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Founding Faculty Member Leading Campus in New Role

August 27, 2018
Professor Teenie Matlock

Cognitive science Professor Teenie Matlock, the McClatchy Chair in Communications , has been appointed interim vice provost for the faculty at UC Merced.

This is her first high-level administrative position, but hardly her first leadership role. As a founding faculty member, Matlock has taken the lead on many initiatives on the campus since leaving a research position at Stanford University for UC Merced in 2004.

Originally from nearby Mariposa County, Matlock was the first in her family to go to college, attending Fresno State and UC San Diego, and obtaining her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from UC Santa Cruz. She has served the local community as vice chair of the American Indian Council of Mariposa County, and she has served on the governing board of the Cognitive Science Society and on the editorial boards of several journals, including Cognitive Linguistics.

“Professor Matlock’s commitment to the campus is a result of her outstanding scholarship, her dedication to the success of the faculty and students and the impact that UC Merced has already made and will continue to make to the state and the nation,” Vice Chancellor for Research Sam Traina said.

Matlock helped lay the foundation of the university, from planning what departments it would eventually have, designing numerous courses and recruiting and hiring faculty, to spearheading new campus initiatives, and creating new funding opportunities.

She took the lead in creating the cognitive science undergraduate program, including the bachelor’s of arts and the bachelor’s of science, two of the earliest majors on the campus. She also was a driving force in envisioning the Cognitive and Informative Sciences doctoral program. She has also served on dozens of executive committees in the University of California system, including the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion.

Matlock’s main line of research is human communication, especially how the framing of messages influences people’s attitudes and behaviors. This expertise will serve her well in her new position, as she serves as an advocate for faculty, helps resolve complaints, and oversees practices around hiring, advancement and retention.

“This leadership position is challenging because it involves quite a lot of problem solving and conflict resolution,” Matlock added, “In this role, I’ll do my best to help others navigate difficult situations and open up communication lines whenever possible.”

"We’re grateful to have a large number of underrepresented students on the campus — it’s what we had hoped for in opening the campus in 2004. Still, this is a critical time for us. We need to ensure that our faculty is as diverse as possible and that we do our best to mirror the population of California."

Teenie Matlock

She will be working closely with Senate and non-Senate faculty, deans and Interim Provost Gregg Camfield , who was the first provost for the faculty on the campus.

One of Matlock’s main goals this year is to expand the university’s efforts to diversifying the faculty.

“We’re grateful to have a large number of underrepresented students on the campus — it’s what we had hoped for in opening the campus in 2004. Still, this is a critical time for us. We need to ensure that our faculty is as diverse as possible and that we do our best to mirror the population of California,” Matlock said.

Another passion of hers is advising faculty and helping them realize their career goals. She has advised many early career academics, and recently received UC Merced’s Excellence in Faculty Mentoring award. In her new role she will mentor faculty. She stressed how important it is for faculty to speak up for themselves, especially assistant professors.

“Academics are often taught to be independent. When this is excessive, it can be easy to feel isolated or undervalued, especially assistant professors who had once been in interactive, supportive labs or groups as graduate students or postdocs. In talking to assistant professors about their concerns, I try to stress how important it is to connect with others and seek help when needed,” she said.

Faculty members who have been mentored by Matlock say this is a good role for her.

“Teenie is a warm and selfless mentor who has gone out of her way to help me and her other mentees,” philosophy Professor Carolyn Jennings said. “She always has something complimentary and encouraging to say, while being humble about her own accomplishments. I cannot imagine my experience at UC Merced without her, and she is a model for the kind of academic I would like to be.”

Part of what drives Matlock is her continued interest in helping others at UC Merced and her desire to help transform the region in and around the San Joaquin Valley — part of UC Merced’s mission, too.

“Teenie also has a very important, special connection to this extended region of the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Sierra. As a native of Mariposa, she had to go out of the region to obtain an education from the University of California,” Traina said. “For those of us who share that history, it is truly a privilege to play a role of bringing the University of California to the people of the Valley.”