Professor Yonca Ertimur, Leeds’ new senior associate dean of faculty and research, and the first-ever Tandean Rustandy Esteemed Professor, talks about her role in the midst of academia’s most dramatic disruption.
You’ve been an accounting professor and researcher for 17 years, the past eight at Leeds. What motivated you to take this role at this point in your career?
YE: Mixing it up helps me stay energized and motivated.
And I believe all senior faculty should take on leadership positions on a rotating basis. It creates greater awareness of how the institution works and contributes to institutional growth. So in my mind, this is an important service responsibility I will have for the next three years, and then I will pass the baton to another colleague.
What excites you about your new role as senior associate dean of faculty and research?
YE: The people. Bringing on board great faculty, supporting them and keeping them engaged; working with faculty and staff to make Leeds an even greater place to be a part of; and learning more about my colleagues’ research from other disciplines.
With the pandemic, what challenges do faculty face and how are you addressing them?
YE: It is very diffi cult to predict how the COVID-19 health crisis is going to impact higher education in the medium and long terms.
But we need to address the short-term challenges in a way that prepares us for the longer-term challenges. We’re tapping every resource we have to support our faculty and maintain a safe classroom environment while continuing to deliver a top-notch learning experience to our students.
We need to remember that it is going to be an iterative process; we are in uncharted territory. And we need to be in constant dialogue with each other to identify areas of concern and devise solutions.
How has research been affected by COVID-19?
YE: The lack of resources and time are making research a challenge. Many of our faculty have less time now—with young kids at home plus doing time-consuming preparation for different modes of teaching. Research also requires a high level of motivation and constant exchange of ideas. It is more diffi cult when we are isolated professionally—technology helps but does not quite replace human interaction. For example, there are no in-person conferences, which makes it diffi cult to be visible and network.
I will support faculty research in any way possible—by protecting the time of our junior faculty especially, making sure faculty have the resources they need, and helping them stay connected, both on the research and on the personal front. What are your long-term goals for Leeds’ faculty?
YE: I want to make sure we continue to attract and retain diverse, high-caliber researchers and teachers. And we must continue to promote our research—not only to other academics, but to practitioners to demonstrate the relevance of our work.
Which research topic(s) are you most excited about?
YE: I have a series of studies that show shareholder voting has increasingly become a powerful governance mechanism and a way for them to communicate their concerns and monitor fi rms. These results are in sharp contrast to the beliefs that once prevailed among practitioners and academics. I’m also excited about two new projects on the role of institutional investors in shaping fi rms’ governance structures.