June 7, 2009 in City

Faculty question expert’s earnings

‘Inspiration officer’ paid $112,500 over nine months at UI
Associated Press
 

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho is paying a Minnesota consultant who spends less than two weeks a month on the Moscow campus $112,500 to serve as its “chief inspiration officer,” according to public records.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports the university signed a contract with Magaly Rodriguez last year, paying her $12,500 a month as part of a nine-month contract that expires in June.

The workshops conducted by Rodriguez have helped save programs, school administrators said, but some faculty are criticizing the contract signed during the same budget year the school was forced to cut about $3.8 million.

Rodriguez spends between zero and 10 days at the university each month, the contract says. Travel, lodging and meal expenses are deducted from her $12,500 monthly fee.

Rodriguez, a former teacher and missionary who was born in Cuba and has a bachelor’s degree in history from Siena Heights College in Michigan and a master’s degree in human resources from St. Thomas University in Miami, is helping the university adopt its strategic plan and is worth the expense, provost Doug Baker said.

“She’s helping us reshape our culture,” Baker told the Daily News.

Rodriguez, who is with the Minneapolis-based consulting company Volentum, said she helps create global peacemaking communities. In her biography, Rodriguez says she coined several terms, including “peacemaking” and “vitalizing change.”

“If you want to know kind of really what I do, I’m interested in building communities,” Rodriguez told the Moscow newspaper during a telephone interview.

Rodriguez facilitated a two-day workshop in February, when the university was considering eliminating an undergraduate degree in physics, and it ultimately helped save the program, College of Science Dean Scott Wood said.

“We obviously got to a resolution,” Wood said. “I’m not convinced we would have gotten there without Magaly’s help.”

But physics professor Francesca Sammarruca said the workshop focused mainly on sharing feelings, resolving personal conflicts and did not address the “hasty decision” to potentially cut the degree program.

“The point is that her services cannot help with problems such as ours,” Sammarruca wrote in an e-mail. “That decision needed to be discussed openly and thoroughly between the people involved in a (moderated) professional meeting, and at a much lower cost.”

Rodriguez’s salary is “outrageous” and could support seven graduate students each month, Sammarruca said.

The university has employed Rodriguez as an independent consultant with Volentum for more than a year. Before signing the nine-month contract in 2008, she signed one-time contracts between $10,000 and $15,500 to conduct workshops.

Other universities spend similar amounts on independent consultants, according to school officials, and the role of consultants at universities is important and should not be diminished, Moscow psychologist W. Rand Walker said.

“There are legitimate places for this, but you don’t pay $112,000 for it,” Walker said.

The university has not decided whether to renew the contract with Volentum after it expires this month, said provost Baker.

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