Friday, April 3

New head of Academic Senate prioritizes educational access

Andrew Leuchter, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, recently took over as chairman of the Academic Senate.

After moving from Poland to Texas after World War II, Andrew Leuchter’s father often emphasized the importance of an education to his son.

Leuchter, a first-generation college student, took the advice to heart. Now a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, Leuchter will head the UCLA Academic Senate this year with a goal of keeping education open to as many as possible by maintaining educational accessibility.

“We want to look at how big our faculty can be, how many courses we can afford to teach and how we can best serve our students,” Leuchter said.

The Academic Senate is the body through which the faculty participates in campus operations. It is made of 3,500 faculty and is responsible for setting admission standards, approving courses, curricula, majors and graduation requirements.

The Senate also advises the administration on issues such as budgeting and the hiring and firing of faculty, said Ann Karagozian, the immediate past chair of the Academic Senate and a professor in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. Karagozian added that the Senate’s advice is considered heavily by the administration in its decision-making process on key campus-related issues.

As head of the Senate, Leuchter said he plans on involving the faculty with the administration on investment decisions about campus programs. In difficult budget times, the university increasingly has to decide how to allocate funds while maintaining and improving the quality of programs, Leuchter said.

Linda Sarna, a professor in the UCLA School of Nursing and the vice chair of the Senate, said Leuchter’s background as both administrator and faculty will allow him to have a broader understanding of the perspective of both groups.

Leuchter said his views on undergraduate education were shaped by his time at Stanford University. After attending medical school in Texas, Leuchter finished his psychiatry training at UCLA, where he has remained for the past 25 years. He was formerly the vice chair of the department of psychiatry and the associate dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine.

In his academic career, Leuchter said he has come to echo his father in stressing the importance of an education. One way Leuchter hopes to expand access to education is through the use of instructional technology, such as video podcasts and online course offerings.

Although he supports its use as a way to improve accessibility, Leuchter acknowledged that instructional technology may be difficult and costly to implement. The question will continue to be about maintaining educational quality, he said.

During his tenure as Senate chair, Leuchter said he also hopes to improve graduation rates by offering more high-demand courses to help students graduate on time. Leuchter said he wants to tackle the issue of academic freedom, which is sometimes hindered by external interests.

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