Faculty governance is getting a new face as William Heiss assumes the position of interim secretary of faculty for a six-month appointment.
Heiss, who spent 25 years in UW’s School of Social Work and is a former assistant director of the school, will serve as the liaison between faculty and administration. He started in the appointment on Jan. 6.
Heiss said UW is unlike many other institutions around the country because it has a “very, very strong” faculty governance ethic, as because faculty share the responsibility of running the university with the administration.
The elevated responsibility among UW faculty is one of the reasons for Heiss’ position, which he said ensures faculty members effectively execute their responsibilities and that their rights are preserved.
“There’s a set of faculty policies and procedures. There’s faculty legislation, all of that needs to be monitored and implemented,” Heiss said, “My job is to do whatever it takes to enhance and support faculty rights and faculty governance.”
Heiss said the challenges he currently faces mainly involve the learning curve that comes along with a new position, he said.
As the assistant director of the School of Social Work, Heiss said his job mostly involved curriculum implementation and policy. He said he wrote training grants for undergraduate and graduate students and worked on managing both the budget and advising services. The managerial skills Heiss garnered from his time as assistant director will help him in his new role, he said.
Heiss said he will miss the people he worked with “terribly” and will also miss interacting with students.
“I had a lot more direct student contact, and I’m going to miss that,” he said.
Although Heiss interacts primarily with faculty and administration relations, his work still has an impact on student life, as students also have a voice in the university governance, he said.
He added students have the opportunity to have their voices heard by the University Committee, a body he works closely with.
Heiss said he does not have a specific goal that he wants to accomplish during his time as secretary of faculty and that he believes UW is well-equipped in terms of faculty.
Heiss knows first hand how critical university support can be. In the 90s, he traveled to Vietnam to work on a social work related project.
“The school just embraced that . . . It enhances the image of the profession and the university,” Heiss said. ”When opportunity happens at the university, people are really supportive.”
Heiss said he feels his role as an administrator is easier and more enjoyable due to the administrative support of many faculty-related endeavors.
The faculty and administration already have a great working relationship, he said, adding he hopes to maintain the positive environment.
“This is an amazing place, and faculty do such amazing things. Their research is so great. We lead the way in so many ways because of our faculty,” Heiss said. “This position is an honor. This is a privilege in many ways.”