Spring 2015 Member Spotlight

Leslie R. Zenk, Ph.D.leslie-zenk-web

Assistant Provost

Office of Academic Affairs

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

How long have you been a member of NCARE?

I joined NCARE in 2011 and I was elected to the NCARE Board as an at-large member for my first term in 2013.

Why did you join NCARE and how has being a member benefitted you?

I joined NCARE as a way to meet colleagues and engage with the academic community in North Carolina. Membership in the organization has been a valuable way for me to meet and network with colleagues across the state, identify collaborators with similar research and career interests, and learn about the educational policy and research landscape of North Carolina.

Please briefly discuss research you are currently conducting (the elevator talk version).

I research leadership and decision making in public universities and the ways in which institutional mission and culture frame and shape those decisions. My research focuses on master’s granting, public institutions, which educate the majority of American undergraduate students. These master’s granting institutions are interesting because they have a unique series of external pressures that can put a strain on their institutional mission in a variety of ways.


I also research the relationship between leadership, gender and rural geography in higher education and the ways in which the rural experience provides context and understanding for women as leaders. This line of inquiry is part of a collaborative collective biography project designed to bridge the gap between the intellectual work of women leaders in higher education and the identities held by those leaders.


What is your greatest lesson learned about conducting educational research?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that you must make time to do your research. As an administrator-scholar my days are filled with committee and faculty meetings, therefore I must meticulously carve out time in my calendar for research and writing. I am also intentional about integrating my research and administrative agendas which ensures that my research informs my practice and vice-versa.

What are you most interested in learning about and/or doing next as a researcher?

I am interested in expanding my work on leadership, institutional mission, and culture to a variety of state and regional contexts, since my research has shown that institutional mission is deeply embedded in state and regional history. As an administrator, I also think it is important to consider the practical implications of academic research and would like to examine the ways in which institutional culture frames administrators’ everyday decisions and actions in policy-making, communication, and strategic planning.