Looking Forward, Looking Back: Preparing for the VPFA Transition

Dec 6, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

As Provost Clark shared in October, I have decided to step down as Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs (VPFA) at the end of winter quarter. With deep gratitude and excitement for the future of the Office, I offer thoughts and insights on what we have accomplished together. 


With a small and mighty staff, the goals I articulated in my job interview have been achieved.

In my 2019 job interview for the VPFA position (when the dinosaurs roamed and Covid wasn’t a thing), I proposed beginning with low-hanging fruit: a faculty symposium on collaborative climate; an inclusive teaching portal; and a new faculty learning community, to name a few. Despite the pandemic and with the help of kickass DU faculty, leaders, and staff, all of these goals were accomplished and continue full steam ahead.

Kate Slide 1 Low Hanging Fruit

While working on these “low-hanging” goals, we also sought to tackle more complex issues like workload equity, COVID support, teaching “pivots,” and greater fairness in promotion, tenure, and reappointment through deliberative decision making. For all you uber nerds, here is the link to some of the other slides in my job talk. I could not have anticipated the pandemic nor its impact on higher education; yet, these topics remain vital to the success of our institution and higher education writ large. Indeed, many of the questions I raised about the winds of change are still vital today.

Kate Slide 2: Priorities

Turnover in the VPFA position will maximize faculty talent, distributed leadership, and shared governance.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as DU’s inaugural VPFA. I am grateful to then-Provost Jeremy Haefner for his foresight and vision to create the position. The VPFA role is essential to the healthy functioning of a university and builds the necessary resources to support faculty across their careers.


For this reason, I believe in a healthy turnover for the VPFA role. Myriad talented faculty leaders across campus will bring their particular gifts to the role and expand our collective imagination of what leadership can be. Distributed leadership will help change DU for the better. 


Being an academic leader is a life-consuming task, and the fatigue and emotional labor of being an administrator is real.

I began my journey in faculty leadership as the incoming Faculty Senate President in 2015. Being a servant leader has been a fulfilling and enriching part of my career, and I have loved (most) of it. Yet, the work of higher education administrators is yeoman. If you do your job well, most people never know how many problems you solved. In this work, I have gained a deep appreciation for my dean colleagues and colleagues in the Provost and Chancellor’s offices for their tireless work on behalf of faculty, students, and staff alike. 


I offer special thanks to the Office of Teaching and Learning staff for being a central engine of institutional change and faculty support. I am grateful for the privilege of serving in this role and for the generous support I received from the provosts I worked with. As a servant leader, I only want to serve if I can give 100%. Thus, I’m choosing to leave before I burn out or become a diminished version of myself. I am excited to pass the baton to the next faculty leader. 


I love being a faculty member and am ready to return to the professoriate

After a sabbatical with research travels to Italy and Japan, I am excited to return to my role in the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS). I look forward to learning from and with all of you about what it means to meet today’s student needs and find new vitality in teaching. I look forward to returning to my research and writing, as well as to my scholarly and collegial communities.


I am deeply grateful to the colleagues who served alongside me during this journey.  

My life and career have been immeasurably enriched by serving alongside faculty and staff across campus. Special thanks to the Chair Advisory Board and Faculty Affairs Associate Deans, as well as the Workload Equity Committee, the Teaching Excellence Task Force, IChange colleagues, and the COVID support committee. I am especially grateful to the faculty who served as fellows, resident scholars, and coordinators of VPFA and OTL initiatives. We have an embarrassment of riches at DU when it comes to faculty talent, committed teacher scholars, and many delightful colleagues across campus. Thank you to each and every colleague I have worked with.


I am delighted to steward the next VPFA into success in the role. 

My last day will be March 17, 2023, after which I will go on sabbatical. Before my departure, I will consult with and onboard the next VPFA. The new VPFA will likewise benefit from the sage support and counsel of Dr. Leslie Cramblet Alvarez, Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning, Dr. Alison Staudinger, Director of Faculty Development and Career Advancement, and other talented VPFA and OTL staff.


Finally, I hope the search is wildly successful. I greatly appreciate our colleagues on the search committee, and the leadership of chairs Professor Lisa Martinez and Dean Michael Levine Clark, for their work to select the next VPFA.


Kate signature


Kate Willink, Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs


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