its public mission, and with each passing year, my appreciation for UC’s impact on California and beyond has only grown stronger. As a staff member, it is gratifying and a privilege to contribute to that mission. UC staff has subject-matter experts in every field and subject you can imagine. The role of staff is so important in an environment where learning, research and public service is valued. I wanted to be part of the mission to an even greater level.

Has it lived up to your expectations?

My experience has exceeded my expectations. It’s been so rewarding to see how open regents and leadership at the Office of the President have been to this role. When we ask to speak to people, as long as their schedule permits, they’ve welcomed us with open arms.

What’s been the best part about serving in the position?

Talking with staff on the campuses that we visit. Our interactions with staff are always so gratifying, seeing how dedicated they are to the mission. They are always concerned about trends they see universitywide or on a campus. They have encouraged us to work on certain issues, such as expanding professional development opportunities. What always comes through is an abiding dedication to the mission of the University of California.

What’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is balancing the responsibilities of my position at UC Riverside and the responsibilities of this role. That is not unique to me. Most staff members are all highly dedicated to our jobs and we’ve all been asked to do more with less in recent years.

I’ve become much better at mobile computing, finding a quiet corner to take care of something emerging on my home campus. I’ve become better at time management, scheduling time on my calendar to attend to Staff Advisor matters. I find this uses my time more effectively. Everyone’s personal work circumstances are different, so my experience may not be typical.

How much time do you spend on your duties and how do you juggle that and your job?

This is a question we get often. The time commitment varies and is episodic. For example, there will be weeks when a great deal of time is spent on Staff Advisor duties, such as the week of a regents meeting when we spend the better part of three days on our duties. On the other hand, there are weeks when I spend about five percent of my time on it. The volume of email and telephone communications we field also affects the time commitment.

Has the position helped you in your job?  If so, how?

I would hope people don’t see this as a career advancement move. On the other hand, it is the ultimate professional development opportunity given the people you meet and the occasions to connect with leadership at the Office of the President and regents. The depth of knowledge you gain about the entire system really helps with work you do at your location.

You’re the first staffer from UCR in this role. How has that fact raised UC Riverside’s profile campuswide?

There is no question that having a UCR staff member appointed staff advisor to the regents has raised the profile of our campus among regents, leadership at Office of the President and staff at other campuses and locations. Among the most common questions I am asked in my travels is “Which one is your campus?” Of course, the main responsibility of the position is to focus on issues and topics of systemwide relevance, especially those of interest to staff. But there have been many informal opportunities to share the story of UCR and how our campus is developing a national reputation as a new model for higher education. I’m really honored to have been the first staff member from UC Riverside in this role.

I also gained a great appreciation for the role of the Office of President and how dedicated individual staff and leaders in Oakland are to the success of the university. Too often OP is looked upon unfavorably, but the fact is, every individual in headquarters is dedicated to the success of the mission.

Has being a staff advisor from UCR helped you bring to light concerns that are specific to our campus?

The role of the staff advisor is really one of wearing two hats, switching from one to the other and back, even over the course of a single day. I have tried hard to use great care to avoid blending the two roles – the staff advisor position is rightly designed to have a systemwide perspective. That said, in May 2013 when Regents and students together visited the offices of elected members of the Legislature, the UCR School of Medicine was a top budgetary priority of the UC system as a whole, so I was in a position – appropriately – to describe how the medical school was designed to expand the physician workforce in Inland Southern California and improve the health of people living here.

As a Highlander, did anything change for you after you became staff advisor?

It has been a tremendous privilege – absolutely the experience of a lifetime. By necessity, because of the time commitment involved, I was over the last two years less engaged in UCR matters outside of my direct job responsibilities. I do look forward to reconnecting with UCR activities once my term ends in June, such as attending more athletics events.

What were the other highlights of being staff advisor?

The last two years have been such a fascinating time for UC in general and the Board of Regents in particular. Gov. Brown, an ex-officio member of the board, began attending meetings on a regular basis during the first of my two-year tenure in the role. So meeting him and talking with him was a personal highlight. After about a year, I began recognizing the same flight attendants and TSA agents, a sure sign of becoming a seasoned business traveler!

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