Record Number of Women Serving as Department Chair for 2022-2023

In the 2022-2023 academic year of FIU, six women were appointed as department chairs, bringing the percentage of chairs at FIU that are women to 27% (25 of 92 chairs). The six included three that were appointed as the first woman chair in their respective departments: Mihaela Pintea in Economics, Kimberly Taylor in Marketing and Logistics, and Bianca Premo in History. The other three of the six new chairs are serving departments that previously have had a woman chair, including: Tori Arpad-Cotta, Art & Art History, Susan Jacobson, Journalism & Media, and Dana McMakin, Psychology.


Top row (L to R): Mihaela Pintea, Kimberly Taylor, Bianca Premo
Bottom row (L to R): Tori Arpad-Cotta, Susan Jacobson, Dana McMakin

The role of Chair is a key leadership position. A majority of the department’s faculty as well as the dean of the school or college must approve of the nominee in order to be selected as Chair. Chairs represent their departments at the college level and help articulate college and university policies and priorities within their departments. They also convey and represent faculty interests to the Dean. This important leadership role may lead to other administrative roles, such as Associate Dean or Dean. The appointment of more women as Chair increases the pool of women available for higher-level appointments; in many colleges and departments, these appointments also bring new diversity to the people and views represented in higher-level decision-making. Though the idea of a woman chairing a department is no longer a new concept, it is still a milestone when a woman is selected.
Nationally, women comprise about 50% of History faculty ( “History is a founding department at FIU,” Bianca Premo said. “And it’s been around as long as FIU has. So, it is remarkable that there has not been a woman chair until my colleagues voted for me as interim and I stepped into the position in Fall 2022. It’s important for men colleagues to know that their ongoing, open support of women students and faculty is critical. That said, representation matters a great deal.”
“Part of the reason we have never had a woman chair was because I had turned down the job twice before!” Kimberly Taylor remarked. “In the College of Business, only tenured professors can serve as department Chair, and I was the only tenured woman in the department for about 15 years. So, there weren't any others to choose from! Thus, part of the problem is the pipeline issue and just not having enough women with the right rank and experience. But my field, while not 50-50, does have plenty of women with PhD [About 40% of marketing professors nationally are women] so I'm really not sure why it took us until about 2015 to tenure another woman.”
“Academia as a whole certainly is [male dominated],” Taylor says. “And the further up the ladder you go, the fewer women there are in most disciplines.”
“Historically, when women rise into certain professions, that profession becomes devalued,” Premo observes. “As women have increasingly joined the ranks of the professoriate, especially in Humanities and Social Sciences fields, their fields tend to be regarded as “soft” and somewhat disposable areas of study. I wonder if it will happen with university leadership positions too, as more and more women rise as Chair and into administrative positions. I hope not.”
“In my sub field of child clinical science,” Dana McMakin observes. “Women have been the numerical majority in graduate programs since at least the time of my own enrollment as a doctoral student more than 20 years ago when there were >90% women in my program. At the time, I remember noticing that although students mostly identified as women, the faculty mostly identified as men. I assumed that structure would equilibrate as a function of time.”
The position of Chair is very challenging. In addition to their ongoing work as teachers and scholars, Chairs mentor and evaluate their colleagues, supervise office staff, oversee curricula, student programs, and scheduling, manage budgets, and ensure that college, university, and state policies are upheld.
“It is challenging but it is also very rewarding and interesting,” DeEtta Mills says. Mills, the current Chair of Biological Sciences, is not the first woman to chair her department, but still faces challenges in the role. “The main difficulties of course are probably common across the board and that is the budget constraints we are facing. We have higher demands for classes and seats in the classes but are at the maximum that we can ask our faculty to do to help cover the classes. So, again, a common problem, the need for more faculty in order to provide our students with the classes they need in order to be able to graduate on time.”
“I've always loved teaching, especially in the studio where much of the work is hands-on and we work together solving interesting problems,” Tori Arpad-Cotta reflects. “But changes in our department led to stress and conflict for faculty and students alike. Conversations with my colleagues revealed that I might be better positioned to take on this role than others who were in earlier stages of establishing their careers. More importantly, I knew we needed to address the conflict fairly, to focus on constructive initiatives, and to rebuild community and trust.”
Traditionally, the Chair’s job is sometimes seen as a “line-position” that may lead to further administrative roles. However, many of the current Chairs do not view the position as a stepping-stone.
“A colleague once seemed puzzled when I did not express interest in a high-profile opportunity that was, to my mind, disconnected from our core mission to teach and research,” Premo recalls, reflecting on the role of the position of professor versus administrator. “I admire people driven to lead and I am very happy to step up to serve my community. All capable faculty should take their turn as Chair. But I worry that we have come to see ordinary faculty work as somehow uninspiring or unglamorous. The most power you can have is not on any fifth floor; it’s at the front of a classroom.”
“I can see how the Chair's position would easily prepare someone for higher level administrative positions,” Susan Jacobson observes. “You really are on the front line as a Chair. All the department's business comes flying at you all of the time, and you have to figure out, quickly, how to organize, prioritize and motivate. I do love teaching and I like research. It would be hard to give that up.”In terms of considering future administrative jobs, Dana McMakin commented,I have always been someone who holds an open mind to the future and just keeps stepping forward toward things that bring me meaning and generally fit with my skillset. So, if history repeats, my future will include work that I find meaningful. What job title goes along with that work is less clear to me at this time, but I look forward to gaining the experience I need to know the answer!”

Continuing women chairs include:

  • Elena Bastida, Health Promotion & Disease Prevention
  • Pascal Becel, Modern Languages
  • Monica Cardella, SUCCEED
  • Rita Cauce, Cataloging
  • Karlene Cousins, Information Systems and Business Analytics
  • Genevieve Diamond, Access Services
  • Lori Driver, Government Resources and Information
  • Gricel Dominguez, Information and Research Services (BBC)
  • Zhaohui (Jennifer) Fu, GIS Center and Digital Collection
  • Karen Fuller, Music
  • Amalia Landa Galindez, Translational Medicine
  • Jin Xiu Guo, Technical Services
  • Mary Helen Hayden, School of Social Work
  • Deidra Hodges, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Monica Hough, Communication Sciences & Disorders
  • Elana Karshmer, Information and Research Services (MMC)
  • Sarah Mathews, Teaching and Learning
  • DeEtta Mills, Biological Sciences
  • Michelle Odai, Athletic Training
  • Marie Olenick, Undergraduate Nursing
  • Vrushali Patel, Global & Sociocultural Studies
  • Cristina Palacios, Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Lynn Richard, Occupational Therapy
  • Rosa Roche, Graduate Nursing
  • Althea Silvera, Special Collections
  • Lisa Stoltzenberg, Criminology & Criminal Justice
  • Tami Thomas, PhD Nursing Program
  • Mary Jo Trepka, Epidemiology
  • Chanadra Whiting, Health Services Administration
  • In Medicine, there are 19 chairs; only one is a woman: Amalia Landa-Galinde, Translational Medicine

Congratulations and thanks to all these women for taking on this important leadership role. Your dedication is greatly appreciated!