4th Annual First Coast Worksite Wellness Conference

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Good morning.  My name is Mark Workman, and as Alicia just indicated, I have the pleasure of serving at UNF as provost and vice president of academic affairs.  In my capacity as provost my duty is to stand in ceremonially for the president when he is unable to participate in certain events.  It is in my provostial capacity, for instance, that I am flying to China tomorrow in lieu of the president to represent UNF to potential Chinese university partners.  I must confess, however, that while some people have commented recently on the physical resemblance between Steve Jobs and myself, over the past seven years that I have been in this position not one person has yet to mistake me for President Delaney.   


With regard to the other part of my title—vice president of academic affairs—I supervise everything academic at UNF.  More specifically, I oversee a budget of approximately $80 million dollars, the recruitment, evaluation, and assignments of well over 500 permanent and hundreds of contingent faculty, two associate provosts, several assistant vice presidents, nine deans and dozens of chairs, more than 30 academic departments, in excess of 50 undergraduate and 25 graduate programs, the library, admissions, research and sponsored programs, and a number of other units and direct and indirect reports. 


I cite this list of responsibilities not to impress you with the extent of my domain, of which only in moments of greatest delusion do I ever regard myself as even remotely the master, but to substantiate the observation that, were I not careful, my job could easily be marked by stress commensurate with its scope.  Consider just a few examples:  By its very nature my job requires me regularly to speak with many people who know far more about what they are talking about than I do.  And when it comes to the management of faculty, the metaphor of “herding cats” could not be more apt:  each of my many faculty colleagues has been highly trained to develop his or her critical acumen, and it is not a rare occasion when they train that acumen on the performance not of their students but of their nominal academic leader.  Finally, virtually everyone I speak with wants, needs, and deserves more resources, either for the programs they represent or for themselves personally, in response to which the circumstances of the university require me to be relentlessly tight-fisted and dour. 


So in the face of this significant set of responsibilities, what is a person to do?  Since I am usually not the smartest person in the room, or necessarily the best informed, and since my authority is only as great as the dynamics of a complex organization permit, my strategy is to make sure to have as much control as possible over what I can, which is my own physiology.  When I walk into a meeting it is with the confidence that few if any of the people with whom I meet will have a pulse as low as mine.  I am very proud of the fact that, a brief period of less than healthful behavior in college notwithstanding, I have been a faithful long-distance runner since 1963.  While I have fallen far from my peak of 75 miles per week in the late 70s, I continue to log many miles in the bank on an annual if not on a weekly basis.  Running, a dog whom I regard not only as a faithful companion but also as a personal trainer because of his penchant for long walks, and judicious amounts of red wine, all help me to do my job with a degree of equanimity and thus, I trust, effectiveness that I could not achieve otherwise. 


I have offered you this perspective on my credentials by way of explaining—as best I myself understand it—how I came to be asked to serve as honorary chair of this important meeting.  It is indeed an honor to follow in this role my friends and colleagues Drs. Pam Chally and Yank Coble, both of whom have done so much to advance wellness across the Jacksonville community.  Unlike everyone else here today, while I am neither a health care practitioner nor health care administrator I am nevertheless acutely aware of the critical link between wellness and work, both my own wellness and work and that of my many co-workers and of course of the thousands of students whom we are here to educate, and thus I wish to applaud you for the crucial work you do to raise consciousness in your own workplaces regarding the vital relationship between health and productivity.  For reasons of morality, civility, and efficiency none of us who are in positions of responsibility can afford to ignore this relationship either for ourselves individually or for those with whom we work.  As personally advantageous as it might be to be the person in a room with the lowest pulse, just think how much more collectively beneficial it would be if one could walk into a room with the serenity that would result from knowing that everyone else’s pulse was as measured as one’s own. 


It is my pleasure to welcome you to UNF and thank you for giving me this opportunity to launch what I trust will be a very fruitful conference.