July 18, 2016
Hodges: I was born in Roebling, New Jersey, a small town about ten miles south of the state capital, Trenton. I earned a bachelor’s degree in French (minor German and high school teaching certification) from Arcadia University and went on to the University of Chicago, where I received a master’s degree and a doctorate in Germanic languages and literatures with a focus on 19th and 20th century German literature.
While in graduate school I met and married John O. Hodges, who earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in religion and literature from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He retired from teaching in the UT Department of Religious Studies in December 2010. We have one son, Daniel, who is a software engineer. He lives in Dallas with his wife Manisha, who is a data analyst and merchandise planner.
During my free time I enjoy reading, cooking, travel (especially international travel), learning languages (I have studied Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Italian, and a bit of Mandarin Chinese), and solving word games.
PEER: What brought you to UT?
Hodges: My husband and I came to UT in 1982 when he was recruited by the Department of Religious Studies. At the same time, I applied for and was hired as a faculty member in what was then the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, which later merged with Romance Languages to become Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures. I taught undergraduate and graduate German language and literature courses and comparative literature.
The opportunity for the two of us to join the campus was part of a vigorous attempt by the university to increase faculty and student diversity under the auspices of the Geier federal lawsuit, which mandated that the State of Tennessee build and maintain a single, rather than dual, system of public higher education that offered equal access to all and would eliminate any remaining evidence of segregation. This was a great opportunity for both of us, since we wanted positions that would allow us to focus on teaching and research at a major college or university.
PEER: What are your research interests?
Hodges: My scholarly work. My teaching and research displays a broad interest in interdisciplinary studies and a global approach to literary studies have emphasized three major areas: multicultural perspectives in modern German literature, comparative literature, and multicultural education. My published books and articles focus on comparisons of African-American, Afro-German, and German voices in literature and on theoretical and pedagogical approaches to multicultural education. I have collaborated with university graduate programs to establish partnerships with universities in France, Italy, and China, and was a two-week guest administrator in 2011 at Wuhan University in China.
PEER: How was it as an incoming tenure track faculty? What was the diversity like on campus?
Hodges: At the time when I arrived, diversity on campus was undergoing change and experiencing substantial growth as a result of the Geier litigation. Over the course of a few years the numbers of faculty, staff, and students of color increased substantially.
PEER: What sparked your interest in becoming dean of the graduate school? How was the change from faculty to dean?
Hodges: In 2005 when I attended the Bryn Mawr Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration, one assignment we had was to think about related to what our professional trajectory might be in the coming years. I began considering the possibility of seeking a college dean position , but in 2006, when Bob Holub, then provost, decided to reinstate the Graduate School, I decided it was a position that suited my interests and to which I could readily apply the administrative skills I had gained. I liked the idea of being able to work with faculty (graduate directors, the Graduate Council, graduate associate deans) and a broad variety of constituents across campus to have an impact on the academic and professional preparation of master’s and doctoral degree students. My instincts were correct, because it was the most rewarding of the several administrative leadership positions I have held.
PEER: What were some key accomplishments and ideas you were able to implement as dean of the UT Graduate School? What accomplishment as dean are you most proud of?
Hodges: Key accomplishments (*most proud of)
- Rebuilding and restructuring of the Graduate School and enhancing the profile of graduate education at UT.
- In 2001, the Graduate School had been dismantled and operations were managed from a small Office of Graduate Studies, while admissions functions were located in Enrollment Services in combination with Undergraduate Admissions. The 2006 mandate for re-instatement of the Graduate School was enacted by Provost Holub with a vision toward enhancing the profile and effectiveness of graduate education that was in keeping with UT’s identification as a high research institution.
- Establishment of the Office of Graduate Training and Mentorship
- In 2008 UT applied for and obtained a prestigious training grant, the Program for Equity and Excellence in Research (PEER) which helped direct our focus on fostering inclusive excellence in graduate education, on strengthening departmental recruitment efforts, and on stressing strategies in mentoring and professional development to bolster retention. Many PEER program elements (e. g., speakers, and workshops) have been extended to all graduate students.
- Working directly with graduate students.
- I’ve particularly enjoyed working with groups of graduate students (e.g., Graduate Student Senate, NSF Fellows) as well as individual undergraduate students preparing for graduate school (e.g., Educational Advancement Program, Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, recruitment efforts outside of UT).
Hodges: I have found my work with PEER to be rewarding in many ways, particularly the opportunities for helping to mentor highly talented underrepresented students in STEM who receive doctorates and go on to make outstanding contributions. I’ve also enjoyed learning about developments in STEM education and research that will have a profound effect on the future of our state, nation, and world. I have also enjoyed very much the opportunity to collaborate with dedicated, outstanding faculty and staff at UT and beyond who are deeply committed to broadening participation in graduate education.
PEER: Any regrets? Any one thing you wish you could have done before stepping down from your former position as dean?
Hodges: I don’t have any regrets about having served a vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. As I indicated above, it was the most rewarding of the several administrative leadership positions I have held because it was an opportunity to use the combined skills I had attained in earlier positions and it provided exciting new insights on benchmarks of achievement to which our campus could aspire.
I would like to have been directly involved with completion/implementation of three things: final overhaul of the website; launching of a graduate-level electronic degree audit system; and development of a framework for institutionalizing of the grant-supported PEER program after external funding is no longer available.
PEER: Do you feel that the campus climate has improved, experienced setbacks, or remained the same since you first came to UT?
Hodges: This is a complicated question. In terms of climate, I think that current undergraduate and graduate student activism has energized the campus and therefore contributed positively to the climate at a time when it is very much needed because of external pressures that question commitment and challenge efforts to build and sustain inclusive excellence. The Faculty Senate and faculty in general have supported the efforts of the students, and I am heartened by that. The crucial question is how their efforts will be sustained and reap benefits that will support a climate of inclusive excellence, and attract resources to recruit and retain a diverse population of outstanding students, faculty, and staff who reflect the goal of inclusive excellence and the rapidly shifting demographics of our country.
PEER: What can we expect to see from you in this new chapter of your career and life?
Hodges: I will engage in continued involvement with students – undergraduate and graduate – to provide intense mentoring and professional development on a more individual level. I am committed to ongoing involvement with PEER as long as the grant is supported with federal funding; my ultimate wish would be to see the program institutionalized after funding has come to an end. I see PEER as one of the premier training grants in this country with a framework that could benefit many graduate programs on our campus. Given resources to make it permanent, the program could serve as a model for other institutions.
I will spend more time on my research projects and teaching; I am already engaged with a project with colleagues across the country who are interested in German Diaspora Studies. Serving as a board member for the Georgiana Simpson Society, I am working with them on a symposium and publication to highlight themes in research and teaching related to German Diaspora Studies, in particular, to Germany’s connections to Africans and African Americans as reflected in literature, history and culture and as a resource for teaching German language and culture.
I look forward to continuing to serve my colleagues on campus and nationally as a resource to assist with broadening participation in graduate education.