Carnegie Mellon University

Staff Council

The voice for staff at Carnegie Mellon University

bio photo of David Danenberg

November 23, 2021

Staff Council Rep Feature: David Danenberg

David Danenberg is the Benefits Committee Chair and Division 14 Representative.

What made you want to get involved with the Benefits Committee?

As soon as I had children, my instinct reaction was to join the Benefits Committee to ensure that I have a voice in the benefits that staff receive related to their families and dependents. A colleague of mine played an integral role in establishing the Staff Parental and Maternity Leave Program. As she rolled off of Staff Council, I wanted to be a part of the Benefits Committee to help support and move forward all that she had worked hard on during her tenure. After working at two other universities, I’ve had the pleasure to experience benefits that range from unlimited sick days to competitive tuition benefits for dependents and partners. I hope to bring my knowledge and experiences to the table, so that Carnegie Mellon University can offer the best staff benefits package and retain the best staff possible.

What is your goal as Chair?

Prior to joining Staff Council, I figured it was easy to update benefits packages - all you needed was a majority vote. This preconceived notion was wrong and I quickly learned how many parties are involved, iterations of benefit options are designed, and the multiple stages it takes to make adjustments to benefits. One of my goals as Chair of the Benefits Committee is to break down walls and provide transparency to the process of developing benefits. It’s my hope that Staff Council and the Benefits Committee can continue to build a two-way relationship with Human resources, working together to inform our community on how they can be involved with the long-term process of adjusting and developing benefits. It is also my goal for the Benefits Committee to lead the conversation on four key focus areas: tuition benefits, equitable pay, PTO/sick bank, and workplace flexibility.

Which benefits do you feel employees would use more if they knew about them?

Have you ever wanted to learn how to speak a new language, play an instrument, or program a robot? If so, enroll in a class. I feel that tuition benefits would be used more if staff became more acquainted with the tax implications and awareness that the benefit exceeds beyond Carnegie Mellon University. Did you know that the first $5,250 in tuition benefits (graduate degree program or as a visiting/non-degree student) per calendar year is exempt from federal taxes? Be sure to always check out The Piper newsletter, as there are always information sessions being hosted by CMU departments for staff to highlight their degree programs where tuition benefits can be used.

Do you have any tips for employees to make the most of the benefits available to them?

Take your PTO. That is hard-earned time off that you deserve. The mental break from work will serve you well. If you struggle to take PTO, I encourage you to work with your supervisor at the beginning of the calendar year (go ahead and set that meeting up now!) to make a PTO plan for the year.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?

While I may not be a huge fan of the TV show FRIENDS (sorry, I’m a Seinfeld guy!), I am a big fan of the famous Ross Geller “Moist Maker” Thanksgiving leftover sandwich. Not heard of it? Go look it up and give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed!

How can your constituents get in touch with you?

Constituents can reach me by emailing me directly or through the Staff council email (