Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a three part series.
Judith Lewis, an associate professor in VCU’s School of Nursing began serving her second term as Faculty Senate president this fall.
Lewis came to VCU from Boston where she worked at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions for five years. Previously she had been a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Since she specializes in women’s health, Lewis teaches one undergraduate women’s nursing course plus a graduate course that introduces health promotion to women. In addition to teaching, Lewis serves as director of information technology for the School of Nursing.
Lewis, now in her 12th year as a member of the VCU community, first served as chairwoman of the Maternal Child Nursing department in the School of Nursing. After five years she left administration for a faculty position.
Along with being Faculty Senate president, Lewis participates in many professional societies and nursing organizations. This year Lewis sits on the VCU Board of Visitors, the executive budget committee, and the VCU Academic Technology Faculty Advisory Council. Within the School of Nursing she chairs the appointment, promotion, and tenure committee, and sits on the nominating and steering committees.
“I have this belief that part of our responsibility is to leave the world a better place than when we found it,” Lewis said. “And to me that means being involved, and part of a faculty role is professional service.”
Lewis has received many awards for her service in the field of women’s health: the Marry Ann Garrigan Award named for one of her instructors, the Distinguished Professional Service Award given by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and most recently an award given by the International Society of Nurses and Genetics.
Because of her position and the changing face of VCU’s faculty, the Commonwealth Times interviewed Lewis to discuss the major issues she and other Senate members will work on during the 2004-2005 academic year.
CT: How is the Faculty Senate constructed?
The way the Senate works is every school conducts an election for senators, and the number of faculty in your school determines how many senators you get, and it maxes out at 20. So the School of Medicine, which has a lot of faculty, has 20 senators. The smallest number of senators a school can have is two. Nursing is a relatively small faculty. We have two senators. I was elected to the executive board to represent this campus, and the year after that I was elected by the Senate to be president.
CT: What do you view as the role of the Faculty Senate?
I think the role of the Faculty Senate is to provide in an organized fashion the perspective of faculty to issues of governance in the university. Can I represent every faculty? Does every faculty member agree with everything that the Faculty Senate says? No.
But what we do is we bring a faculty perspective to the table. And on certain issues we actually will be a voice. And we’ll pass a resolution. And the way the Senate is supposed to work is when we have a meeting we will raise issues, and then the senators
will go back to their schools and canvass their constituents to see how faculty in their schools feel about a particular issue. And then the next month we will vote.
CT: In January, faculty from VCU were seeking appointments of nonvoting faculty representatives to Virginia universities’ boards of visitors, community college boards and the State Board of Community Colleges. What is the status of that bill?
The bill did not pass last year. But in this university, as in several others, we have a member of the faculty that is a nonvoting member of the Board of Visitors, so we didn’t need the bill to make that happen here. We have a really good relationship with the administration at this university. I am the faculty member to the Board of Visitors this year. I am the second person; Dr. Andrews was the person last year. The way it works is the Senate gives a list of five names to the president, and from that list he recommends and the board appoints.