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New University of Wyoming Faculty Senate Chair Michael Barker makes it clear that the education of UW students is the senate’s highest priority.
Barker, UW Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering professor, is undaunted by the fact that he assumes leadership of the senate at a time when the university faces possible budget cuts due to anticipated declines in state revenues. Despites the concerns, he says students and their families can be assured the university is doing everything it can to ensure students continue to receive the same high-quality education they have come to expect from the state’s only four-year public university.
“We have a good faculty that truly cares about the students,” he says. “Our job is to overcome the obstacles and maximize our opportunities. We may need to adjust some of our priorities and adjust some of our workloads, but we certainly can do that.”
The Faculty Senate does not have to work alone in the effort to maintain UW’s educational quality in the event the budget is reduced. Barker knows that maintaining a successful university during challenging times requires the cooperation of the faculty, staff, students and central administration. As an experienced faculty representative serving his second three-year term on the senate, Barker is certain the strong cooperation among the four groups will continue.
“We’ve worked well with these groups, and there is no doubt we are all in this together,” he says. “And, together, we’ll manage to get through these times of budget constraints.”
Managing a university budget is a complicated endeavor, and Barker says the faculty doesn’t necessarily have to be involved in the specifics of the budget process to be effective.
“What we can do is offer support, and give advice on prioritization, share our vision, and make sure academic programs are given due consideration,” Barker says. “The administration has the students’ best interests in mind, and is working diligently to try to manage what we hope is just a short-term problem.”
Dealing with the budget situation is just one of the areas in which the Faculty Senate is involved. Senators are responsible for developing, maintaining and improving curriculum and, through various committee assignments, must manage a myriad of university issues pertaining to faculty governance. The senate is devoting a great deal of time to UW’s self-assessment process and the lively discourse about changes in the university’s general education requirements, among other issues.
Barker encourages all faculty members to work with their elected faculty senate members to address issues of concern. He plans to outline the senate’s itinerary and define the role of the Faculty Senate at the group’s first meeting in the fall.
A UW faculty member since 2003, Barker teaches courses in statics, dynamics, structural analysis, building system design, and steel and steel bridge design. His primary research pertains to steel bridges, experimental testing, bridge field testing and high performance steel. He has advised more than 40 graduate students.
Additionally, he has been involved in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue program since 1992. He has been deployed to the World Trade Center disaster, Hurricane Katrina and the New Zealand earthquakes and he is a lead instructor for Rescue Engineering courses across the country.