Foundation Award for Service

Sharmistha Self

Sharmistha Self

College of Humanities and Public Affairs

I. Philosophy of Service

According to the dictionary, service means ‘an act of helpful activity’. Helpful activity should be motivated by thoughts of helping others. That to me is the true spirit of service. I believe that service (whether it be to the department, college, university, and/or the larger community) is an integral part of academic life. Without the crucial integration between teaching, research and service it is hard to achieve the true meaning of an academic career. Additionally, what makes service even more important at this university is that it ties in meaningfully with the public affairs mission at Missouri State University. I see service as an opportunity for collaboration, learning, knowledge-sharing, leadership, and creativity. I believe in being a team-player, which means getting involved and doing what it takes to make the team successful. This means seeing the bigger picture, understanding the meaning of team-spirit, uniting people and motivating them to do what is best. It also means understanding that service is not for my immediate personal gain (even though there are indirect gains for me too) but for the benefit of the community where I serve.

II. Examples of service including service to University, discipline and community

I have been active in service from the very beginning. With time, I have taken on greater responsibility and leadership roles by serving on and chairing several important committees. I have also remained active in service in the economics profession by volunteering to chair and discuss papers at various academic conferences, reviewing papers for economics journals and serving on the editorial board of a few academic journals. At the university level I have chaired the Gender Studies Committee, Faculty Concerns Committee, Committee on the Electronic Curricular Process, and the more recently, the Faculty Senate. I have served on and chaired numerous departmental committees and served on many college and university committees. I believe I was nominated for the position of Faculty Senate Chair elect in 2014 because my colleagues recognized my commitment to service and leadership. Being Chair Elect of Faculty Senate came with many responsibilities including serving as ex-officio on a number of committees. Aside from my service obligations as Senate Chair Elect, I was appointed by the university President to serve on the Visioning Report steering committee in 2014. Thereafter I Chaired the Visioning Task Force on Diversity which produced the Diversity aspect of the Visioning Report. I worked with a large team of professionals from both within and outside the University for this Task Force and produced a Strong Visioning Report on Diversity which was approved by the Board in summer of 2015. I started the job of chairing the Faculty Senate in May 2015. In fall of 2015 I was appointed to serve on the university’s Long Range Plan steering committee. Currently, I am co-chairing the Funding Task Force for the Long Range Plan.

I see my greatest contribution to service being the role I played in transforming the archaic pen-and paper curricular process at this university into a fully electronic one. The curricular process is a complicated process. It encompasses many steps, approvals and timelines before each new course, course change, program change or new program ever reaches publication in the catalog. Carrying out all these steps using paper forms made it highly time-consuming, often taking several months from the inception of a curricular proposal to its appearance in the catalog for students to be able to enroll in the class. The process was also prone to human error and lacked transparency. Additionally, the record-keeping aspect was extremely cumbersome and unwieldly. The slow-paced curricular process (which was in place) was hurting students by not being able to offer all the courses we could offer them and not being able to make required changes to the curricular offerings in a timely manner. What was apparent was that we needed to move to an electronic process. I found out that this had been tried several times in the past but had been unsuccessful attempts. Thus, I realized that if I wanted to bring about this transformation to the existing curricular process, I needed to make a real commitment to it and that failure was not an option. Soon I secured Senate, upper administration and Board approval and started working on this. I was fortunate enough to find and put together a team of dedicated individuals who were willing to put in the additional time commitment it took to make this transformation a reality. None of us did it for money or any other tangible return. We were all committed to helping the university and we were all committed to make this happen. We put in hundreds of hours of additional work especially over summer of 2015. In fall of 2015 (just a year after starting the process) we rolled out the electronic curricular process. We had successfully transformed the curricular process at no additional cost to the university. We also took on the task of educating the university community on how to work with the new system. Today we are successfully processing hundreds of fully-electronic curricular proposals on a daily basis.

III. Future Commitment to Service

The electronic curricular process is far from being completed. As more and more curricular proposals get filed and different issues arise, I have to get together with my team and figure out how we are going to make changes to the process. At the heart of everything we do, is to make the electronic process smooth and intuitively simple for faculty, administrators and the staff to use. Thus, this will remain an on-going process. My work on the University’s Long Range Plan is also far from over. In addition, my involvement with Faculty Senate will remain on-going as well, at least for another year. Currently, I serve on and chair a number of departmental committees, which will continue. I also serve on College and University committees. I am sure as my terms of those committees expire, newer challenges and opportunities will come along. Bottom-line, I am committee to service and see myself getting increasingly involved in different service and leadership opportunities in the future.

IV. Topics related to service for which you are available for presentations and/or consultations

  • Faculty Senate
  • Electronic Curricular process
  • Shared Governance