Incoming Interim Provost Dr. Laura Furge was recently selected to attend the Higher Education Resource Service (HERS) Institute, a two-week leadership development program for women in higher education. Her attendance has been covered by a full ride from the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation, a non-profit that supports women in science and engineering (Dr. Furge is also a Professor of Chemistry at K).
Each year, 60 women from a diverse mix of institutions are selected to engage in two weeks of mentoring and networking. As a result, Dr. Furge says that participants come back to their home institutions with a network of peers, “so you are not alone in figuring out really difficult problems.”
Before attending HERS, Dr. Furge will have to come up with a plan for personal leadership development and a project or idea that she wants to refine over the course of the program. To develop a personal leadership plan, participants are asked to conduct interviews with the senior academic staff of their institution to better understand their personal approaches and experiences.
The project plan consists of developing a solution at HERS that they can then bring back to their home institution. As a chemistry professor, Dr. Furge knows a great deal about the unique challenges to conducting natural science research in small liberal arts college setting. However, she has less knowledge of similar best practices and approaches when it comes to the social sciences and the humanities. Therefore, her project at HERS will involve furthering her expertise in this area.
Dr. Furge emphasized that while faculty at K are encouraged to make excellent teaching a priority, their research productivity still matters a great deal, as it helps ensure that K students are getting an education that reflects current thinking. More concretely, ongoing research also generates opportunities for K students to develop experience in their respective fields. Additionally, Dr. Furge says that professors with high research productivity can increase “the national reputation of the college, which draws the most qualified students and also funding from private foundations.”
Accordingly, the tenure process has evolved since the late 90s, when the college began to search for new faculty with active research agendas. Now, according to Dr. Furge, the tenure process “looks at each individual’s teaching, service to the community and their scholarship — how they have been able to stay connected to their discipline.”
Beyond the opportunities for leadership growth and networking, Dr. Furge also looks forward to attending HERS for the opportunities it will provide to discuss common professional and personal experiences amongst women in higher education. All things considered, she hopes that the opportunity to reflect and grow as a leader alongside other women will help the College operate at its best during her year as provost.