President Julie Sullivan said last week that she will continue the tradition of paid gift days, granting employees four additional paid vacation days during winter break.
The additional paid days will be on Dec. 23, 26, 27 and 30. All regular full-time, part-time and temporary employees who would have been scheduled to work between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1 will be granted the days off, giving them 12 consecutive vacation days to celebrate the holidays.
Susan Alexander, executive adviser to the president, said Sullivan chose to grant employees the extra time off to allow them more time with their families over the holidays.
“Christmas and January holidays happen on different days of the week … so you can’t say we are going to have from X to Y off because that doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Alexander said. “On the other hand, it does make sense to give people extra time between the two.”
Alexander said another benefit to additional days off is the chance to shut the whole campus down and save money.
“I’ve been here working when we didn’t have the gift days, and it was pretty dead,” Alexander said. “It’s a really slow time and having it off … does not impede our work whatsoever. Plus, we can turn the heat way down, which saves on the budget (and) helps us control cost.”
Chief Financial Officer Mark Vangsgard said the amount of money saved by shutting down the campus for additional days varies from year to year depending on how many days the university is closed, the price of gas, electricity and fuel, and the outside temperature.
“I think it is safe to say we (save an) average $150,000 to $175,000 over the average shutdown,” Vangsgard said.
Associate Director for Digital Initiatives John Heintz said he greatly appreciates the extra time off as it will allow him more time to spend with his family.
“It will be great spending some extended time with my wife, daughter home from college and my son visiting from Chicago,” Heintz said. “You can multiply my experience throughout the (St. Thomas) staff, and that’s a lot of holiday cheer.”
Administrative Assistant for the department of mathematics Nora Boerner said she is also grateful to use the extra days as time to reconnect with family.
“I have a big, giant, blended, crazy family, and we usually do eight Christmases, so I’m happy to have more than two days to make it all happen,” Boerner said.
Boerner said she believes granting employees extra time off makes St. Thomas a more attractive place to work.
“St. Thomas is about community… it’s really generous and it’s one of the reasons why people want to work at St. Thomas—because it’s a great environment to work in,” Boerner said.
Philosophy Department Coordinator Lori Seavers also sees the extra days as a unique benefit to working at the school.
“I’ve worked in various places, and I have not experienced anything like that. It is amazing,” Seavers said.
Alexander said the extended holiday is truly a gift to St. Thomas employees.
“The staff appreciates it and we really enjoy having that extra time off,” Alexander said. “It’s so nice, and it does save us money, so it’s one of those things that business people will call a win-win.”
Johnnay Leenay and can be reached at email@example.com.