In April, professor Wendy Hensel became the associate dean for research and faculty development to help the College of Law cultivate young professors as longtime faculty members begin to retire.
The goal, Hensel says, "is to both mentor and develop junior faculty as excellent teachers and as productive scholars, and to enhance the intellectual life of the law school for all faculty members.
"It's the best job in the world," she says. "I like thinking strategically about how to improve faculty life, and this gives me a formal platform to do that. We're a very collegial group, and this will only enhance that cohesiveness."
Hensel joined the faculty in 1999 and for many years remained the most recent newcomer. At the time, there was no formal mentorship program. Hensel saw a need for development among her contemporaries, however, and took action.
"I started a program informally where junior faculty all got together and came up with a list of topics that people were interested in, and I would invite speakers," Hensel says. "We actually called it ‘the pep squad,' because it was meant to be a forum where we could encourage one another."
As faculty recruiting increased, it became apparent a formal program was needed.
Hensel knew a program that invested in new faculty members and allowed older professors to share the unwritten rules of academic life would benefit everyone. Dean Steven J. Kaminshine created the position so she could develop a comprehensive enrichment program.
Paul A. Lombardo, Bobby Lee Cook Professor of Law, has served as an informal advisor through the years and says Hensel's work benefits senior faculty too.
"I think we're looking at a wave of generational change," Lombardo says. "Being able to meet regularly with faculty members and read their work, as a practical matter, I learn all kinds of things in areas I don't really know about."
Hensel's new program includes several components: a monthly faculty enrichment series covering such topics as writing exams, giving engaging lectures and publishing; a faculty exchange with peer institutions; a forum where all faculty can get feedback on a presentation or concept; and a formal mentoring program.
"In some senses this is all about developing people," Lombardo says. "We focus on developing students, but we have to focus on developing faculty so we can do that. This [position] highlights that this kind of development for faculty is a real priority."
Kathleen Poe Ross