April 2005
  • Quote of the Month
    • "The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes." --Winston Churchill



A Message From The President: Commitment to EEO, AA, and Access

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU), as are all other components of The Texas A&M University System, is committed to equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, and community development initiatives. The University strives to provide an educational and work environment conducive to the personal and professional development of its employees. By way of a diverse and dynamic workforce that possesses the core competencies necessary for effective service, TAMIU is dedicated to serving its patrons (the students and citizens of the State) through education, leadership development, research, and service.

The University is firmly committed to ensuring that equal opportunity and access is afforded to all its students, employees, and prospective employees. It is vital, therefore, that we are all reminded of these issues and reaffirm our own commitment throughout the course of our employment.

I thank you for your cooperation.

Dr. Ray M. Keck III


Employee Educational Assistance Program (EEAP)

The EEAP was established to support the development and continued education of TAMIU employees. The EEAP will reimburse a full-time, benefits-eligible employee for tuition and fees for courses taken at TAMIU.

Thirty-two applications have already been received for the 2005 Spring Semester. And, take a look at the number of employees that the EEAP reimbursed for tuition and fees in 2004:

  • 25 employees in the 2004 Spring Semester
  • 8 employees in the 2004 Summer Sessions
  • 29 employees in the 2004 Fall Semester

TAMIU supports your educational goals so do not hesitate to take advantage of the benefits available to you from the Employee Educational Assistance Program! For more information about EEAP application rules and deadlines, contact the HR Office via email or at ext. 2365.



TAMIU Implements an "Early Return to Work Program"
TAMIU has implemented a program called the Early Return to Work Program, which is designed to help employees who have suffered serious injuries/illnesses ease themselves back into work. This program returns such employees to their pre-injury/illness jobs or to different temporary jobs as soon as they are physically able. The program was originally developed by the Human Resources Department at Texas A&M University in College Station and is now being implemented System-wide.

TAMIU values its workforce and the daily contributions they make towards the success of the University. For employees who have been away from their jobs due to injuries/illnesses, the Early Return to Work Program will help them remain active and productive, earn full or partial wages, retain their insurance benefits, and receive support from co-workers and friends.

If you have any questions regarding the Early Return to Work Program, please contact Xochitl Kladis at 2364.


Construction Update
The Lamar Bruni-Vergara Science Center celebrates its grand opening this month! Final inspections have taken place, and the building is almost complete. System construction personnel have created a "punch list" to note small items that need correcting.

On April 1st, the Dean and the Chairs began moving into the new building, and several other faculty members will move in before the April 16th grand opening. Once the semester ends, the remainder of the faculty will move in.

The Kinesiology building plans are almost complete, and bids will soon be solicited. The schedule is as follows:

May 8 and 15, 2005 - Advertise for Competitive Sealed Proposals
May 19, 2005 - Pre-Proposal Conference
August 2005 - Contract Award by Chancellor
September 2005 - Begin Construction

The HR News & Views is your source for the latest campus construction news!


Mercy Health Plan Participants Can Now Use Doctors Hospital
Effective April 1, 2005, all Mercy Health Plan participants can begin using Doctors Hospital. This means that now both Laredo hospitals, Laredo Medical Center and Doctors Hospital, are participating providers for the plan.

To review other new providers added to the plan, click here.

For questions regarding your health plan, please contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362 or Nora Guereca, HR Benefits Manager, at ext. 2363.


Spending Account Debit Card Enhancement
If you have a Health Care Spending Account debit card and you visit a Walgreen’s Pharmacy, you can use your card to purchase any eligible prescription and/or eligible over-the-counter items without having to submit a receipt. This works regardless of the cost of your prescription or the number of prescriptions you have filled at the same time. And it works even if your purchase includes a combination of prescriptions and over-the-counter items.

If any questions regarding your health care spending account, please contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director , at ext. 2362 or Nora Guereca, HR Benefits Manager, at ext. 2363.

A&M Care Plans Top SEBAC Discussion

Potential A&M Care health plan changes were the primary focus at the System Employee Benefits Advisory Committee’s (SEBAC) February 17th meeting. Ellen Gerescher, Employee Benefits Manager for System Human Resources, presented information for potential plan design changes that, if approved, would take effect Sepember 1, 2005. However, she pointed out that most suggested medical plan design changes would improve plan benefits and, therefore, increase plan costs. SEBAC members agreed to hold off making decisions until the April 26th meeting, when they would have a better idea of what the 2005-2006 plan costs would be.

The following proposed changes to the A&M Care plans were discussed:

  • Increasing the lifetime maximum coverage for skilled nursing facility benefits from $35,000 to $50,000: Gerescher said the $35,000 lifetime maximum for this benefit has been in effect for 20 years. She said increasing it to $50,000 would put the benefit more in line with current skilled nursing facility costs while having minimal impact on claims cost.
  • Adding maternity benefits for dependent children: Although all System-offered HMO’s cover dependent pregnancies, the A&M Care plans have never covered these expenses. Gerescher said the national average of unmarried dependent pregnancies for ages 15-19 is 9 per 1,000 each year, and for ages 20-24, it is 10 per 1,000 each year. The average pregnancy costs the A&M Care plans between $5,500 and $8,000. Using these numbers, covering dependent pregnancies would increase plan costs by approximately $307,000 next year.
  • Changing the co-payment for behavioral health charges: SEBAC discussed lowering the co-payment for mental health visits. This suggestion arose from concerns that the $45 co-payment for specialist care isn’t affordable, especially in the area of mental health care, where multiple visits are usually necessary. Gerescher was hesitant to recommend reducing the co-payment for one type of specialist care, because it raises the question of whether co-payments for other specialists should be lowered. Instead, she agreed to look into other possibilities that might ease the cost of long-term multiple visits to specialists in general.
  • Lowering the prescription drug deductible: In response to comments from A&M Care participants regarding the annual prescription drug deductible, SEBAC reviewed the projected costs of lowering this deductible. Because lowering the deductible will result in higher plan costs, and because double-digit cost increases are still occurring for prescription drugs and are expected to continue during the coming year, this is not likely to be changed.
  • Implementing mandatory mail-order purchasing for maintenance drugs: To help save on prescription drug costs, SEBAC discussed requiring A&M Care plan participants to purchase maintenance drugs through the plan’s mail-order service. Because mail-order services purchase drugs in bulk, and drug manufacturers often sell drugs to mail-order services well below retail costs, drugs cost participants less when purchased through mail-order than when purchased from retail pharmacies. Cost savings from this change were projected to be $394,464 in the 2005-2006 plan year. While this is not likely to be implemented in the near future, Gerescher encourages participants to use this feature of the drug plan. S he said it saves both the plan and the participant money.
  • Allowing appeals for non-formulary drugs to be purchased for formulary co-payment: SEBAC discussed allowing appeals in cases where A&M Care participants, for medically-documented reasons, must use non-formulary drugs because they are unable to use formulary drugs. Under this design, participants whose appeals are approved by the plan would be able to purchase non-formulary drugs at the formulary co-payment.

In other health-related news, SEBAC’s HMO subcommittee reported that it is collecting proposals from HMO’s interested in serving A&M System employees and retirees next year. (For related information, see the Q&A in the April 2005 issue of A&M System News Online).

Another committee is developing and coordinating wellness efforts. This will include creating various print and web-based educational materials and promoting wellness-related activities throughout the A&M System.

Look for more information regarding these issues in future issues of A&M System News Online. If you have questions about the information in this article, please contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Purchase Special Service Early If You Plan to Retire in Summer 2005
TRS members may be eligible to purchase special service credit prior to retirement and thereby increase their annuities. Members who intend to retire in the summer of 2005 should begin planning now to purchase special service credit.

Years of service credit are important in meeting retirement eligibility requirements, and they also play a key role in determining the amount of a member’s retirement benefit. Because most TRS benefits increase with additional years of service credit, TRS members should carefully consider the advantages of purchasing any service credit for which they are eligible.

The cost to establish service credit normally increases over time. Also, purchases must be completed before retirement, including disability retirement, or before entry into the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP). (However, please keep in mind that service credit for unused state sick leave or personal leave cannot be purchased until the time of retirement).

Federal tax law limits the amount of money a member may pay annually to TRS for special service credit. To comply with the limits, a member may need to make payments while still receiving compensation from a TRS-covered employer and spread payments out over a number of years. Therefore, as soon as members become eligible to purchase special service credit, they should contact TRS.

For more information on purchasing special service credit, please read the TRS “Service Credit” brochure, which is featured on the TRS website located at www.trs.state.tx.us.

Welcome, New Employees!!
  Guillermo Rodriguez, Jr., Building Maintenance Mechanic (Housing)
Physical Plant
H 200 ext. 2325
  Juan F. Pina, Groundskeeper
Physical Plant
H 200 ext. 2325
  Judith D. Kilburn, Library Assistant I
Killam Library (Reference/Government Documents/ILL)
KL 214B ext. 2121
  Julio C. Medina, Staff Accountant
Budget, Payroll, Grants & Contracts
KL 159 ext. 2376
  Rita R. Hernandez, Outreach and Retention Specialist
Recruitment & School Relations
SC 126 ext. 2270

Rodolfo Guevara KL 108 ext. 2111
FROM: Part-Time Clerk I, Killam Library (Circulation)    
TO: Clerk I, Killam Library (Circulation)    
Gloria Villagran KL 417 ext. 2475
FROM: Office Coordinator, Office of Information Technology    
TO: Staff Assistant, Dept of Behavioral, Applied Sciences & CJ    
Melanie E. Martinez KL 158C ext. 2216
FROM: Staff Accountant, Business Office (Cashier)    
TO: Financial Aid Counselor, Financial Aid    
Patricia N. Deliganis PH 215 ext. 2350
FROM: Grant Resources Support Assistant, Graduate Studies    
TO: Buyer, Purchasing & Support Services    
Patricia Ornelas KL 162C ext. 2815
FROM: Staff Accountant, Business Office (Comptroller)    
TO: Intermediate Staff Accountant, Business Office    
Jesus A. Villarreal KL 002 ext. 2100
FROM: Police Officer, University Police Department    
TO: Police Corporal, University Police Department    
Romelia Garza KL 005 ext. 2100
FROM: Police Officer, University Police Department    
TO: Police Corporal, University Police Department    
Gerardo A. Perez LBVSC 123 ext. 2606
FROM: Planetarium Technician, COAS    
TO: Associate Director (Planetarium), COAS    
Maribelle Gonzalez PH 302G ext. 2724
FROM: Staff Assistant, Admissions    
TO: Associate Director, International Programs (ILI)    
Diana E. Rodriguez KL 321A ext. 2687
FROM: Director of ACP & Certification, COED    
TO: Director of ACP, COED    

  Osvaldo Medina, Jr., Service Worker
Physical Plant
  Maria R. Elizondo, Staff Assistant
Department of Language & Literature

Rebecca Juarez, Staff Assistant
Financial Aid

  Roberta L. Sheelar, Clerk II
Killam Library (Acquisitions)
  Talia Gutierrez, Staff Assistant
Student Activities
  Gilberto Valdez, CDC Coordinator
Department of Special Populations (CDC)
  Diana A. Mendiola, Accounting Assistant
Business Office (Comptroller)
  Elia Y. Rodriguez, Staff Accountant
Budget, Payroll, Grants & Contracts
  Laura R. Moran-Lopez, Executive Secretary to Vice President
VP for Student Affairs
  Gabriela Alonzo, System Specialist II
Information Technology
  Jessica W. Ratliff, Associate Director

Emilio Viera III, Associate Director (Recreational Sports)
Athletics Department

  Fortunato Mireles, Associate Director of Media Services
Office of Information Technology

Notify HR Immediately of Separations of Employment

Immediately upon first knowledge of a separation of employment, please notify the HR Office. Appropriate forms must be generated without delay in order to best facilitate the exiting employee's clearance process (insurance, leave, timecard, keys, ID, etc.). Call us at ext. 2365 if you have questions regarding separations of employment.

If the separation is from student employment, immediately contact the Office of Career Services at ext. 2260.


Unraveling the Mysteries of Overtime

The deadline for an important project is approaching, so you work a bit late one night. Does that mean you get compensated with extra time off (compensatory time)? It depends. Whether you are compensated depends on your job and how you are compensated is determined by state and federal law.

Under federal law, each job must be designated as "exempt" or "non-exempt" from federal overtime. Only those jobs designated as "non-exempt" are eligible for the 2 types of compensatory time, Overtime Compensatory Time (OCT) and Straight Compensatory Time (SCT). Your supervisor, the HR Office, or the latest Pay Plan can tell you if your position is "exempt" or "non-exempt."

OVERTIME COMPENSATORY TIME (OCT): Only jobs classified as "non-exempt" are eligible for OCT. OCT is release time (time off) that is earned from hours that are physically worked over 40 in a workweek. (For TAMIU, a workweek is Thursday through the following Wednesday.) As required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), those excess hours physically worked over 40 must be calculated at time and a half (multiplied by 1.5). EXAMPLE: If you physically work 44 hours in a workweek, 4 hours are the excess over 40 and are calculated at time and a half (4 X 1.5 = 6). So, you accrue 6 hours of OCT.

In some cases, however, if you work more than 8 hours in one day, your supervisor may require you to work fewer hours another day in the same workweek in order to avoid the accumulation of OCT.

Employees may accumulate up to 240 hours of OCT, however, those in a public safety, emergency response, or seasonal job may accumulate up to 480 hours.

You keep your rights to your accumulated OCT until you use the time or are paid for it. When you leave employment, you will be paid for any remaining OCT, or, with your supervisor's approval, you may remain on the payroll to use it up.

STRAIGHT COMPENSATORY TIME (SCT): In some cases, "non-exempt" employees may be eligible for SCT. If the number of hours physically worked in a workweek are 40 or less, but the combined worked time and time off (i.e., vacation, sick leave, holiday, etc.) in the workweek total more than 40, you will receive SCT for the hours that exceeded 40 in that workweek. Furthermore, those SCT hours are not calculated at time and a half (in other words, for each hour of time in excess of 40, you will receive exactly one hour of SCT). EXAMPLE: If you physically work only 36 hours and are off for 8 hours of sick leave in a workweek, so that the combined worked time and time off total 44, then the excess over 40 are 4 hours. These 4 hours are accrued as SCT.

State law prohibits payment for SCT upon end of employment. However, under A&M System policy, you may remain on the payroll to use up your SCT.

USING OCT AND SCT: A "non-exempt" employee must always have permission from his/her supervisor before working overtime. And as is the case with all other requests for time off, an employee must have the supervisor's permission before using any accrued OCT and/or SCT.

If you should have any questions or need more information about OCT and/or SCT, please contact Xochitl Kladis by e-mail or at ext. 2364.


Cheer! Check Out the HR Website!

The TAMIU HR website contains helpful information that employees can use everyday! Take a look at what's conveniently available to you online at our site. Bookmark the site and visit us often!

  • Single Sign On (gives you access to HRConnect and LeaveTraq)
  • Benefits (latest news on health plans, retirement issues, legislation affecting your benefits, etc.)
  • HR News & Views (an archive of the HR monthly newsletters)
  • Forms (the most frequently-used HR forms available online)
  • Employee Directory
  • Training (info about Staff Enrichment Day and other planned staff development programs)
  • Employment (link to TAMIUWorks!, useful resources for hiring supervisors)
  • Leave
  • System Policy Manual and TAMIU Rules
  • Holiday Schedule
  • University Pay Plan


TAMIU Employment

For a listing of current TAMIU job vacancies, including full text vacancy announcements, visit TAMIUWorks!, the University’s new online employment system. TAMIUWorks! allows you to view job vacancies as well as apply for them online.

For employment assistance, contact Joya Vidaurri, HR Employment Assistant, at employment@tamiu.edu or ext. 2360. The HR Employment Office is open 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.



Employees Must Obtain Approval to Engage in External Employment and Consulting
System Regulation 31.05.02 - External Employment states that if a System employee plans to engage in outside/external employment in addition to working in his/her primary University position, the employee must obtain approval for such employment using the “External Employment and Consulting Application and Approval Form.” This form is available online from the HR website under FORMS. Approvals must be obtained from supervisor(s) and the appropriate VP, then the form must be routed to the HR Office for proper filing.

The regulation mentioned above also governs all external employment by faculty members that is not directly related to their professional discipline. (NOTE: Faculty engaged in consulting is covered by System Regulation 31.05.01 - Faculty Consulting, External Employment and Conflicts of Interest).

If you have any questions regarding outside/external employment, please contact the HR Office at ext. 2365.

System Policy Manual and TAMIU Rules on the Web!

The System Policy Manual and TAMIU Rules are online for your reference. You can access them from the TAMIU HR website by clicking on "System Policies & University Rules." The TAMUS Policies and Regulations site even offers a search feature to help you quickly find the item you need.

If you have questions concerning the System Policy Manual and/or TAMIU Rules, please contact the HR Office at ext. 2365.


Getting to Know U!

Ericka Navarro, Associate Director, Career Services


Erika Navarro, Associate Director in Career Services, was born and raised in Laredo. She graduated from TAMIU in 2002 with a BA in Psychology, and, in October 2004, she started working with TAMIU. Erika says she loves TAMIU's environment.

Erika is member of the National HOG (Harley Owner's Group), the LOH (Ladies of Harley), as well as the “Laredo, Texas HOG Chapter." She enjoys riding her 2002 Vulcan 800 or 2005 Harley Davidson Road King around town with her boyfriend and friends from the HOG Chapter.

Erika also is a collector of turtle figurines.

TAMIU, we want to get to know you! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself, and we will feature it along with a photo in this section of the newsletter. Submit your information to Xochitl Kladis via email or at ext. 2364.

Mug O' The Month
Maria G. Mosqueda is an Associate Registrar in the Office of the University Registrar. She joined TAMIU in June 1970.

She received a prize for being the first to identify the TAMIU employee in the "Who is This?" section of the previous issue of the HR News & Views.

Maria G. Mosqueda, Associate Registrar

Who is This?  
Who is This?

The first person to email the HR Office and correctly identify this TAMIU employee by name and title will win a prize!

The identity of the employee who appeared in the last issue of HR News & Views can be found in "The Answer Corner" section of this newsletter!

The Answer Corner
The following are frequently-asked questions received in the Office of Human Resources. To ask us questions, use the "Ask HR" button on this newsletter.


Who was the baby in the "Who is This?" section of the last issue of "HR News & Views"?


That was Hector M. Hernandez, Clerk II in the Killam Library. TAMIU employees who wish to submit their picture for the "Who is This?" section may contact the HR Office via email or at ext. 2365.

I am an international employee and my visa status is going to change. Is there anything I need to do with the HR Office?

If your visa status changes or is to change, you need to notify the HR Office immediately to update your personnel file and to review your tax withholding, as a change in visa status may affect your tax withholding rate. If you have any questions related to international employees, you may contact Sandra V. Pena at ext. 2361.

What is the best way to handle a complaint received by a department head regarding his/her department?

The department head is encouraged to promptly communicate and review the details of the complaint with the appropriate employee(s), not only to resolve the problem, but also to plan ways to improve the problem and avoid it in the future. If the complaint is about a particular employee, the department head should discuss the complaint in a personal conference with the employee, with or without the immediate supervisor, depending on the nature of the complaint. If you have any questions regarding such issues, please contact the HR Office at ext. 2365.

That Extra (S)Mile!
This section describes the deeds of TAMIU employees who have been observed going the "extra mile" for our University.
I would like to acknowledge Ms. Angie Cantrell, Director of Student Health Services, for her outstanding level of commitment in making the Wellness Fair a reality in February. Angie worked hard for months to make the event meaningful and fun for students and staff on campus. She attended meetings, worked with the community, and encouraged many sectors of our campus to come together to make this a great event. Kudos to Angie for her enthusiasm and hard work in making this year’s Wellness Fair a success!
If you know of any employee performing in such a way that deserves mention in this column, send their name and details of their deeds to the HR Office via email.

Phone: 956.326.2365
Fax: 956.326.2359
Location: Killam Library 320