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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - September 2019

By Mary Jane Chew

Focus on Faculty

Meet Cheryl Cooky; a conversation with the Chair of the Faculty Senate

Cheryl Cooky joined Purdue as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in Health and Kinesiology and Women’s Studies in August 2009.  Fast forward 10 years and she’s now a full professor in the College of Liberal Arts — in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies — with a joint appointment in American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is also serving as the chair of the University Senate. We talked with Cooky about teaching, her life outside of class and a few Senate goals for this year.

Q: The best part of teaching is ...?

The best part of teaching is interacting with the students and getting to know them as people. When you get to know the students, you can see — not just in terms of their grades or performance — how they grow and develop. It is a joy to see students transform over the course of the semester. Maybe it’s the student who is shy, who gains confidence speaking in class; or the student who does not like the subject matter at first and then later develops an appreciation for what they’ve learned. I enjoy when I hear from students, either the end of the semester or a few years down the road. Often these communications are expressions of appreciation; they thank me for exposing them to different perspectives they had not considered. Sometimes they tell me, “I didn’t realize it at the time, but your course really changed the way I think about X.” One student was able to apply the research skills she learned in my courses to research she was conducting for her job (she was an officer in the Marines). Knowing the impact we have on our students is quite humbling, and rewarding. This makes all the hard work prepping lectures, developing activities, grading papers and exams all worthwhile!

Q: When not teaching, how do you like to spend your “free” time?

Please let me rephrase the question, “When not teaching, or conducting research, writing a book manuscript or journal articles, editing or reviewing papers for a journal, attending departmental meetings, answering emails, attending Senate committee meetings, mentoring students, taking calls from journalists ….”

I like to spend my time walking my dogs Payton (5-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback) and Wrigley (10-year-old chocolate Labrador) in Happy Hollow Park while listening to podcasts, going out to dinner (either McGraw’s or East End Grill) with my husband, Orasio (he works in Chicago during the week, so it’s a great way to catch up), running outside or working out at the Co-Rec, enjoying a glass of fine wine with friends (you know who you are!), enjoying a good bourbon with colleagues (you know who you are!), attending Purdue Convos or Purdue Theatre events, going to or watching sporting events, and traveling to new cities/countries. I hope someday to add “playing golf,” but I go so infrequently it would seem disingenuous to list it as a hobby. 

Q: What will the Senate be working on this academic year?

In addition to the business of standing committees, President Daniels’ proposal to address civics literacy is under consideration, ongoing from last year. Academic rigor is another issue that I anticipate the Senate considering. We look forward to working with the new vice provost for diversity and inclusion, John Gates, and supporting the exciting initiatives coming out of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, including the “Maximizing Student Potential” initiative, among others. The Senate will also address the myriad questions and concerns we receive from faculty, students, and staff and do our best to address those in a timely manner.

Q: What would you like faculty and staff to know about the Senate?

That we are only as good as the sum of our parts. Departments and colleges should take care to elect senators who are willing and able to attend Senate meetings, communicate Senate business and report back to their departments. Departments and colleges should also recognize and reward faculty so as to ensure that those who do serve are appropriately recognized for their service.

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