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New Faculty and Staff Senate Presidents share commitment to service

Tillman Hall

Note: A condensed version of this article can be found here.
Mahatma Gandhi, whose words of wisdom will never wane in terms of impact and resonance, once famously quipped, “The best to way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Although Clemson University’s Faculty and Staff Senates certainly do not operate on the same plane of service as the one that Gandhi operated upon, the inherent message of dedicating one’s gifts and platforms to bettering the welfare of others is one that does not fall on deaf ears as it pertains to Clemson Senators Janeen Putman and Danny Weathers.
Yesterday, Putman was inaugurated as the Clemson University Staff Senate President for the 2019-20 term while Weathers received the comparable honor by becoming the new President of the Faculty Senate. The longtime Clemson employees paid their dues in the years building up to their indoctrination into the presidential posts through dedicated work as members of committees within their respective senates as well as a year spent as the Vice President/President-Elect. A primary staple of their terms in the representative bodies of Clemson’s faculty and staff has been service, and that commitment to giving back to the university led to this week’s special milestone.
“Honestly, I just like to serve,” Weathers said when asked what being a Faculty Senator means to him. “Growing up, I was taught to serve others. I see this as more of a service position than anything else.”
Dr. Weathers has been a member of the Clemson faculty for nine years, working as an associate professor of marketing and conducting quantitative marketing research in addition to studying consumer behaviors and price judgments. Weathers is currently in his fourth year on Faculty Senate as a representative for the College of Business, and for a year and a half of that tenure, he headed the Faculty Senate Policy Committee.
Looking back on his initial decision to take on the responsibility of becoming a Faculty Senator, Weathers said, “I wanted to know more about how the university operated and see if I could have some amount of influence on that.”
Weathers enters his new role with a track record of success through his work on the Policy Committee, which played a valuable role last year in the Faculty Senate’s formation of a third lecturer rank and addition of an amendment to the Clemson University Constitution that proved to be beneficial for the entire university faculty. That critical experience garnered through his committee engrossment ultimately inspired Weathers to take the next step and run for Vice President/President-Elect last year.
“Once I got the experience as the Chair of the Policy Committee, I felt like I had a good understanding of how the Senate operated and what the needs were.”
Similar to Weathers, Putman, who has worked full time at Clemson University since 2001 and is currently the bioengineering student services manager, brings plenty of Senate experience with her as she embarks on her journey as president. Putman is in the midst of her second three-year term as a member of Staff Senate, and her past service as Staff Senate Secretary and as a valued member of the Activities Committee was primarily motivated by her calling to serve.
Putman said of her Staff Senate tenure, “I’ve really enjoyed being able to give back to the university. Service is one of the pillars of Clemson University, and I felt like if service was something that I was encouraging students to do, then, I should do it myself.”
Putman and her colleagues on the Activities Committee were responsible for carrying out the military appreciation efforts conducted by Staff Senate and worked with other committees in hosting a recognition dinner each year for Clemson faculty and staff members who completed a degree while working for the university.
“I’m really proud of the things that we’ve accomplished in the Staff Senate Activities Committee,” Putman said. “I was looking for a new way to put those leadership roles to good use while also giving back to the university.”
Due to her conscientious efforts as a Staff Senator, Putman was approached by a peer who encouraged her to run for the position of Vice President/President-Elect last year. That level of support and encouragement from a fellow staff member not only inspired Putman to carry out her peer’s wish by pursuing the presidential position, but it also molded Putman’s top item on her agenda. Putman aims to use her year in the President’s seat to embrace service of all facets, including the service of staff members toward one another.
“Filling each other’s cups,” Putman shared when placing her goal of increasing kinship between Staff Senators into context. “I want to help remind all of us that we’re in this together and that if you think that someone is doing a good job, you should recognize that person for it.”
The new Staff Senate President will look to “encourage others to encourage others” by placing more impact on staff-related awards and drawing awareness to all members of the Clemson University family, including students, of the presence of such awards and the benefits of nominating for them. In addition, Putman hopes to build off the platform already offered through Staff Senate by increasing the bravado and exposure of the voices and perspectives stemming from the diverse group of staff members that Clemson University has to offer and that Staff Senate is in place to serve.
“It gives staff members an opportunity to be leaders and to be heard,” Putman said about Staff Senate. “Staff members have really good perspectives on the inner workings of campus and are in the trenches with the students.”
That self-awareness concerning the high volume of individuals in the Clemson family who are affected by the actions of the Senates is one of the defining factors that made both Putman and Weathers perfect candidates to take on the challenges associated with manning their senates’ efforts. While administration makes up the foundation for decision-making at the university level, the presence of two bodies composed entirely of the Clemson University employees responsible for carrying out the overarching goals of the university is something that neither Putman nor Weathers takes for granted.
Addressing the necessity of such governing bodies, particularly Faculty Senate, Weathers said, “The idea is that there should be faculty input in upper-level decisions because we’re fairly knowledgeable about these issues. We’re the boots on the ground when it comes to interacting with students and conducting research, and that’s essentially the core mission of most universities.”
Faculty Senate has a superb track record of enacting upon policy issues affecting faculty and using its five standing committees to incite change within the faculty ranks, as the broad-based career interests and backgrounds of its constituents help to enforce the senate’s functionality. Serving as the ultimate connection between faculty and administration, Faculty Senate is composed of senators and delegates from each college and each faculty rank, with members assigned to committees based on mutual interests.
The elements of shared governance between the administration at large and the position of liaison to the administration, which defines what the office of Faculty Senate President is all about, appealed to Weathers when he opted to bid for the prestigious honor. Weathers’ reputation as one who works well with others and is fastidious in carrying out his pursuits heavily contributed to the professor’s successful candidacy.
“I’m thorough when it comes to trying to comprehend issues,” said Weathers. “I listen to others’ opinions and try to find data that either supports or doesn’t support them before any actions are taken.”
Weathers has three primary goals in mind for his year in office. First and foremost, he will seek to improve communication between Faculty Senate and the Clemson faculty as a whole. Weathers will also take on the onus of increasing the efficiency of faculty governance, including the parameters associated with committee service, and initiate dialogue and action regarding how faculty can better utilize the Clemson Experimental Forest as an educational resource.
Touching on his vision for the Clemson Experimental Forest, Weathers said, “I would like for Faculty Senate to look into what the Clemson Experimental Forest should be from a faculty perspective and ensure that we are doing all that we can do as a faculty to protect this great resource.”
It is no coincidence that two like-minded members of the Clemson University faculty and staff are simultaneously presiding as presidents of the two senates, as the aforementioned commitment to service that is deeply rooted in a shared love for the Clemson family has defined their ascensions to the premier senate roles. Putman and Weathers each graduated from Clemson, with Putman receiving a bachelor’s in civil engineering and a master’s in human resource development in 1999 and 2001, respectively, and Weathers earning a bachelor’s in mathematical sciences in 1994 before receiving his postgraduate degrees elsewhere.
Putman’s Clemson connections are conspicuously strong, as she made the significant move from Massachusetts to Tigertown when initially matriculating as an undergraduate and has stayed put ever since. Putman met her husband, Brad, while they were both civil engineering majors, and he, too, developed firm connections with Clemson, as Dr. Putman earned a bachelor’s, a master’s and a doctorate from Clemson en route to obtaining his current position as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Clemson University College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
An interest in leadership and service propelled Putman to taking on prominent extracurricular roles while a student, such as serving as the president of the Clemson University American Society of Civil Engineers chapter at Clemson, and that evolved into a career path of leading students to greatness through her devotion to positively impacting their educational pursuits. Through her work overseeing advising and departmental scheduling for approximately 350 bioengineering undergraduates year in and year out, Putman has been inspired to make the most of her Staff Senate experience by witnessing the fruits of her labor at graduation each semester.
“Graduation day is my favorite day on campus,” Putman said with a smile. “Students are excited, full of potential and thankful. That reminds me of why I do what I do.”
The common component of Clemson University’s renowned faculty and staff is a dedication to service, but only a select few members opt to wholeheartedly devote themselves to the service of others. For Putman and Weathers, that level of involvement is a byproduct of a desire to go beyond what is expected in their employment with the university that has provided them with what is best described as a second family.
“Clemson is family,” a prideful Putman said. “That may sound cliche, but once you live it, you realize it’s true.”
While many might view the roles of Faculty Senate President and Staff Senate President as positions of power, fit for those who like to take charge, in the minds of Putman and Weathers, they are positions fit for those who are willing to answer the call to serve others, no matter the circumstances. University leaders like Putman and Weathers never shy away from an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the campus that serves as their home away from home, and they hope that, through their presidential tenures, they will inspire others to take their lead by exhibiting leadership through an unwavering commitment to service.

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