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Beth Boehm honored for service to UofL

April 15th, 2009

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Beth Boehm

Beth Boehm
English, College of Arts and Sciences
Service to the University of Louisville

With the exception of career awards, Distinguished Faculty Awards are given based on a faculty member’s activity over the past five years.

This year’s recipient of the award for Distinguished Service to the University of Louisville has had a busy five years. During that time, English professor Beth Boehm has served on universitywide committees for the budget, compliance, academic performance, accreditation, strategic planning and governance; as co-chair of the search committee for the executive vice president for research; as vice chair and chair of the Faculty Senate; and as faculty Board of Trustee member. That list is extensive, but it is not exhaustive.

The extent of her service makes it clear that when a problem arises, she is one of the first people administration turns to for a solution, said Susan Griffin, chair of the English department in her letter of support for Boehm’s nomination.

“Beth’s capacity to be critical-minded, sympathetic, and just (that’s the adjective), whether to individuals, or classes or the institution as a whole, are the more important characteristics that she brings to all her service, and she uses those characteristics in every task and assignment,” said Dale Billingsley, vice provost for undergraduate affairs.

“The foundation for my commitment to service began in English and A&S,” Boehm said. “I served first on search committees in my department, on the personnel committee in the college and as undergraduate director, as graduate director and vice chair.”

Her entree into universitywide service came after she became involved with the Faculty Senate as a non-senator serving on the Redbook Committee. The group is responsible for considering and recommending changes to the senate on the university’s constitutional document.

Sen. Dennis Hall, also of the English department, had asked Boehm to serve on the committee. When he became chair of the Faculty Senate and asked her to run for a seat, she felt obligated to do so.

“I felt like I couldn’t say no,” she said.

Boehm rose through the ranks of the senate. In 2004 she was elected vice chair. She was elected chair in 2006.

“My work with the Faculty Senate moved me outside of the department of English and the College of Arts and Sciences,” she said. “The senate provided me with a terrific education about universitywide issues, including budget matters and personnel matters. I guess that education made me a natural choice for a number of committees.”

A recipient of a 2003 Distinguished Faculty Award for teaching, Boehm said that receiving the service award is different.

“I’m really proud of the teaching award, because I think of myself as a teacher and it meant a great deal to me to have my students write all those letters on my behalf,” she said.

“I think of service as much less public than teaching in some ways, as much less ‘glamorous.’ When you serve on a personnel committee or budget committee, it’s hugely important work, but it isn’t noticed in the same way,” she said. “So I guess this award means a great deal in that it’s a public recognition of work that is largely done within committees and behind the scenes. It’s nice to know that all that time in meetings is valued by someone!”

“I think a commitment to graduate education and a commitment to faculty governance are the two things that tie most of the work together; if you say you’re committed to faculty governance, you better be ready to serve when your chair or dean or provost come knocking on your door,” she said.

“When I was a kid, if you complained about dinner, my mom said, ‘Eat what you brought.’ I feel the same way about faculty governance: if you don’t like something, then you better get involved to improve it or you forfeit the right to complain. People who know me well know that I don’t want to forfeit that right.”

Editor’s Note: President James Ramsey will present the 2009 Distinguished Faculty Awards and the President’s Exemplary Multicultural Teaching Award April 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Celebration for Faculty Excellence. The event is open to the university community and will be in the auditorium of the Speed Art Museum, 2035 S. Third St.

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