March 1, 2019
Karen Helfer, Chair and Professor of Communication Disorders, is one of six UMass Amherst faculty members who have been awarded a Chancellor’s Leadership Fellowship for 2019. She will work with Michelle Budig, Vice Provost for Faculty Development in the Office of Faculty Development.
These fellowships seek to cultivate future campus leaders by offering a half-time, one-year, temporary appointment to an administrative area on campus and by providing shadowing and mentoring from the leaders of the host units. In addition, fellows are expected to launch a significant program during the fellowship year.
“The Chancellor’s Leadership Fellowship provides an opportunity for faculty to learn about academic administration from the inside out,” says John McCarthy, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “It is critical to the future of this institution that talented faculty members have an opportunity to participate in high-level decision-making and contribute to development and implementation of our strategic plans.”
Anna Branch, Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, adds, “These fellowships enable faculty to develop and demonstrate capacity for leadership in arenas that are not often a part of day to day faculty life. I am thrilled this cohort reflects and supports our commitment to supporting diversity in the campus leadership ranks.”
Helfer researches speech understanding in difficult listening environments and particularly how aging affects this ability. A fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, Helfer’s latest NIH-funded grant is focused on measuring speech understanding ability and listening effort in middle-aged adults via dual-task costs associated with balancing while listening and walking while listening. Projects under this grant also investigate the efficacy of over-the-counter hearing aids for middle-aged adults. She served as graduate program director for the department of communication disorders from 2001 until 2015 and has been department chair since 2016. Helfer has completed two external leadership experiences: the CAPCSD (Council on Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders) Leadership Academy in 2017 and the HERS Leadership Development Program in 2018. Beginning as Chancellor’s Leadership Fellow in September, Helfer will be working on projects involving the support of mid-career associate professors and on initiatives for bringing academic leadership opportunities to the faculty as a whole.