New President hopes to increase student success
A wooden gavel was passed from president to president-elect of the Faculty Senate on Wednesday, marking the end of one reign and the beginning of another as the University transitions into a new term.
In his seventh year at the University, Steven Wallace, 2013 Faculty Senate president, welcomed 2014 President Maria Soliño during the organization’s January meeting in the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion.
“I want to thank all of you (in the Faculty Senate) for teaching me this year and really giving me the opportunity to learn about what you do. I’ve learned a tremendous amount just about how UH functions — its leadership, its faculty, its staff and its mission,” Wallace said.
“The title of president means nothing in terms of actual leadership. It’s what you do with it. … You can inspire people around you to do the kinds of things that you find innovative and also understand their needs — what they want to do, where they want to go and how they want to contribute.”
Soliño, associate professor of Spanish literature and film, said that as president, she plans to contribute to the University by working with her team at the Faculty Senate to increase student success.
“Our graduation rate is unacceptable — at multiple levels. The most obvious are when we lose not only funding but prestige when we say that we have a 50 percent six-year graduation rate,” Soliño said.
“But these are not just numbers. These are the people that we see every day in our classrooms. A mind really is a terrible thing to waste. Each dropout is a personal tragedy. Think of the heartbreak someone must feel when they drop out of college — their wasted time and the money they couldn’t afford to begin with and the life-long regret from those who simply can’t finish.”
Soliño said the University has reached the turning point of new initiatives to raise its graduate rate — the system-wide Blue Ribbon Task Force that is trying to develop strategies to close the achievement gap and the Foundations of Excellence program that focuses on enhancing the first-year experience.
However, she expressed the concern that none of these initiatives will work without the help of the faculty. One of her main goals for the next year, she said, is to energize faculty members across campus to make student success a priority. In order to do this, she plans to work with the administration to develop a system of promotion and compensation.
She is seeking a compromise with the University in which the administration will develop this system while still allowing focus to remain on research for Tier One requirements. Specific details still need hammering out.
“We’ve come a long way,” Soliño said, “but the best is yet to come.”