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Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan: Principles and Procedures

These principles and procedures are proposed to guide the implementation of the Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan (the “STAR Plan”) at the University of California, Merced. The STAR Plan is governed by systemwide policies and guidelines.

Strategic Tool:  Incentive awards such as those provided for under the STAR Plan are an important strategic tool in implementing the campus’ new compensation philosophy and strategy.  It should be used for the appropriate purpose – to recognize extraordinary contributions that are above and beyond an employee’s established day-to-day job responsibilities – and not as a proxy for equity or merit increases, or as a stipend.

Incentive awards are available in two forms – as non-cash employee recognition awards (i.e. gift cards), also known as “spot” awards, that are limited in value to a $75 gift card or a $250 one-month parking permit or transit pass; and cash awards, which are provided for by the STAR Plan.

Local Discretion:  Consistent with campus efforts to give division heads more control over their own budgets, division head approval is sufficient for granting an award from appropriations contained within that division’s budget, or unless the award exceeds restrictions outlined in the Plan guidelines.  Department funds should be used, when possible, to fund STAR Plan awards.  The Campus Budget Office can provide assistance to divisions that need to identify funding within their current budgets to fund STAR awards or to secure central funding.

Plan Funding:  Department funds should be used, when possible, to fund all STAR Plan awards.  

Requests for supplemental appropriations must be submitted to the Campus Budget Office, which will either 1) identify available appropriations within the department’s budget to the requesting unit; or 2) provide an assessment of available central funding from the compensation equity pool and confirm that no appropriations are available within the division’s budget to the Vice Chancellor, Planning & Budget.  The Vice Chancellor’s Council will periodically review requests for STAR awards that require an appropriation from the compensation strategy equity pool.  The availability of central funding for STAR Plan awards in FY 2018-19 or future fiscal years cannot be determined at this time.

Funding Restrictions:  To assure equitable distribution of STAR Plan awards to all deserving employees, total annual STAR Plan awards cannot exceed 0.5% of divisional payroll budgets.

Criteria:  Criteria are outlined in the Plan guidelines, but in addition UC Merced should strive to ensure that awardees meet (and preferably exceed) the current Core Competencies adopted for the campus.

Implementation Review:  The Vice Chancellors Council will review the implementation process quarterly.  The Council will review the awards granted to date to determine uniformity of criteria and identify any inequities in the distribution of awards.

Procedures for submitting award nominations:   Departments should take the following steps to submit nominations for STAR Plan awards:

For departments with available funding …

  • Department submits nomination for incentive award on designated form.
  • Upon divisional approval, nomination goes to Human Resources ( for review and UC Compliance.  Completed STAR nomination will be forwarded to payroll (for awards $5,000 or less) or to the Vice Chancellors Council (for awards over $5,000).

For departments seeking central funding for awards …

  • Department submits nomination for incentive award on designated form.
  • Upon divisional approval, nomination goes to Human Resources ( for review and UC Compliance, routing to Budget Office for funding recommendation.
  • Following Budget Office review, nomination is returned to HR for transmission to Vice Chancellors Council (VCC) for funding approval (for awards $5,000 or less) and/or exception approval (for awards over $5,000).
  • Upon VCC approval, nomination goes to Human Resources for final review and routing to payroll.


Questions regarding the STAR Employee Program should be directed to the Compensation and Classification Unit at

University of California Merced Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan
For Plan Year July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019