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Q&A faculty edition: Jessica Summers, new faculty chair

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 Jessica Summers, an associate professor of teaching, learning and sociocultural studies in the College of Education, will serve as UA’s faculty chair for the next two.

After counting 882 votes, the Committee on Elections announced the University of Arizona faculty elected a new faculty chair.

After controversy surrounding former faculty chair Lynn Nadel’s response to former honors dean Patricia Macorquodale and her lawsuit against Arizona Board of Regents, which named former provost Andrew Comrie, faculty held an election for a new faculty chair. Jessica Summers was elected as his replacement.

The 22 percent of faculty who voted in the Spring 2018 General Faculty General Election also elected their peers to the Faculty Senate, Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, the Committee of Eleven and other key committees on campus that form the foundation of UA’s faculty governance. 

Daily Wildcat reporter Randall Eck discussed Summers’ goals, the issues she wants to highlight and the role of faculty governance on campus. Their interview was edited for clarity. 

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Daily Wildcat: What is your role at the UA?

Jessica Summers: This will be my 10th year at the University of Arizona. I was hired as an assistant professor in educational psychology, then I switched departments and now am an associate professor in teaching, learning and sociocultural studies. The UA chose me. I wasn’t looking for a job when I came here, but some colleagues recruited me from my previous job at the University of Missouri Columbia. It seemed like a good opportunity. I think UA sets itself apart because UA cares about quality and making sure students receive a comprehensive education. That students are able to get good jobs when they finish means more than just classroom time, but time with faculty and other personnel on campus. 

DW: Why did you decide to run for Faculty Chair? 

JS:  In conversations with my colleagues, we were ready to see some changes in faculty governance, and they persuaded me to run. I wasn’t sure I was actually going to win, but I did and now I am learning a lot about faculty governance.

DW: What do you see as the role of the faculty chair? 

JS: Fundamentally, the faculty chair serves the faculty as a liaison between other governance structures and the administration, and the students and faculty who are not in governance. You want to make sure you go to all the governance meetings and let people know what is going on. You help people who need help and make sure you maintain good relationships with the people who can help you do your job. Right now, I am listening, going to all the faculty governance meetings and am learning who is on the various committees. I am getting the lay of the land. 

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DW: What are some issues you hope to highlight as faculty chair? 

JS: I think my platform was that the chair really works for the faculty and should have the faculty’s best interests in mind. Sometimes that means butting heads with administration if that is what it takes. I would really like to get more people and different types of people engaged in faculty governance. You do not see a lot of women on these committees or people of color on these committees. I think that needs to change. One of the things that has come up out of administration recently is this pay equity issue. I think that is a really important issue for the University of Arizona to look at very carefully.

DW: What is the role of faculty governance at the University? 

JS: My understanding of President Robbins is that he is very receptive and very open to faculty advice. I think that is the relationship that the president and the provost should have with the faculty. The faculty can offer a lot of recommendations and advice, but ultimately, the president and provost are the decision-makers. What we suggest may or may not be received well, but we trust them to make good decisions with the information they have.


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