Five faculty members named to Provost Fellowship Program

Five educators will soon be working toward advancing teaching, mentorship, leadership and academic freedom at the university through the Provost Fellows Program. 

The following have been selected as the fellows for 2022

  • Yizhao Yang, associate professor of planning, public policy and management.
  • Jagdeep Bala, senior instructor II in psychology.
  • Charise Cheney, associate professor of Indigenous, race and ethnic studies.  
  • Pedro Garcia-Caro, associate professor of Spanish.  
  • Joe Lowndes, professor of political science. 

As the teaching fellow, Yang will be doing a deep dive into emerging teaching methods with the goal of identifying areas the university can invest in to improve student learning.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered us a great opportunity, although somewhat unwanted, to experiment with multiple teaching modalities,” Yang said. “I think mixed modalities that enable greater flexibility and accessibility in learning will be in sustained high demand going forward.” 

The focus of the project stems from Yang’s own interest in using technology-aided methodologies in the classroom and experience conducting evidence-driven research to inform decisions. 

Leadership fellow Bala will be working on creating onboarding programs for faculty leaders at the university. 

“I really hope to make it easier for faculty to step up and take on leadership roles by institutionalizing collaborative learning, mutual development, as well as development of effective strategies for leading peers and empowering others,” Bala said. 

Bala wants university forums and faculty leaders to build a culture of diversity and inclusion. The project was inspired by Bala’s “very long list of ‘what I wish I’d known when I started.’” 

Meanwhile, as mentorship fellow, Cheney will be looking into ways to support Black faculty members across campus. 

“The mentorship fellowship will give me time and the opportunity to focus on what is and is not working with the university's retention efforts, especially when it comes to junior Black faculty,” she said. “I am the director of the Black Studies Program, and I believe its success is dependent upon the recruitment and retention of Black faculty, who also serve as mentors to Black students." 

One of two academic freedom fellows, Garcia-Caro praised the university for the protections already in place but said more work could be done to help faculty members realize their projects.  

“Academic freedom is the bedrock on which research and intellectual independence should rest,” Garcia-Caro said. “When censorship, political or religious interference, and even economic and financial pressures, are exercised over researchers, their freedom to conduct research and teach their results is impacted.”

He will be working on a handbook for faculty members and will be working alongside Lowndes, the other academic freedom fellow, on a conference on academic freedom this fall. 

“We are now in a moment where academic freedom is under attack from major donors, state legislatures, right-wing organizations and white supremacists across the country,” he said. “These attacks range from gag orders to pressure on boards of trustees, to right-wing ‘watch lists,’ to social media doxxing, to individual threats to faculty, particularly faculty of color.”  

Lowndes hopes the university can think up strategies to best protect academic freedom moving forward and set a national standard.  

—By Chelsea Hunt, Office of the Provost