Campus News

McBee Professor examines universities’ ties to marketplace

After almost two decades at the University of Arizona, Sheila Slaughter was lured to UGA’s Institute of Higher Education in August 2005 as the first holder of the Louise McBee Professorship in Higher Education.

“What interested me about this position is that the Institute of Higher Education, then under the leadership of Tom Dyer, was building a program that covers everything from undergraduate access to research policy issues,” said Slaughter. “I liked the idea of being at an institute with this broad range and wide vision.”

In addition to Slaughter, the institute has recently added two other senior faculty—Maryann Feldman, who holds the inaugural Zell Miller Professorship, and James Hearn—both well known in higher education circles. 

“Having colleagues like this makes this a fun place to be,” Slaughter said.

It’s also helping boost UGA’s rankings among graduate programs in higher education nationally and leading to more external funding. Slaughter, who brought a grant from the National Science Foundation with her, is particularly proud of a recent major award from the National Institutes of Health for a research project on which she, Feldman and Scott Thomas (another IHE faculty member) are collaborating.

“The project is about the conflict of interest that arises when members of a university’s board of trustees have business interests in the intellectual properties that the institution is developing,” she said.

Slaughter and her colleagues will examine trustee networks at institutions in the Association of American Universities in 1965, 1985 and 2005 and identify conflicts of interest.

“The question is who is stewarding the stewards,” Slaughter said. “Conflict of interest may be systemic, but it can be managed. Our goal is to help shape policies that best address such conflicts and support research integrity.”

Slaughter also is interested in the role of women in higher education—an interest certainly shared by the woman for whom her faculty chair is named.  

She and McBee, who had a distinguished 25-year career at UGA and then served in the Georgia General Assembly for more than a decade, first met when they posed for the cover of the 2005 IHE Report, published by the institute each fall, and have since spent time together.   

“Louise McBee is such an amazing woman—she’s even climbed Mt. Everest,” said Slaughter. “There are hardly any professorships named after a woman, so I’m very delighted to hold this one.  Whenever I meet someone and tell them I’m the McBee Professor, I always get a good reaction, because she is so universally admired.”