For the Love of Faculty
Wenshu Lee began work as Chico State’s new associate vice president for faculty affairs on July 15, and she’s been busy each day since.
As head of an office that administers all personnel processes, policies, and procedures for the University’s roughly 800 full-time and part-time faculty members, her job requires juggling a multitude of day-to-day tasks while furthering the long-term goals associated with nurturing faculty excellence.
Lee came to Chico after serving most recently as chair of the Department of Communication Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Before she came to Loyola in 2007, she taught communication studies courses as a professor at San Jose State University, and before that as an instructor at the University of Southern California, where she also earned her master’s degree and PhD in communication arts and sciences. Originally from a small town on the north end of Taipei, Taiwan, Lee was attracted to Chico in part because of its close-knit community.
“There’s always the longing in me to be in the place where it’s a smaller community, where people care about each other,” she said.
She also cites the University’s commitment to sustainability and advanced pedagogical work with events such as the Chico Great Debate as reasons Chico State is an “organic fit” for her.
“I specialize in interpersonal communication, gender communication—how men and women talk to each other—as well as intercultural communication, but there’s another part of my research that has to do with argumentation and debate, and you have this big town hall and Great Debate series, and it’s like my dream come true because you get the entire community involved,” Lee said.
The office of faculty affairs has seen some instability in recent years, Lee says, due to personnel shifts and organizational changes, so a priority for Lee is setting up a solid framework to work from.
“Every day we have to take care of business, or put out fires, or embrace fun, but we’re trying at another level to figure out important areas of responsibility. I have to start setting up an infrastructure,” she said.
Lee says her job involves convening people— listening and talking to them to come up with creative problem solutions.
“I have to get people together, so that people feel involved, people can provide their opinions, and people can take their own share of the decision making so that once we start implementing, everybody’s happy,” she said.
Major goals for her office include helping faculty to provide the best possible learning environment for students, diversifying faculty and staff to better represent the population of California, and revitalizing a love for teaching and learning that may have been clouded by the effects of the recession in recent years.
“We need to provide professors with some sense of appreciation, with some sense of empowerment,” she said.
Lee says that perhaps in time her current juggling act will get a little easier, but either way, she’s committed to striving for excellence.
“I really, really, love this town,” Lee said. “And however challenging this job, I appreciate the people that I’m working with. They’re just great, good people. So I’m ready, I’m rolling up my sleeves, and I’m ready to move forward.”
—Kacey Gardner, editorial assistant, Public Affairs and Publications