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The National Special Emphasis Program Advisory Committee (SEPAC) Annual Meeting

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The Special Emphasis Program Advisory Committee (SEPAC) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) held its annual meeting on February 26, 2003, using USGS cyberseminar technology.

The SEPAC was established in 2001 to enhance the USGS mission, vision, strategic direction, and diversity goals and objectives, fostering a positive cultural change; and to ensure an open and communicative environment for the crosscultural exchange of information and ideas. The committee's cybermeeting was held in place of a face-to-face meeting that was scheduled for the week of February 24-28, 2003, but was postponed until next summer because of uncertainties about the Fiscal Year 2003 budget.

Participants at February's cybermeeting were able to attend by using a computer, with the appropriate software, to log onto the USGS cyberseminar Web site to view slide presentations, and dialing into a telephone conference bridge to hear presentations and take part in discussions. The technology worked smoothly, helping the participants to have a highly successful meeting.

February's meeting served primarily as a collective progress report, enabling SEPAC members to stay abreast of national and regional issues and tasks. It was attended by approximately 40 USGS employees, including the three Deputy Regional Directors, the Chief of Administrative Policy and Services, staff members from the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), managers, contractors, and others. Participants logged in from throughout the country, in places that ranged from Hawaii to New Hampshire.

Joan Fitzpatrick, Deputy Regional Director for the Central Region and the management representative for the Central Region SEPAC, moderated the meeting. Kaye Cook, Personnel Officer, gave welcoming remarks and an update about the reorganization of the Department of Interior (DOI)'s Equal Employment Office (EEO), describing its function, purpose, and proposed structure. She also informed the group that Robert E. Doyle has been appointed the new Deputy Director, and mentioned some action items relating to SEPAC in the Human Resource Action Plan.

The regional SEPACs presented findings on the four topics each had been tasked to study: advancement, development, recruitment, and retention.

The Headquarters SEPAC, tasked with advancement, stated a primary objective of benchmarking (identifying, understanding, and adapting outstanding practices of) other Federal agencies and the private sector in regard to barriers, best practices, and lessons learned. The Headquarters SEPAC also requested and analyzed relevant statistical data from the OEO and will formulate a summary with recommendations, as well as develop a final report.

The Eastern Region SEPAC, tasked with development, stated that its purpose and scope is to examine USGS career-development programs, policies, and procedures and how they have affected women, minorities, and people with disabilities since their implementation. The Eastern Region SEPAC's approach has been to evaluate data sets over a 10-year period (1992-2002) with respect to leadership development and opportunities for career-building training and developmental assignments, and to collect input from employees who have separated from the USGS.

The Western Region SEPAC, tasked with recruitment, stated that its objective is to analyze policies, practices, and procedures which may present barriers to the recruitment and hiring of employees belonging to a Special Emphasis Program (SEP) focus group. The eight SEP focus groups are the Federal Women's Program, the Hispanic Employment Program, the Disability Employment Program, the African American Employment Program, the American Indian/Alaskan Native Employment Program, the Asian American/Pacific Islander Employment Program, the Gay/Lesbian/Bi-Sexual Employment Program, and the Multi-Cultural, Multi-Racial, and Other Ethnic Group Employment Program. The Western Region SEPAC also gave an update on a possible partnership with San Francisco State University on evaluating governmental diversity programs.

The Central Region SEPAC, tasked with retention, stated that its scope is to study, evaluate, and recommend strategies for changing programs, policies, and procedures that hinder the retention of diverse and underrepresented categories of employees within the USGS. The Central Region SEPAC identified methods to assist with their task, including training, collection of exit-interview data, and establishment of partnerships.

The SEPAC subcommittees related to communication and networking also gave presentations. The Networking team recommended a successful network for communication to and from regional management, the OEO, SEPAC, focus groups, and USGS employees. The Communications team recommended several types of communication tools and programs consisting of seminars, Web sites, printed media, SEP messages, and diversity programs and activities.

The final presentation of the meeting was the recently completed SEPAC Strategic Plan. For a copy, please contact any of the chairs listed below. (For more information on the oragnization of SEPAC, read the chapter on SEPAC in the online U.S. Geological Survey Manual.)

The overarching duty of the SEPAC is to advise and link with management to develop, articulate, and communicate the business case for embracing workforce diversity within the USGS. SEPAC strives to accomplish this by:

  • analyzing policies, practices, and procedures that may present barriers to the recruitment, retention, development, and advancement of target groups;
  • developing and maintaining internal and external networks to gather information;
  • increasing awareness and enhancing expertise; and
  • educating and informing others about SEP activities.

For more information about the SEPAC, see additional articles in the September 2001 and May 2002 issues of Sound Waves, contact the National SEP Manager, John Szemraj, at 703-648-7011, or contact the following chairpersons for specific regions:

Headquarters: Celso Puente,
Central Region: Richard Shields,
Eastern Region: Jamey Reid,
Western Region: Paul Okubo,

Related Web Sites
Special Emphasis Program Advisory Committee (SEPAC)
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Manual

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Environmental Symposium

Meetings Special Emphasis Program Advisory Committee (SEPAC)

Awards Marine Science Award

Staff & Center News Manheim Retires

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