Senator Spotlight September 2023

YOUR NAME: Elisa Jayne Bienenstock

What unit do you represent?  School of Public Affairs (Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions).

How many years have you served in the Senate?  I just started my second 3-year term in the Senate.

How many years have you been employed at ASU? 9 years.

What other institutions have you taught at before coming to ASU? I started my academic career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill followed by appointments at Stanford University, and the University of California, Irvine. After the events of 9-11, I was recruited from academia and turned my focus to national security at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. in the Washington, D.C. area. During this time, I continued teaching part-time at Georgetown University. Just prior to joining the faculty at ASU, I was a Program Manager at the Army Research Office supporting basic science research in the quantitative and computational social sciences.

What is your research and/or creative activities focus?  As a trained mathematical sociologist, I formally and mathematically model social phenomenon using a variety of techniques that include and integrate game theory, social network analysis, and a broad array of statistical methods. My ongoing projects, mostly sponsored by grants from the Department of Defense (e.g., Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Army Research Office, Defense Advance Research Project Agency and others), include work on resilience, social capital, norms and conformity, organizational efficiency, pollen forensics, and academic collaboration networks and their impact on inclusion and interdisciplinarity. I also continue to work with a variety of offices of the federal government and FFRDCs to develop methods and tools to advance their social science research capability.  

Why did you decide to get involved with the Senate?

Faculty governance is critical to the functioning of any academic institution, but at ASU engagement more important because of the size and diversity represented at this University. I jumped at the opportunity to participate because I thought I would bring an important and different perspective to the Senate as a fixed-term / career track research faculty member from the Downtown Campus who also is the parent of a 2nd year undergraduate attending ASU. As institutions grow, good communication and participation are always at risk. My research focus on organizational structure is a constant reminder of the importance of efficient two-way communication between the core decision-making entities of an organization and the “boots on the ground,” the natural real time sensors of the health and needs of the organization, at ASU this is the faculty and students. I view service on the Senate as an opportunity to engage with and learn from colleagues representing all backgrounds, types of academic disciplines, contract structures, and student populations to advance our shared goal of ensuring the healthy growth and evolution of ASU and its mission and values. 

Describe what you have learned (or hope to learn) during your time in the Senate?

The Senate truly represents diverse perspectives and Senators bring to the floor important topics and concerns that otherwise would never see light. By serving on the Senate, I learned that the system is quite democratic and responsive when issues are presented. Being among the first to be alerted to problems that arise within the University and to witness the concern and the actions of dedicated faculty working to resolve issues is very fulfilling. I learned that the faculty care and work hard to make ASU a better place for their colleagues and our students.

What committees have you participated in, or would like to participate in and what were you able to (or hope to) accomplish

I have not been appointed to any official committee yet, but look forward to serving in any capacity my peers think will best serve the institution. The time for minimizing the legacy distinction between career and tenure track faculty is overdue and I would love to be involved in aligning theory with reality. I would also love to work on committees that ensure academic and research excellence.

What would you say to your peers who might be considering accepting a nomination or nominating himself or herself for a position in the University Senate?

The Senate can be a lot of work, but it is also rewarding. If you feel change is needed then time on the Senate is opportunity to work with peers to make ASU work better for you and your unit.

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