Margaret Merryfield’s sense of humor is the first thing you notice about her and is most likely the key to her success as a consensus builder.
“My personal communication style is part and parcel of my leadership style,” said Acting Associate Vice President of Academic Personnel Merryfield, recipient of the 2007 Nicholas Perkins Hardeman Academic Leadership Award. “I try to use my sense of humor for positive effect, to set a tone where everyone feels comfortable and included, and to make sure that what is happening is clear to all.”
Merryfield, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has served on numerous committees, task forces and government bodies including membership on the PACE Commission (1991-92); Task Force on Undergraduate Education chair (1993-95); Planning and Educational Policy Council chair (1996-2000); and Academic Senate secretary (2001-02), vice-chair (2002-04) and finally chair (2004-06). She also has been involved in a variety of university searches and reviews, including the search for the president, which according to Merryfield, “was probably the most important process in which we’ve engaged in a long time.”
Additionally, Merryfield chaired the University Affirmative Action Advisory Committee (1985-87) and the College Faculty Council (1991-92), and served as president of the Long Beach chapter of California Women in Higher Education (1989-91) and Sigma Xi (1994-96).
Merryfield achieved success through these governing bodies in a number of projects such as the general education policy, where she was a key player in its revision, and followed that by serving as the GE coordinator from 1998-2004. She also was a major participant in policy revisions for grade appeals, Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement policy and program reviews. As Senate chair, she led the effort to reorganize committee structure to improve communication and reduce the number of committees. Merryfield was part of the steering committee for Western Association of Schools and Colleges reaccreditation in 2000-01 and co-chaired a task force that produced one of the three “theme” chapters in the self-study. She is again serving on the steering committee for the 2006-07 accreditation cycle.
She is proudest of her work as program director from 2000-06 with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Honors in Biological Sciences program. With a budget of $1.6 million, the HHMI project provided research stipends, supplies and travel support for 125 students over six years; sponsored the development of a series of honors courses; and offered faculty development focused on mentoring and incorporating ethics and critical thinking into the curriculum.
“I think my scientific background makes me especially analytical in my approach to problems,” said Merryfield when asked about her achievements. “I always appreciate data and evidence. I also think it has an impact on my communication and writing style. I try very hard for clarity of expression. There’s also a fair amount of management involved, too.”
Along with her father, whose “innate decency was so strong and who treated everyone with respect and dignity,” Merryfield credits her CSULB mentors in Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Professors Kenneth Marsi (deceased) and Dorothy (Dot) Goldish, “who taught me the ways of the university and the value of looking beyond your department,” with asserting the most influence on her professional life.