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  • Time for Employee Appraisals
  • DFA Communications Survey
  • Changes to COVID-19 Policies
  • Profile: Amanda Preston-Nelson
Division Colleagues,
Everyone cross your fingers, but we appear to have turned a corner on the pandemic. UC Merced relaxed several mitigations starting Wednesday, March 23, due to Merced County’s low COVID-19 level under CDC guidelines. Face coverings indoors will be recommended but not required everywhere but in classroom settings, along with Auxiliary services such as ECEC, Catr Tracks and public transportation.

I say “cross your fingers” because as we’ve learned over two years, the virus has the ability to sustain itself in numerous, frustrating ways. Vigilance must remain our byword. The University of California’s full-vaccination policy remains, and I recommend that we continue to test ourselves for COVID-19 (the university’s testing site will continue to operate and test kits are available at kiosks on the main campus).

Many of us have seen these changes coming, and I’m sure that’s why there were several questions during this month’s DFA Open House about the future of hybrid schedules and working remotely. There is no question that the pandemic changed our attitudes about working from home. I hear your concerns about whether hybrid or full remote options will continue. We should be willing to adjust to what works best for our operations, our teams and each other. Meanwhile, check with your managers and supervisors on the telecommute agreements you’re using. And don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions via email or the DFA site

Kurt Schnier 
Interim Vice Chancellor/Chief Financial Officer 
A reminder that the appraisal period of performance management opened earlier this month. Here’s a full schedule. Submission of your summary of accomplishment is due April 4. Following reviews and the signing of final versions of appraisals, the process is scheduled to close June 8.

Human Resources has scheduled a workshop April 12 on conducting performance appraisals. Tap the button below to register. And please remember: Employee appraisals and performance management aren’t the same thing. Here are the differences.   
The university is in the midst of the budget call process for fiscal year 2022-23. The Financial Planning & Analysis team is playing a pivotal role as units, divisions and schools develop effective, sustainable financial roadmaps that align with the university’s strategic plan. Divisional budget requests are due April 15.

DFA units have made their budget presentations and Kurt has met with Division leadership with preliminary updates. Chancellor Muñoz is expected to announce budget allocations in late May. 
We want to hear from you about what you're hearing from us. DFA Open Houses on Zoom and the monthly DFA Update newsletter are two of the Division's sources of information and connection. In addition, Kurt has invited staff to meet with him to discuss any subject.

This brief survey can help you help us fine-tune our dialogue tools. Submissions will be anonymous.  
Looking to see what’s happening in and around the university? We highly recommend browsing the Monday Memo newsletter in your inbox and adding UC Merced Connect to your phone or laptop. The Memo compiles the latest goings-on of interest to faculty and staff, while Connect serves as a central digital gateway, offering simplified access to UC Merced resources, information, and personalized messaging. Get Connect on the App Store, on Google Play or on your browser. 
Do you have a colleague deserving of campus-wide recognition for their work at UC Merced? Staff Assembly is accepting nominations for the 2021-22 Staff Citation of Excellence Awards. Up to seven individuals will be honored this year and presented with the award in the fall.

Nominations are due at noon Monday, April 4. Tap the button below for nomination criteria and how to make a submission. 
  • Travel & Expense Management launched a new website: travel.ucmerced.edu. The site is a one-stop shop for guidance on travel planning, reimbursement in Concur, training and resource documents, system tips and tricks, and more. 
  • The main DFA site (dfa.ucmerced.edu) was updated with a reorganized section for news and events along with freshened homepage navigation. 
  • Treasury, Disbursements & Cashiering updated its Accounts Payable section, with special attention to the new Payment Plus program for suppliers.
It was great to see so many of you at the March DFA Open House. You posed several great questions, and we learned many of us are big fans of Samoas Girl Scout cookies.
Here is video of the open house. The slide deck is archived here
The next DFA Open House is scheduled for 11 a.m.-noon Wednesday, May 11. These events have been a great way to share Division news and catch up with each other. Tap the button below to save the Zoom link.

Meanwhile, Kurt plans to hold another Financial Transparency Town Hall 10-11 a.m. Monday, June 6. This one will focus on reviewing the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget call process, which is scheduled to wrap up in late May. We encourage everyone to attend. 
Interim Vice Chancellor and CFO Kurt Schnier is holding office hours every other week from 2 to 4 p.m. The office hours will provide an opportunity to connect with Kurt to discuss any topic of your choosing. Each session will be scheduled for 20 minutes.
To sign up for a meeting, send an email to dofa@ucmerced.edu to reserve a date and time.
We recently sent to staff and faculty an update on DFA’s diligent work on the Oracle Financial System.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of staff across several units, we made major improvements to purchasing processes over the past year. We are now doubling down on the need to reconcile variances in numerous financial accounts. Our Oracle Data Integrity Project team is leading the way in partnership with Deloitte consultants. Read more about ODIP
Each month, we turn a spotlight on a DFA colleague to learn about their lives with UC Merced and beyond. This month’s profile is on new Associate Vice Chancellor and Controller Amanda Preston-Nelson.

Describe your job. What do you do?
My primary role is to support the campus community with accurate and timely financial records. My position requires extensive collaboration with financial data users, individuals who support and input into the financial system, and (of course) our team of financial experts with one overarching goal: to ensure we follow UC systemwide, federal, state, and local granting agencies, as well as IRS regulations (thus positioning UC Merced to meet our strategic goals). My team oversees the university’s core business processes. If it is financial in nature, we do it! 
What did you do before coming to UC Merced?
I have more than 20 years of experience moving up through various finance-related roles. I worked in public accounting and private industry before moving back into my field of passion, education! For the past 10 years, I have been an Accounting Manager and then the Controller at CSU Stanislaus (eight years) and the Vice President of Administrative Services/Chief Financial Officers at San Joaquin Delta Community College (two years).  
What’s one thing everyone should know about Business and Financial Services?
My team and I are here to assist you in meeting your goals. Please reach out to me directly if you need assistance with anything in our portfolio of services.  
You have a bachelor’s degree in agriculture studies/business. Did you consider a career in the ag industry?
I truly admire and have a passion for two things that have been stable in my life: 
  • Agriculture. My parents both worked in ag when I was young. 
  • Education. It has been my greatest asset outside of my family. 
As a child, I attended eight elementary schools and three high schools while my parents moved our family around to find work. I am a first-generation high school graduate and first-generation college graduate. The push I received in my formative years to attend college was from my high school agriculture teacher and I thought I would give back to my community by becoming one myself … that was until (at the age of 20) I completed my first semester of student teaching and realized my strengths are not found while battling teenagers all day long. Shortly after that, I began my first accounting role (A/R clerk). I realized my knack for accounting and financial transactions quickly and adjusted my major accordingly, hence the business addition.  
What do you like to do to relax?
I love to be outdoors! My family and I like to hike, swim, boat, camp, and ride dirt bikes together.   
You can keep only three apps on your phone that aren’t related to your job. What are they?  
  • YNAB (you need a budget) – This app is fabulous at tracking monthly budget activity (yes, I am a finance nerd, but this is really user-friendly!) 
  • Instacart – Let’s get real – I have a full-time job and two young children (ages 5 and 8). Having basic groceries delivered is an amazing treat that I started exploring during the pandemic 
  • Google – My children are both enrolled in a Spanish immersion elementary program; I found it is much easier to take a photo of their homework and have Google auto-translate to English so I can help them more quickly. Translating with my own Spanish skills was much easier at the kindergarten-second grade level but became progressively harder as my son moved into his fourth year of the program. 
If you could live anyplace in the world for a year, where would it be and why?
I would love to live in Greece for a year. I have recently re-connected with family who live in Greece and the easy-going, relaxed way of life they describe to me sounds amazing. My cousin tells me he gets up late, eats, goes to the beach, comes home, does some work, and then take a nap before doing it all over again in the afternoon. He also says we work way too many hours in America, but it is all I’ve ever known. A more relaxed life, even for a year, sounds fabulous!
Thanks to everyone who responded to last month's question: Do you multitask during online meetings? There were 18 responses: 
This month's question:
If age is just a state of mind, how would you describe yourself right now?
Inquisitive child
Angsty teenager
Multitasking parent
Mid-life traveler
Cool grandparent
Do you have questions? Feedback you want to share? Something you want to put into the next newsletter? Reach out via our Comment Box or by emailing us at dofa@ucmerced.edu
DFA Update, a newsletter for the Division of Finance and Administration, is published monthly. Follow these links to catch up on news in earlier issues: