New Faculty Senate president Mollenkopf shares vision for UNK

KEARNEY – Dawn Mollenkopf is back in a familiar position.

The associate professor of teacher education will serve as Faculty Senate president at the University of Nebraska at Kearney for 2019-20, succeeding counseling and school psychology professor Grace Mims, who was recently named interim dean of the College of Education.

Mollenkopf is entering her 11th year on Faculty Senate, having previously served as president in 2012-13. She’s been a UNK faculty member since 2003.

In her role as Faculty Senate president, Mollenkopf will meet monthly with the UNK executive cabinet and University of Nebraska Board of Regents while advocating on behalf of faculty members and promoting the advancement of UNK.

What makes you the right person to lead Faculty Senate?
UNK is in a very different position than it was seven years ago. We are experiencing greater changes with higher impact and deeper consequences. There are people who wonder whether higher education should exist. There are questions about the stability and future of our campuses. We are seeing a lot of administrative and organizational changes at UNK and in the NU system as a whole. There are challenges and concerns, but also new opportunities with changes. Since I have served as president before, I believe that leadership experience will enable me to better reach out, hear these concerns and help support faculty, and the campus in general, through these changes.

What are your goals as president?
In times of change and challenges, I want to make sure that faculty are involved in helping UNK to navigate these changes, turn changes into opportunities and help form a strong future. I also want to provide stronger ties between the Staff and Faculty Senates and student government to more cohesively address these challenges and changes.

With the STEM building and Early Childhood Education Center opening in the near future, what opportunities do you see for UNK?
We have had a number of really wonderful changes at UNK. Having the University of Nebraska Medical Center at Kearney has opened multiple opportunities for UNK, and Nebraska as a whole. I anticipate the STEM building and LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center will continue to build partnerships across the campus, the NU system, Nebraska and beyond. These can only strengthen UNK’s presence and its ability to make a difference.

Mollenkopf’s plan of action:

Keep UNK in the forefront
With waning support for higher education, faculty can work together to keep UNK in the forefront by showcasing the strengths of their programs and telling their stories, highlighting the impact they have on the students they serve, supporting events such as “I Love NU Day” and connecting with Regents, Central Administration, legislators, alumni and community members who can also further tell these stories. UNK does make a difference.

Keep UNK growing
We are experiencing declining enrollments while serving increasingly diverse, nontraditional student populations. There are new and emerging initiatives on campus to help UNK better address these students and keep UNK growing. We are recruiting from Colorado and Kansas. The Office of Multicultural Affairs has become the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion. The Admissions Office has initiated Conozca UNK to reach Spanish-speaking families. UNK is laying the groundwork for a first-generation initiative, which includes faculty in the planning. Faculty can work with these initiatives and capitalize on ways to recruit these students into their programs and provide meaningful supports to ensure their success. Faculty also are particularly influential in creating meaningful connections with students and providing quality learning experiences and there will be increased opportunities for them to showcase experiential learning occurring in their programs, which can be a drawing card for future Lopers.

Keep UNK vibrant
We are also challenged to keep UNK vibrant during times of declining fiscal resources and uneven enrollments. In an environment of “doing more with less,” some programs are trying to adjust to low enrollments while others are struggling to make current resources adequate for the growth they are experiencing. Recruiting and retaining highly qualified and diverse faculty is a challenge. As UNK continues to explore better ways to address these needs, faculty can advocate for their program needs and collaborate in new and creative ways to problem solve with other faculty with similar needs.

Keep UNK connected
Finally, the uncertainty that occurs during times of change creates tensions that can inadvertently break down communication and create barriers to collaboration. Instead of allowing that to happen, we need to keep UNK connected. To do this, we need to make sure we have a welcoming, respectful, supportive environment for students, faculty and staff. In general, we have a welcoming campus, but UNK’s recent diversity survey indicates some areas for improvement. In the spring, faculty were able to attend diversity forums on the survey and they can expect further opportunities for dialogue and professional development in the coming year. Faculty and staff also share a lot of the same concerns about UNK and have similar hopes and dreams for its future. Recently, UNK spearheaded a Kearney 2030 initiative that included both staff and faculty to help envision UNK’s future. As UNK continues to explore its future, faculty and staff can continue to help shape this vision.

Title: Associate professor of teacher education
Years at UNK: 16
Education: Bachelor of Arts, elementary education, Andrews University, 1988; Master of Science, special education, cross-categorical disabilities, University of Oregon, 1989; Doctorate, special education policy integration, secondary emphasis in early childhood education, University of Kansas, 2002.
Career: Primary grades teacher, Tillamook Elementary School (Oregon), 1989-91; Special education instructor, Walla Walla College (Washington), 1991-92; Research assistant/practicum supervisor, Utah State University, Center for Persons with Disabilities, 1992-94; Grades 1-2 teacher, Park City Jewish Center Religious School (Utah), 1996-97; PK-6 administrator, Park City Jewish Center Religious School, 1997-98; Special projects assistant, regional Head Start program, 1998; Graduate assistant/practicum student supervisor, University of Kansas, Educare and Jayhawk Learning Center, 1999-2000; Research evaluator, University of Kansas, Institute for Educational Research and Public Service, 2001-03; Assistant professor, UNK, 2003-08; Associate professor, UNK, 2009-present.
Awards: David Stevenson Faculty Senate Distinguished Service Award, UNK, 2018; Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award, University of Nebraska, 2014; Creative Teaching Award, UNK, 2011-13; College of Education Outstanding Service Award, UNK, 2013; Academy for Teacher Education Excellence inductee, UNK, 2012; Nebraska Children’s Champion Award, Region VII Head Start, 2012; Mortar Board Faculty Recognition, UNK, 2008, 2017.