Change. Organization. Innovation. Direction. These terms aptly describe the recent work by faculty members at Southern University at Shreveport to develop new academic governance structures. After years of decline that began with the Great Recession, our institution needed to find a new way forward. Understanding the magnitude of the challenges faced by our small university nestled in the piney woods of northern Louisiana, a group of faculty members united to discuss the need for a paradigm shift.
During the summer months preceding the spring senate elections, faculty members at SUSLA, the two-year arm of the historically black Southern University system, collaborated to create the first-ever full slate of faculty senate candidates, “Team 2014.” Sonya D. Hester was the team’s candidate for senate president, and she shared the ticket with five dedicated and hardworking colleagues: Joslin Pickens, Harolyn Wilson, Marci Collins, Claudine Matthews, and Lonnie McCray. The slate’s campaign events ranged from service-oriented projects to informal opportunities for conversation, food, fun, and fellowship. Campaign materials for Team 2014 included T-shirts, push cards, short films, and other tangible items.
The elections committee, which had been selected by the faculty body before the election, was charged with creating and overseeing a new electoral process for the 2014 faculty senate elections. For the first time in the institution’s history, official voting machines provided by the state were used to elect senate representatives. Officials from the Louisiana Registrar of Voters were in charge of the machines and the delivery of election results to the faculty community. Following an overwhelming turnout by faculty voters, Team 2014 was elected in a landslide victory, along with senators representing each academic division. A new era of faculty governance had begun; expectations were high, and the atmosphere was electric.
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Sonya D. Hester, Harolyn Wilson, and Joslin Pickens are currently members of the SUSLA faculty senate. Hester and Pickens are on the faculty in the Division of Humanities, and Wilson is in the Division of Science and Technology. Their e-mail addresses are shester@ susla.edu, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.