By: Austin Belisle
Elna Green is the Associate Vice President of Faculty Affairs, a conductor at the head of a speeding bullet train whose engines are always running. “It’s really the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t even know takes place a lot of times. You don’t see it; you don’t know how it happens. We’re the people behind the scenes that keep the trains running.”
As the 2013-2014 school year comes to an end, students and faculty are leaving campus for summer vacation. Green and the Office of Faculty Affairs, however, are working hard behind the scenes to ensure the university is ready for the upcoming fall semester.
“We work all summer, because when everyone arrives in the fall, there will be classes scheduled and rooms reserved and there will be teachers hired,” Green says. “All this stuff will have been put in place for students coming back because we have been working all summer.”
Green’s role as Associate Vice President involves a wide range of responsibilities, most of which include faculty employment at the university. She’s been the AVP for two years, and before that, was the Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Arts.
The scope of work is much larger than faculty employment though; her office handles a number of tasks that affect the 1,700 faculty campus-wide.
The Office of Faculty Affairs is part of the Division of Academic Affairs and oversees all academic personnel processes for tenured, tenure-track, retired, part-time and full-time faculty. “We help to recruit them, we help to hire and appoint them, we help to tenure and promote them, and we help with sabbatical leaves. We help to get people into retirement and into the FERP program,” Green says with a smile, as the sun shines through her office window.
While Green attributes a majority of the faculty hiring process to her full-time staff of six, Faculty Affairs also works in conjunction with the Center for Faculty Development.
“Amy Strage is the director; she’s in charge of running all the programming, like workshops and training for faculty to help them learn teaching skills, help them learn research skills and help them find grants.”
These skills include instruction in SJSU’s online Canvas system, which many faculty use in the classroom as a teaching tool and database for grades and files.
Green acknowledges the work isn't high profile. But it has an immediate impact on not only faculty, but students and staff at the university.
“The days where you walk home with a little bounce in your step is when I know I’ve helped somebody solve a problem that they though was insurmountable,” Green says with a beaming smile.
Faculty often run into red tape or unforeseen issues, but its Green’s job as a problem-solver to ensure the train stays on its tracks. A professor may find difficulty applying for a grant, requesting time off or adding a class to their schedule, but Green’s favorite part of the job is when she can stare those problems in the face and overcome them.
“Those are the kind of things I do that I enjoy the most; finding a solution to a problem.”
As students and faculty finish their finals and pack up for a three-month summer break, Green and her staff are busy finding solutions to daily problems that may arise.
“We’re busy getting the fall semester ready in ways that would surprise how far ahead we have to project out,” Green says. “We’re trying to get next year underway as well.”
The train is well on its way to the next stop; Fall 2014. But the tracks run for miles and problems are bound to arise. Fortunately for SJSU, Elna Green’s in the pilot’s seat.
“We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just the next phase, the next season, we just keep moving forward.”