The Faculty Senate participates in shared governance of the university with the administration. It is made up of 82 representatives and divided into caucuses for each of the seven colleges.
Faculty Senate president Sarah Bennett-George is just the second term faculty member elected to the position. Teaching professor emeritus Denise Vrchota, psychology (1998-99), was the first.
Position: Apparel, events and hospitality management teaching professor
Years at ISU: 12
What are the priorities for your presidency?
I want to have a productive year where we pass a good amount of legislation to positively impact the Iowa State community. We started a lot of great conversations over the last year, and I’m hoping we can take those conversations to action. As a teaching professor, I personally have my eyes on some proposals related to academic issues, including the reinstatement policy, the process for faculty representation in student academic appeals and consultation with academic advisors in potential catalog changes.
Why did you choose to lead during this time?
Shared governance is an important part of faculty life at Iowa State, and it’s a strong tool to build and maintain connections between faculty and administration. I'm honored to represent the voice of the faculty in those relationships as we navigate the constantly changing landscape of higher education. We used to think about things getting "back to normal," but I think the past few years have shown us that adaptation is the new normal. Things change fast, and there’s no waiting for the perfect time to do anything.
What are the major challenges and issues for the senate this year?
I think there's a lot of concern about how the national political climate is going to impact our work here. It is our mission as a land-grant university to serve all people of the state of Iowa through teaching, research and extension. Faculty want to know they will be able to continue the good work they're doing toward that mission, and I hope the senate can play a positive role in communicating their value to the state and furthering their ability to do that work.
What's the most important lesson you've learned from serving on the senate?
The university is a gigantic enterprise. It's easy to lose sight of how big of a system Iowa State really is -- or the larger municipal, state and national systems we exist within -- when working day to day in a department. The senate has really helped me see that many things happening on campus are more nuanced and complex than I realized.
What is your favorite spot on campus to relax or take in the view?
It's not a single, specific spot, but I love walking from building to building and enjoying the incredible landscaping on our campus. I can walk by the same place at different times throughout the year and it will offer new surprises. I love noticing new plants or flowers and using the plant identification tool on my phone to learn about them. I'm a beginning gardener at home and the campus offers so much inspiration.