Erika Van Flein announces retirement

After more than 25 years of service to the University of Alaska Human Resources Department, Erika Van Flein, Director of Employee Transitions and Benefits, plans to retire June 1.

Erika Van Flein
Erika Van Flein

“My time at the university has been great,” said Van Flein. “Through good times and challenging times, there are always great people to help, and provide guidance and advice. I love the team I work with and the women in my group are some of the most dedicated, hardest working people you’ll find. It’s hard to say good-bye, but I know they’ll thrive and continue to serve the university well. And I’m not going anywhere anytime soon! Fairbanks is my home, my family is here and I’ve got a lot of good reasons to stay.”

Van Flein began her UA journey when she was hired as an administrative assistant at UAF University Relations in 1990. Six years later she joined Statewide HR as the benefits administrator. She was promoted to her current position as Director of Employee Transitions and Benefits in December 2011.

“I’ve always been interested in HR, benefits and how employers help their employees with so many of the basic goals in life: health, wealth, support and knowledge,” said Van Flein. “When a coworker got a job on the East coast and was planning to move, I asked his wife, who was the benefits coordinator at Statewide at the time, about her job. She encouraged me to apply, I did and got hired. That was in 1996, and I’ve been in HR since then.”

Van Flein plans to stay in Fairbanks after retirement.

I plan on being very busy in my garden, yard, family and community,” said Van Flein. “I have a grand baby due in August and we’re all very excited about that. My parents are still here and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them. Dad will be 93 in June! And my sister has been after me for years to get out in the berry patch during the week so looking forward to that, too.”

Under Van Flein’s direction, UA offers one of the most cost-effective comprehensive benefit packages among public employers across the state. She says ongoing active management makes it possible for UA to offer employees a generous benefit package at an affordable price.

“We have an active health care committee (the Joint Health Care Committee, or JHCC) made up of represented faculty and staff, staff council and management members,” said Van Flein. “This group is key to keeping an eye on our utilization, trends and plan design. If plan changes are called for, the JHCC reviews the reason and the impact and makes a recommendation. While not binding, this group’s recommendations are usually accepted. We keep the plan current, watching industry trends and sometimes taking the lead in the state on cost management initiatives.”

UA’s fringe benefits package is more than a health care plan and retirement. Employees have automatic access to a suite of additional resources from our friends at Securian Financial, the company that provides our life insurance benefit. No cost counseling and legal consultations are available through the Deer Oaks Employee Assistance program. The wellness program offers free health coaching and educational webinars.

“I’m also always on the lookout for additional features we can add for little or no cost,” said Van Flein. “Most of our vendor partners have complimentary services available, and all you need to do is ask.”

For Van Flein, wellness is more than a program she manages as part UA’s benefits package. In warmer weather, she is frequently seen running on the trails and bike paths around the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. 

She says you don’t have to run marathons to be fit. This takes a natural move to wellness in general. But it’s important people understand that you don’t have to run miles and miles, just get up and move a little more during your day. There are so many things people can do on a daily basis that make your life a little bit better. The key thing about a wellness program is that it can help you live a better life. 

“After having a family and a job that involved a lot of sitting, I realized I needed to do something to keep active and fit enough to keep up with my kids!,” said Van Flein. “I started working out at the gym, and eventually got into running. What started as an occasional thing became a real hobby, especially when I got into marathons. Now, over 50 marathons later, I can’t see a time when I’m not running and active.”