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tyson lusk holds a gavel

Staff Matters

New Staff Senate President Tyson Lusk discusses his agenda

This spring, Tyson Lusk was elected president of the University of South Carolina’s Staff Senate. Lusk previously served as the senate’s vice president and parliamentarian. Lusk is assistant athletics director for development and has been at the university since 2013. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in sports industry management from Georgetown University.

You were a member of the inaugural Staff Senate. Let's go back in time a little bit. What was your motivation for initially getting involved with senate?

Staff touch so many aspects of the university. We interact with students, we interact with faculty, we interact with colleagues. We also interact with the broader Columbia community. And since we're so heavily involved with every aspect of the university-wide community, I think it's important that we also advocate for ourselves and make sure that this is a great place to work and that, as staff, we have the tools and the resources we need.

Senate is a great avenue for that. And when you advocate for staff — and you make it possible to do their job more efficiently and better — you're really making the entire university better because we have so much interaction with so many other important stakeholders in the broader community.

That's why you initially ran. What has your experience been like over the past two years?

Very good. We've built an incredible foundation over the first two years of our existence, just in terms of being recognized. We've been really welcomed by the university administration, by the faculty, by students. I think we spent the first two years really getting our feet under us.

You know, the university has been around since 1801, but the Staff Senate is still only two years old, so we had a little bit of catching up to do. But we had incredible leadership with our inaugural group and staff senators, our inaugural president, Shelly Dempsey, and then Rushondra James.

And I think we've accomplished a lot in the first two years. That's what's really exciting about the next few years: We've seen what we can do in a short amount of time. And now that we've gotten established and we've built trust, now that we've built some validity with key members of the university community, I think that gives us an incredible springboard.

Are you ready to talk about what your goals as president? Or is it too soon?

I envision Staff Senate doing a lot of listening and learning from our staff. What is important to them? What are the challenges they're facing and how we can remove those obstacles to progress? We had a really great opportunity to do that with Imagine Carolina for staff this past spring, so we're going to take a lot of the information from that and try to put it into practice.

You know, you have to make sure your constituents feel like they're being heard. And I think taking the information from Imagine Carolina is going to be really, really key. In addition, when President Amiridis spoke to Staff Senate recently he mentioned three key areas he would like staff to focus on. One of those areas is staff turnover. We cannot sustain incredible amounts of turnover and be the best university that we want to be, so what can Staff Senate do to make this place an even better place to work?

Also, how can we how can we eliminate some of the obstacles that staff face on a daily basis? What can we do to make different processes more efficient? How can we we speed up some processes while not missing the missing the mark on anything?

Another area important to leadership is the role that staff play in improving the student experience, right? Rex Tolliver, vice president for academic affairs and student support, mentioned that when he addressed senate this spring, I believe.

Yes, that’s another aspect: How do we, as a staff, ensure that the University of South Carolina continues to attract the best and brightest students? You know, there's a fierce competition for students. They have a lot of opportunities, there are a lot of great schools out there, so, as staff, how can we continue to make this the best place for those students to land?

There’s a whole new crop of senators now — some senators are returning, but there’s also a lot of new faces. Any thoughts on how you ramp them up for the year ahead?

Yeah. We're excited to welcome 43 new senators, and we're going to hit the ground running. You know, I serve as president for one year and it's going to go by in a flash, but the work doesn't stop, the desire for change and advocacy doesn't stop.

But I think they’re going to bring a lot of new ideas, a lot of new experiences. And people are really eager to serve. I think that anyone who throws their name in the ring to run for Staff Senate does so because they really just want to help. So I'm really excited to channel that energy channel to accomplish some really big tasks.

You’ve talk about the new senators. You've talked about constituents. I'm curious what you personally have gotten from your time on Staff Senate.

I've learned a ton just from our colleagues. One of the really neat things for folks involved with Staff Senate is that you meet so many other people from areas of the campus you don't interface with or interact with on a daily basis. I've learned so much from individual senators and that has really helped me become a better employee.

You pick up so much from learning what other units are doing, what the colleges are doing, and that's been a huge benefit to me. There have been a number of ideas and initiatives that I’ve learned about from other colleges and taken back to Athletics — “Hey, this might really work for us, too. Let's tailor it to our group.”

Last question. Is there anything that you want people not involved with Staff Senate to understand about Staff Senate?

Yeah, I would say we are your advocates. If you have a problem, if you have an issue, if you see something that's affecting staff that needs to be changed, reach out to your senator, reach out to me, reach out to any of our officers, because all we want to do is make this a better place for you to work. We have built a strong foundation and we have relationships with university leadership. And I think university leadership trusts us to come to them with solutions. We are very solution oriented.