Increasing faculty engagement aim of new Shared Governance Project

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos (Vanderbilt University)

Deeper faculty engagement in university decision-making and initiatives is the aim of the new Shared Governance Project being launched next month by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. A special committee appointed by Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente comprising faculty nominated by their deans from all 10 colleges and schools, including representatives from both the basic science and clinical departments in the School of Medicine, will lead the project.

“Vanderbilt is exemplary of the forces of change and the need for us to change to meet our mission and to secure our future,” Zeppos said. “We are embarking on a new important phase of how we research, teach and serve as one university and one faculty. To stay abreast with and fulfill the needs that arise from our rapid change, we need to be alert to the imperative to reimagine and look at new governance structures and how to ensure faculty participation at all levels.”

Provost Susan R. Wente (Vanderbilt University)
Provost Susan R. Wente (Vanderbilt University)

Zeppos and Wente will charge the committee with examining and recommending potential enhancements to governance processes for initiatives involving the entire university at its first meeting in December, with a goal of completing a report by Sept. 1, 2017.

“We launched this project to look at our current faculty governance practices and processes and to think about ways we can enhance them and potentially develop new ways to engage faculty voices in university initiatives,” Wente said. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that our initiatives and priorities continue to be shaped by faculty input and expertise to further strengthen our One Vanderbilt approach to teaching, research and service.”

The committee will be broadly tasked with a re-affirmation of the school-based shared governance mechanisms, in combination with the strategy and governance processes for One Vanderbilt. Part of the committee’s charge will include an understanding of current processes at the school/college and university levels for facilitating and incorporating faculty dialogue. The committee also will be asked to consider how those processes might be reimagined and improved to further engage faculty voices in initiatives and to ensure forward-looking shared governance mechanisms are in place.

Richard Willis (Vanderbilt University)
Richard Willis (Vanderbilt University)

The special committee includes representatives who will work closely with the Faculty Senate in the spirit of other task forces that have included Senate and non-Senate representation, such as the Greek Life Task Force, which submitted its report in October 2015. Richard Willis, associate dean, Owen Graduate School of Management, Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker Jr. Professor of Accounting, and past Faculty Senate chair, and Holly McCammon, professor of sociology, of human and organizational development and of law and current Faculty Senate member, will co-chair the committee.

“With Richard’s role on the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Holly’s work with the Senate, as well as other members’ experience, the group will be able to effectively engage with the Faculty Senate and its role in shared governance,” Wente said. “For the provost-reporting faculty, we are also fortunate to have the recent COACHE survey, which queried faculty for feedback on aspects of Vanderbilt’s governance. The forthcoming analysis by the recently appointed working groups will certainly be informative to this committee’s discussions.”

Holly McCammon portrait
Holly McCammon (Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt)

Zeppos announced the shared governance project in an October email to faculty, in which he discussed the rapid change the university has undergone over the past 10 years, driven by investments in Opportunity Vanderbilt and The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, institutional goals of inclusive excellence, successful student and faculty recruiting, dramatic research breakthroughs and the opening of the new Engineering and Science Building and the Innovation Pavilion. In the midst of this growth and development, the university worked through the Great Recession and adapted to federal cutbacks in research and reorganized Vanderbilt University Medical Center into a separate academic medical center to support the future success of both entities.

The Shared Governance Special Committee members are as follows:

  • Terrah Foster Akard, associate professor nursing;
  • David Merryman, associate professor of biomedical engineering;
  • Jeffrey Johnston, Stevenson Professor of Chemistry;
  • Anne Kenworthy, professor of molecular physiology and biophysics;
  • Chris Lind, professor of medicine;
  • Holly McCammon, co-chair, professor of sociology;
  • Erin Charles, lecturer in teaching of music;
  • Phillis Sheppard, associate professor of religion, psychology and culture;
  • Marybeth Shinn, professor of human and organizational development;
  • Richard Willis, co-chair, associate dean, Owen Graduate School of Management, Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker Jr. Professor of Accounting; and
  • Yesha Yadav, professor of law.