Faculty Senate welcomes new leaders

Aimee Burch

The ISU Faculty Senate recently appointed two new leaders to some high-profile positions.

At the January meeting, Suzanne Hendrich, university president of food science and human nutrition, accepted the position of current president-elect, taking on the job after Ann Marie Vanderzanden stepped down to become director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Hendrich will now become senate president for the 2012-13 school year.  Veronica Dark, professor of psychology, was also elected to become president-elect for the 2012-13 school year.

Steven Freeman, who currently serves as senate president, said these women will face many obstacles in their upcoming years of senate appointment.

“It’s our first full year under a new president,” Freeman said. “There will be a transition with interacting with [President Steven] Leath and his view on shared governance.”

He also said the university will be facing significant reorganization starting July 1 with the creation of a School of Education and the proposed reorganization for the College of Design, should that pass.

“They will have to make sure [the restructuring] is implemented the way it was proposed and be able to avoid unplanned negative consequences.”

Suzanne Hendrich

For Hendrich, the question of taking on these new responsibilities was nonexistent.

“I volunteered for the role. There was not a lot of arm twisting involved,” she said.

A senate member since 2006, Hendrich was nearing the end of her six-year appointment when the position of president-elect became available. After their six year term ends, senators are required to take a break before taking on another term.

Hendrich brings years of leadership experience to her future presidency. She is a university professor for the department of food science and human nutrition with a strong teaching and research background.

She is a former associate dean and currently serves as chair of the academic affairs committee in the senate, a committee Freeman said has the most interaction with students. Hendrich hopes to utilize these experiences throughout her tenure.

“She is well-respected across campus,” Freeman said of his colleague.

As current president-elect, one of Hendrich’s main responsibilities includes chairing the committee that develops the annual faculty conference. Through her work, Hendrich hopes to encourage more faculty members to pursue leadership roles.

“It’s difficult to find faculty willing to take on leadership roles,” Hendrich said. “They don’t feel comfortable speaking their minds, especially when they are new in their careers. I’d like to explore the question, ‘Can the Faculty Senate work on this?’ What can we do to encourage a sense that it matters that faculty is involved in the university as a whole, a sense of participation and that we’re united for common goals?”

Hendrich went on to say her strong sense for the need of faculty to have a voice and of the things that affect their ability. She hopes to apply what she knows about getting groups together so students and faculty can come together to organize and create a community.

Despite the challenges facing the senate and senate leaders, Hendrich is excited to see what progress will be made in the coming years. She mentions university growth as an area of anticipated emphasis, citing increasing student enrollment and how to manage this with the role of faculty in economic development. Hendrich is also intrigued to see whether the university will adopt the learning outcomes proposed by that committee.

Through it all, Hendrich hopes Iowa State will remain true to its mission as a land-grant university.

“With the decrease in state funding and increase in tuition, students are at a disadvantage,” Hendrich said. “We are here to provide broad access to higher education and provide information to citizens. People still value that, and you can show great accomplishments.

“People who graduate from ISU feel a sense of loyalty. It’s a dream job being a faculty member here.

Veronica Dark

Under senate governance documents, the senate must vote on who will become the next president-elect at the January meeting prior to the upcoming school year. Dark ran against two of her colleagues before being voted to the position.

Dark is in the second year of her term but previously served six years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the interim, she served on several committees. In her new position, she hopes to work with Leath to ensure the transition goes smoothly.

“We worked extremely well with previous President [Gregory] Geoffroy and Provost [Elizabeth] Hoffman, and I want to make sure that shared governance continues,” said Dark. “We want to make sure there’s an open, honest relationship, and all three of us [in leadership positions] think it will go very well.”

Like Hendrich, Dark sees continued budget constraints as an obstacle for the senate to overcome. She also sees quality of education as a possible concern.

“With more students, fewer tenure track faculty and all faculty teaching larger classes, the faculty worry about the quality of the classes taught,” she said, particularly in reference to undergraduate education. She emphasized that the curriculum taught is the one area faculty have complete control over, a fact that “no one disputes.”

Dark, an ISU faculty member since 1986, has been involved in curriculum issues for many years. She has been highly involved in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ curriculum committee for almost 10 years and currently serves as director of undergraduate education in the psychology department. Because of this, she has a good background for dealing with curriculum issues and said she understands that faculty control of curriculum is respected and important.

The budget is also of concern to Dark. Despite recent reports of an increase to the regents’ budget, substantial cuts may still be made. Dark said she is not sure what the university will do should that happen but the senate will likely play a major role.

“The Faculty Senate will have to work with the administration to deal with these issues,” she said.

In light of these challenges, Dark feels that the faculty has done a good job thus far and hopes to see that continue. She hopes her leadership experience and unique perspective will serve her well in upcoming years.

“I can listen to all sides,” she said. “I have strong opinions, I know others do, but I can listen and be convinced that my side may not be the best. There is no right way to do things in most circumstances.”

Dark echoes Hendrich’s thoughts on the bright future slated for Iowa State.

“Iowa State is good and strong. Under President Geoffroy, the importance of undergraduate education was acknowledged unlike in some other administration. I hope this continues under Leath, and I think it will.”