It’s hard to say what Martha Mecartney will do as the new chair of the Academic Senate, but one thing’s certain: She’ll keep things interesting.

Mecartney, professor of chemical engineering and materials science in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, isn’t
the type to “fade into the blackboard.” Her colorful style is well known in the classroom. In one memorable dramatization, she had students compress eggs in their hands to demonstrate the resiliency of the shell’s design. When it was over,Mecartney had egg, well, not on her face exactly – but all over the lecture hall.

“It probably wasn’t such a great idea.We ended up with egg on the ceiling. After that, we did the experiment outside,” says Mecartney, whose scholarly activities include research on advanced ceramic materials supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.

“You have to do all kinds of crazy things to engage students. You have to be OK with taking risks.”

Her risk-taking has paid off. Mecartney was honored in May as Professor of the Year at UCI’s 13th Annual Celebration of
Teaching. Sponsored by the Division of Undergraduate Education and Senate Council on Student Experience, the celebration recognizes individuals for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

The faculty gave her another vote of confidence by electing her senate chair for 2006-07; she succeeds Kenneth Janda, chemistry professor, in leading the 1,400 faculty members in the shared governance of the university. Among the senate’s duties: determining academic policy, setting conditions for admission, advising administration on budgets and personnel issues, and sharing members’ views on other issues.

“We’re the voice of the faculty,” Mecartney says.

She has identified four goals for her tenure, which began Sept. 1:

  • Increasing faculty diversity: “We’re in a rapid hiring process and reaching out to all good candidates.”
  • Fostering leadership development: “We’re helping to develop leadership skills among faculty members so they can be more effective.”
  • Supporting campus development: “While new programs such as pharmaceutical sciences are starting, we want to ensure the development of other areas of the campus – not just sciences but also the arts and humanities.”
  • Integrating the campus: “As we grow the health sciences programs, we want to integrate them with the rest of the campus.We want to take full advantage of the educational and research resources at UCI Medical Center and build links with other academic areas that make sense, such as programs in the School of Social Ecology.”