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Katrina Piatek-Jimenez begins first semester as academic senate chairperson


Katrina Piatek-Jimenez has been encouraged by colleagues to take more leadership roles for years. 

It wasn’t until she was approached with an opportunity by Brad Swanson, former academic senate chairperson, that she made the step toward leadership in the senate. 

“When Brad approached me and asked me to consider this position, I decided this might be a good way for me to serve the CMU community,” Piatek-Jimenez said.

Central Michigan University’s Academic Senate welcomed Piatek-Jimenez as its new chairperson earlier this month. She was nominated and voted in by her fellow senators last semester. She'll continue to hold her position as a professor while taking on new responsibilities.

The academic senate's executive board consists of the chair, a student senator, faculty senators and the university president and provost. The executive board sets an agenda and plans discussion topics for each meeting. The senate body comprises faculty members from each department, deans of each college and student senators. 

Starting off the first full semester of virtual meetings brings some challenges to the position. The biggest of which is in the sometimes unreliable nature of technology, and effectively communicating with a live-streamed audience. 

To solve some of these issues, Piatek-Jimenez has incorporated ideas from the classroom to help communicate with senators. For example, she has members use the chat feature to ask questions over their microphones instead of reading questions from a text chain. 

It’s small innovations like this that allow the remotely streamed meeting to run smoothly,

“Many of us have gotten good at Webex. Before COVID-19, I had never once hosted a Webex meeting,” Piatek-Jimenez said. “Now, I think that many faculty are confident and comfortable with and have found ways to make it work.”

Piatek-Jimenez is confident she's the right person for the job. One of her goals will be to treat every policy and procedure with a sense of equity so that no party is treated unjustly.

She said it's possible for policies and procedures to be written in ways that can ostracize certain people. This is something she became familiar with while studying gender and racial stereotypes within the math field.

“One thing I hope to bring to the table is to use an equity lens when viewing policies and procedures when brought to the senate,” Piatek-Jimenez said. “I think this is a really important thing, I think that would be something that I personally can bring to this position.”

She hopes to incorporate this idea into all of the policies and procedures of the senate committees to make sure policies brought to the table benefit everybody if adopted.

Piatek-Jimenez will be serving for at least one full year with the possibility of serving multiple terms.

Piatiek-Jimenez formerly taught mathematics at Central Michigan University for 16 years and has been an active member of the academic senate for 13 of those years.