Marie-Theresa Hernández, a professor of world cultures and literatures in the department of modern and classical languages, has been named the first participant in the University of Houston Presidential Fellows Program. The 12-month program aims to groom diverse faculty for leadership opportunities in higher education.
"I'm very excited about this," Hernández said. "It is an opportunity to see how we deal with the legislature, the business community and the funding process. When you see issues come up, you realize they are part of a complex system, and it's that system that sets up the final product."
Before accepting the position, Hernández consulted with colleagues at other universities who had participated in similar programs. "One colleague told me that at the end of the program, she never looked at things the same way again."
Hernández will work full time in the president's office, accompanying UH President Renu Khator to various meetings and events. "Learning how things work at this level is learning how to create the results that you and I see every day in our jobs," Hernández said.
The UH Presidential Fellows program allows for an exchange of perspective between faculty and administration, an embracement of the team concept that Khator values and encourages. As the university continues its progress toward Tier-One status, it must recruit and retain diverse faculty by creating an environment that allows these faculty members to succeed and stay here, Khator said. The Presidential Fellows Program is one step aimed at accomplishing that goal, she said.
"The Presidential Fellows Program offers our faculty an opportunity to greatly enhance their leadership and management skills. The open and supportive atmosphere will enrich knowledge as these professors share what they've learned with their colleagues and students," Khator said.
Interested tenured faculty can apply for the program and are selected by the president and provost. Participants will collaborate with administrators to develop new university programs. Hernández will provide ideas for a program for new students who need extra support at the beginning of their college careers.
"We'll discuss how best to help these students-have them live together in the same dorms, have them take classes together-to see if this will make a difference in graduation rates," Hernández said.