An Eventful Three Years in University History
The Work and Impact of Wendy Hensel, Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, 2019-2021
To say that Wendy Hensel had an eventful tenure as provost at Georgia State University does not adequately describe the time period in which she provided steady, innovative and impactful leadership from 2019 through 2021.
Georgia State faced some of the worst crises experienced in more than a generation. From the COVID-19 pandemic and the national reckoning over racial injustice and inequity, to a turbulent election and continuing political repercussions, the university’s students, faculty and staff faced massive challenges on numerous fronts.
Despite all of this, Hensel continued press forward with initiatives and programs addressing needs of the university community and the greater community at large – leading during a critical time.
Wendy Hensel, J.D., was named Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs on September 4, 2019, after serving as Interim Provost since July 1, 2019. She succeeded Dr. Risa Palm, who held the position from 2009 through 2019.
As the university’s chief academic officer, Hensel was responsible for the development, implementation, and quality of the university’s academic programs and policies in its 13 academic units and academic support units. She supervised the university’s deans and associate provosts and directed international initiatives and study abroad, institutional effectiveness and research, strategic planning, faculty development and support, the Rialto Center for the Arts, and the Office of the Ombudsperson.
Shortly into her tenure, she led the university’s academic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Serving as a key member of Georgia State’s COVID-19 Task Force, she led the university’s quick shift from in-person classes to a distance learning model and ensured that more than 3,000 faculty received training to deliver high-quality courses in a digital environment.
Even before the pandemic, she set in place the university’s first strategic efforts to grow online degrees to meet the needs of students in every modality and in every location. In just two years, the university has increased the number of fully online programs by 45 percent and launched Georgia State Online, which is designed to enroll and support virtual adult learners. She also worked closely with the Office of Student Success to build educational supports and services that address the specific, unique needs of online learners.
During her time in the role, Hensel directed the formation and execution of action plans to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the university, with the goal of setting Georgia State on the path to becoming a national leader in this area. Using an approach combining data analytics, open communication, transparency and community engagement, the university made significant progress in creating a university for all. She committed to a cycle of continuous improvement in faculty satisfaction using best-in-class surveys and a set of action plans that evolve every three years to meet emerging concerns on campus. The COACHE process continues under her successor, Provost Nicolle Parsons-Pollard. Through the action plan and the COACHE process, the university made significant advancements in diversification of faculty hiring, and continues to make progress in retention and engagement.
She was responsible for the appointment of three deans, two associate provosts, and a special advisor for diversity, equity, and inclusion during her time at the helm of Georgia State’s academic affairs.
Prior to her appointment as Provost, she served as Interim and full Dean of the College of Law as well as the first Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development. In these leadership positions, she spearheaded the development of academic programming and curriculum to meet the needs of the future, expanded online course development and teaching excellence, grew interdisciplinary research and scholarship, and created a comprehensive system of faculty development and research support. She also led the formation of the College of Law’s 2014-2020 Strategic Plan and the Institutional Learning Outcomes Initiative in the college, which created a comprehensive eight-year assessment cycle to evaluate and strengthen curriculum. She worked to boost the College’s profile among law schools and implemented a national strategy of alumni development and engagement.
Provost Hensel is a noted scholar in the areas of disability law, policy and ethics in American society. An expert on employment discrimination and special education, her scholarship has appeared in leading books, peer-reviewed publications and law reviews. Her work has been cited by courts, national media outlets and interdisciplinary scholars, both nationally and internationally.
Provost Hensel graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and clerked for Judge Orinda Evans of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. She practiced labor and employment law with the law firm of Alston & Bird, where she litigated discrimination cases and counseled Fortune 500 companies on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and serves on the board of directors for several organizations committed to their full inclusion in society. You can read her publications by clicking this link.
Provost Hensel stepped down from her position at the end of calendar year 2021, and passed the reins of leadership to her successor, Dr. Nicolle Parsons-Pollard, who became interim provost (then provost and executive vice president for academic affairs) after serving as associate provost for faculty affairs. Hensel was later appointed as Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost at the City University of New York effective June 1, 2022.
—Jeremy Craig, Communications Manager for the Office of the Provost