Category Archives: Uncategorized

Special thanks to special people

I’ve been blessed to have a number of terrific SJU students assisting me with the work of wrangling all of the institutional data, databases, and contact information needed to make this project run. They work behind the scenes — and you’ll see them credited in the “People” area of the site — but today is the end of the administrative “academic year” and marks some changes in the group, so I wanted to give them each a personal thank you and a public shout-out.

Danny Phelan (’22) is leaving the project after working this year (a) developing the database of community college contacts, and (b) assisting with the search for publicly available living wage policies at four-year institutions. Thank you and good luck, Danny!

Heather L. Jones (’22) soon starts an internship for the rest of this summer and plans to rejoin the project in the fall. This year, Heather has been working on the search for publicly available living wage policies at four year institutions for the past year. Thank you, Heather, and I look forward to working with you again this fall!

Maggie Koch (’22) is continuing with the project this summer to complete the search for publicly available living wage policies at four year institutions, as she’s been doing for the past year. Thank you, Maggie, I’m delighted that you are available and able to work this summer!

This past academic year I’ve been on research sabbatical dedicated to this project, and I simply couldn’t have covered this much ground without their support. Thank you!

In addition, Vraj Thakar (’22) is working with me this summer researching living wage policies posted on publicly available websites as part of SJU’s Summer Scholar Program. While I’ve been surveying and interviewing CHROs at community colleges, Vraj has been completing the collection of publicly available policies on community college websites. Vraj is at about the halfway point of his project, and it’s been a pleasure working with him. 

Warmly, Ken

Last week of survey data collection

Thank you!

Alas, all good things must come to an end. This Friday – February 14 – is the last day to complete the survey. The last of the invitation reminders are being sent/received today. See my previous posts for both an overview of the data collection (two posts back) and the post of FAQs (the most recent post before this one).

As I’ve described, the idea is to obtain as much as a “census” as possible of living wage policies and practices in American higher education. Even if your institution has never considered a living wage policy or practice, that’s important data and will inform my results.

For institutions that don’t have a living wage policy or practice, the average survey completion time is well under 2 minutes; for that modest investment of time you’ll get the summary of preliminary results which I expect to have available in the latter half of March. That’s about 7 months before this research will appear in journals, articles, or at conferences.

I am so very appreciative of all of the CHROs, their staffs and/or their colleagues who have completed the survey I’ve been distributing since mid-December. This research can’t be completed without you!

Thank you again for your interest – and participation – in the Living Wage Policy Study.





NCAA men’s bracket & living wage policies (for entertainment purposes only)

It’s March Madness Monday for fans of the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which begins later this week. This is the day when work productivity across American slows to a crawl as people fill out brackets based on seedings, possible upsets, strength-of-schedule, conferences, geographical or academic loyalties, mascots, and school colors. Already I’m scrambling to create a bracket, as my standard all-Jesuit final four can’t happen this year because at most two of the three Jesuit institutions with teams in the tournament – Gonzaga (1), Marquette (5), and Saint Louis (13) – can make it to the final four…

…but whenever I see a list a schools, I refer back to this project and last year’s (2018) list of 32 American higher education institutions (HEIs) with (either all or part of) a living wage policy publicly available on their institution’s website – that about 1% of all four year HEIs (see my AASHE webinar here).

Out of the 68 teams making the 2019 men’s tournament, six institutions made last year’s list – that’s 8 percent of the field. Those institutions are 13 seed UC Irvine (2018 Living Wage Policy score 70), 5 seed Auburn University (45), 5 seed University of Wisconsin-Madison (35), 8 seed Virginia Commonwealth (25), 8 seed Utah State (20), and 4 seed Virginia Tech (20).

Five of those teams are in the upper half of their regional bracket (i.e., 8 seed or higher), and five of the six can make it to the “sweet 16” (with an upset, UC Irvine can play Wisconsin later this week in San Jose – go Anteaters!).

I’m interested to see if additional tournament teams have instituted living wage policies since last year. I’m about to begin soliciting participation from chief human resource officers (CHROs) in our 2019 data collection effort to answer that question. As before, I’ll be asking if living wage policies and/or practices are in effect; I’ll be asking institutions with policies to provide them, and I’ll be inviting CHROs at colleges with living wage practices to be interviewed about their institution’s practices.

Go Anteaters!


Reflecting on CUPA-HR

As I described in my previous post, presenting three talks at two very different conferences in a span of six days is a lot of input, particularly when the audiences have such different lenses on our common cause: improving our higher education institutions. My previous post was about the first conference (AASHE); in this post I’m writing about my presentation and experience at my first CUPA-HR Annual Conference in Indianapolis earlier this month.

At the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR,, I presented some of the preliminary findings from the Living Wage Policy Study. A number of CUPA-HR conference attendees were Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) – the very people who I am inviting to participate in the study on behalf of their institutions. During my presentation and throughout the conference, I was able to meet a number of people working in HR professionals at all levels, hailing from from small (one person) HR departments to state-wide systems, and every type of public and private institution in between. Similarly, early interviews with participants in the Living Wage Policy Study have reflected a diversity of processes used by institutions exploring or considering just employment policies and practices.

While the sustainability-focused community at AASHE (described in my previous post) is very broad, the CUPA-HR community is very deeply focused on the existing, emerging, and sometimes as-yet-unseen issues that are central to running HR functions effectively and supporting the work of our institutions. Higher education HR leaders have to be technical experts, systems administrators, people and due-process advocates, risk managers, and change agents, and those varied hats are often stacked one on top of each other. In other words, in higher education, HR deals with concerns both that run both broad and deep. One could sense that from listening to attendees – and by perusing the wide array of exhibitors at the vibrant CUPA-HR expo.

And quite an Expo it was. The CUPA-HR Expo included providers of consulting (for everything from diversity to compensation), recruitment systems, background checks, retirement planning, payroll, HRIS, third party benefits administration, and healthcare for employees and retirees – to name a few. Also present were at least two different providers of health insurance for pets (did you know that around 60% of American households own pets? I didn’t!).

One other observation about the CUPA-HR expo – and an open suggestion to organizers of others conferences: arrange plenty of seating for participants to sit down and chat, right through the middle of the expo hall – if that means getting a bigger expo hall, I recommend it. This was one of the most helpful features of the conference in terms of learning from each other and getting to know some fellow conference participants instead of simply going to the same events as other conference attendees. Combined with 30 minute breaks – which are not only more humane than but also facilitate those most-important conversations between sessions – CUPA-HR 2018 was a very well-designed conference schedule.

One of the recurring themes I heard about from conference participants was the central role they play in crafting institutional responses to events both external and internal to their institutions. Among most challenging issues that any institution faces occur when external events become internal issues, and when internal issues become external news. Whichever way those often intense cross-boundary currents are flowing, HR finds itself at the center of the institution’s response, in close collaboration with the president and other functional areas (e.g., marketing/communication, community/public relations, advancement, alumni relations, student life, to name a few).

This was my first presentation at CUPA-HR, and from a speaker’s perspective it was a very smooth process both logistically and technically. The conference app was terrific, and I am compelled to point out that the printed program was probably the best designed conference material I have seen in some time – one worth retaining. Nicely done!

I hope I am given the opportunity to present at a CUPA-HR event again, including regional and/or seasonal conferences. I’ll keep you posted here whenever I have significant news. Next year’s CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo is in Aurora CO, October 20-22, 2019. I hope to see you there!

2018 AASHE presentations (updated 9/19)

Updated (Sep 18 2018): AASHE asked if I’d be willing to convert my poster session (announced below in July) to a presentation – and of course I’m delighted to do so. This post has been the edited to reflect the current information on both presentations.

More good news. I’ve had two proposals accepted for presentation at the 2018 AASHE Conference & Expo in Pittsburgh (October 2-4). I’m delighted because AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, is a rapidly growing organization centered on higher education, and brings together everyone from students to staff to academics, all acting on their commitments to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that inspired the theme to this year’s conference, “Global Goals: Rising to the Challenge.”

Both presentations are on Wednesday, October 3:

A Primer on Living Wage Policies and Just Employment(8:30-9:00 am, Convention Center 317).

This presentation is a compact introduction to living wage and just employment issues.

This Justice In: Updated Results From the Living Wage Policy Study(11:30-12:30, Convention Center 317) 

This presentation begins at a more intermediate level and provides me more time to work with participants during my session presentation.

My engagement with AASHE began in October 2016 with my first AASHE conference presentation (with Elizabeth Sohmer in Baltimore), and put me on the path toward this project.

If you’re attending AASHE, or would like to connect in Pittsburgh, please drop me a note!