A seven-person work group will run the Women’s Studies Program (WMS) at Northern Kentucky University in lieu of a department head.
Dr. Sally Jacobsen, professor of literature and language, resigned this summer as director of the WMS program. She ran the program for three years and resigned after she did not receive an increased stipend for her duties. Jacobsen will remain active in the program as a member of its Advisory Board.
Twenty-three members of the WMS Advisory Board, most of whom are teachers in the program, decided that an interdisciplinary work group would best fit the needs of the students for the 2003-2004 academic year.
Board members Nancy Hancock, professor of philosophy, and Katherine Meyer, director of Adult Learner Services, first formed a selection committee to find a replacement for Jacobsen, but were unsuccessful. There were several applicants who were either turned down or declined the position because the stipend was less than requested.
The selection committee suggested the work group concept when a suitable replacement director could not be found. The model, where a group of faculty runs a department instead of a department chair, is based on examples set by interdisciplinary programs on other campuses.
Seven members of the Advisory Board then offered to participate in the work group and handle individual elements of the director’s responsibilities.
Vice Provost Dr. Paul Reichardt refused to comment on salary details, but said that Jacobsen’s director stipend had “advanced considerably” since she took over the position in Fall 2000.
Reichardt added that each member of the WMS work group will receive travel funds to be used for educational development, including presenting WMS-related papers out of state and attending conferences to better the program.
“Anytime there’s change, there’s always some unease about how things will work out,” said Ann Dollins, the Associate Dean of Nursing Administration.
The seven work group members come from a variety of areas- from Nursing and Health Care to Sociology, to the Dean of the College of Business. Most have been a part of the program for years.
“The Women’s Studies program is so important to the members on the committee,” said Dollins. “We will make it work.”
Jacobsen said the work group was a “creative solution to the problem” and pointed out that Women’s Studies “has traditionally been communal.” But she said she thought it would be better to have a daily director. She was concerned that things like conferences with the lecturers and observing classes will no longer occur without a single head running the program.
Reichardt was unsure of how frequently this was done, considering all but one WMS lecturer comes from different departments with “established reputations.”
“[A Work Group] is a very common thing in academia,” he said. “What we’re doing here is really not anything unusual or strange; we’re following the model that’s used in many interdisciplinary programs. That way it does involve more people from interdisciplinary programs.”
Dollins agreed, saying there is “lots of room for everyone to participate.”
“We [the work group] see this as a strong administrative structure,” said Reichardt. “The program will continue to be a very strong program.”
No decision has been made regarding how long the Work Group will be in place or if a search for a new director will resume next year.
Regardless of the decision, people remain optimistic about the current directorial tactic.
“[The Work Group] and I have every intention to make sure this remains a very important program,” Reichardt said.
“This is not just a holding pattern, but an attempt to move the program forward.”