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Faculty Spotlight: Renee Botta

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Media, Film & Journalism Studies

Profile  •

Author: Juliana Ortiz, IIC Student

Renee Botta is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Film, and Journalism Studies (MFJS) at the University of Denver (DU). She began working at DU in 2003 and teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses including Foundations of Strategic Communications, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Health Communication, and Global Health and Development Communication. Over the last two years she has been Faculty Senate President where she functions as a voice for faculty of the university and advocates for changes for both faculty and students.

            The Faculty Senate is one of the governing bodies at DU and is comprised of 90 members who are elected to represent the different academic divisions of the university.[1] It is the primary body where faculty can engage in shared governance. Shared governance is a system that promotes inclusive and shared decision-making with different stakeholders in an organization.[2] When asked what prompted her to join the Faculty Senate, Renee said, “I think it’s a really important body that works really hard to give the faculty a voice, and [we] come together to talk about how we can address faculty concerns and push for changes in policy that can help to make DU a wonderful place to work and thrive.”

Renee joined the Faculty Senate in 2020 as one of the Senators representing the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS). At the time, Sarah Pessin was the president, and she urged Renee to join different committees and get more involved in the Senate, asking her to consider running for president. “I thought it over, and I talked with other folks. I talked with Derigan because [he] had been involved in the Senate a lot longer than I had. And that’s sort of how it all evolved.” Renee was elected President of the Faculty Senate and began her term in 2022.

As President, one of Renee’s primary goals included a special focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). “That was part of what was really important to me when Sarah was President. I worked with her closely on doing a report on the Pioneer moniker and trying to get the Chancellor and the Board to consider getting rid of that moniker.” She continued working on this throughout her term. “That’s only one piece of DEI work, but diversity, equity, and inclusion is really, really important to me, and I wanted to focus on that in a number of ways.”

Renee pushed for more diversity in the Senate itself, ensuring diverse voices were being heard and recognizing all kinds of diversity. “We really do think about what that means, how that fits with DU’s values, and how we are a private university for the public good.” Some of the other goals Renee focused on addressing feelings of inequity between teaching and professional faculty and tenured faculty, imbalances of power regarding representation and voice of some units versus others, and overall shared governance. “I think we’ve done a lot, and there’s still more to go, [but] I think we have excellent shared governance with the provost’s office, Mary, and her team. I’d love to see more shared governance with the chancellor’s office and the board.”

Though the Senate is primarily for the faculty, it also places emphasis on students. “Something that is really important to faculty are students. And so, part of advocating for faculty becomes advocating for students.” Faculty Senate has a Student Relations Committee that works with leaders and representatives of undergraduate student government (USG) and graduate student government (GSG) to discuss what students need. Students can address their concerns and hope for DU directly to their representatives and can be assured that they will be heard. “We want students to take the lead in terms of what they want to do, and if they want to come to us through the Student Relations Committee and then have us advocate for them on things, that’s a preferred mode. We want the students to be able to say, “This is what we need,” and then come to us and we can say, “Yeah, we back you on that.”

As she looks back on these last two years of work, Renee is proud of the work the Senate has done, but she still wishes more could be accomplished. One major accomplishment relates to faculty and compensation. “We now have the Board saying that they want our salaries to match or even be better than salaries in the rest of the state. That feels like they’ve heard us that compensation is an issue.” Renee is also proud of the conversations had in the Senate. The topic of governance was discussed more often, what it means, and how the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, USG, and GSG can all work together to increase it at DU. Though she has done a lot, one of her greatest highlights of working as President was simply encountering “some really cool people at DU.” “It’s been incredible the folks that I get to work with who do amazing work. [They] are just phenomenal… I feel really lucky, actually. It’s a lot of work, but I do feel really fortunate that I’ve had this opportunity.”

Renee’s term as Faculty Senate President finishes at the end of the academic year, but that doesn’t mean the work ends. Dean Saitta, President-Elect, will take over the Senate at the last meeting of the year. Renee will then shift into her position as past President and continue working with the Faculty Senate for one year. Her advice to faculty? Get involved with the Senate! “We have this opportunity now where we DO have a little bit more power, we DO have a little bit more say, and we DO have a little bit more voice…if you do want to have a say, now is the time to do it!”

Renee is looking forward to continuing to assist the Senate for this next year, but at the same time, she’s happy she’ll be able to dedicate more time to the MFJS department, a department that she “care[s] about and love[s].” She also plans to continue to fight and advocate for the things that she cares about. “Like the moniker! I’m happy to keep working towards that, and keep pushing that, and keep being that voice.” Lastly, Renee is looking forward to having teaching and her research become more central in her life again.

Thank you, Renee, for your work and dedication to MFJS, CAHSS, and DU!


[2] The Impact Investor Authors. “What is Shared Governance? What You Need to Know.” The Impact Investor, February 3, 2023.