August 09, 2013

Froelich takes reins as chair of the faculty senate

Written by
Michael Froelich sHospitals made an impression on Michael Froelich, M.D., as a child growing up in Munich, Germany, and it wasn’t a positive one — at least not at the time.

But his difficult experiences led him on a path in life to where he is now, an associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology.

“I still remember being a small child, 3 years old, in a hospital,” Froelich says. “It wasn’t a good experience. I was crying and in a dark room all night. I had several surgeries as a young child, and they didn’t give out pain medicine to children at that time because they thought it was too dangerous. It definitely left an impression on me. I decided when I was 16 that I wanted to get into medicine because I wanted to make things better.”

Froelich’s long road — from studying at the University of Vienna in Austria and Emory University to working at Harvard University and the University of Florida — eventually led him to UAB in 2004.

In 2010, Froelich was elected to represent the faculty of the School of Medicine as a senator, and then he was elected chair of the body for the 2013-14 academic year. Froelich recently began his new role.

Froelich spoke to The Reporter about the UAB Faculty Senate, the goals he has set and the importance of faculty engaging the university community.

Q. Why did you want to become a part of the faculty senate?

A. I was first exposed to a faculty senate at the University of Florida, where I eventually was tasked to undertake a universitywide role on the minority mentoring council. It was an initiative set up by the provost’s office — similar to what we’re doing here with kids in Birmingham. It was a mentoring group for at-risk students. It was a big program. We had clusters of 10 students and two faculty members for each cluster, totaling about 30 clusters. I began as a cluster leader and eventually was vice chair of the program. It was really my first exposure to big university activities. I liked the experience of interfacing with faculty from other specialties, and I thought — this is really what a university is about — to learn what other people are doing.

Q. What value do faculty receive from being a part of the senate?

A. You learn how the university works. Participating in the senate teaches a senator about the university’s structure and gives them a better appreciation of how things are accomplished. It enables them to help their colleagues get questions answered. It’s an extremely valuable experience that should be considered when it comes to their professional growth, including in promotion and tenure, and their participation counts as a university service. But I would more emphasize the fact that you can actually be a part of addressing and solving issues. That’s more valuable to me than having something for my CV.

Q. Why is shared governance important?

A. Shared governance is not a simple matter of committee consensus; it is a professional practice model, founded on the cornerstone principles of partnership, equity and accountability. It’s an attempt to strike that delicate balance between faculty and staff participation in planning and decision-making processes on one hand and administrative accountability on the other. Today’s world of social media and instant Internet-based communications has changed the expectations of students and faculty at UAB. The university community expects active engagement of their leadership to better understand our needs, where problems exist and how to best solve them. The faculty senate needs to be the place where this exchange of ideas takes shape.

Q. How critical is a respectful relationship?

A. The money for our monthly meetings comes from the provost’s office. With that in mind, even though we sometimes ask challenging and tough questions, we need to be respectful. I think it’s clear that Provost Linda Lucas is definitely interested in this line of communication. It’s beneficial to the administration to be connected and understand the things on the minds of the faculty.

Q. When and where are the faculty senate meetings held?  

A. We meet the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 a.m. in the Finley Conference Center, which is located in the Kaul Genetics Building. All faculty and staff are invited to attend. Any other information about the faculty senate can be found on our website, If a faculty member would like a topic raised in the senate, they may contact a senator from their unit (roster is on the website) or send us a comment or question via the form on the “Contact Us” portion of the website.