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Faculty Spotlight: Joan Heminway

Joan HeminwayJoan Heminway (J.D.), interim director of the College of Law’s Institute for Professional Leadership and Rick Rose distinguished professor of Law, attended Brown University for undergrad where she received degrees in History and International Relations. A New Yorker at heart, after graduation, she was excited to return to her hometown for law school at New York University and graduated with her Juris Doctorate in 1985. After working for 15 years at a multinational law firm in Boston practicing corporate finance law, she felt a calling to teach and joined the Vol Family in 2000.

For the past 21 years, Heminway has been teaching professional students from the College of Law, and occasionally the Haslam College of Business, courses in the business law area.

In addition to her role as an instructor in the College of Law, Heminway says she has been involved with Teaching and Learning Innovation before it was even named as such. “I love working with TLI. It’s a great group, and lots of different areas of intersection with what we do at the College of Law, and basically what all faculty do on campus,” she adds.

Just this past academic year, Heminway served as a panelist for a Faculty Roundtable, the topic of which discussed teaching across differences. “We discussed some of the teaching that we’ve done that cut across areas of difference. And, obviously, in the last year, that has been a significant concern for faculty, students, staff – everyone on and off campus, for that matter,” she says.

As an extrovert, Heminway says that getting involved on campus is natural for her. She also realizes the importance of doing so, noting, “Faculty can get stuck in a mode where they’re working mostly to themselves and with a small group of people that they know. I think it constrains their creativity and their ability to use their knowledge in important ways in and outside the classroom with students.”

“I actually just completed the Inclusive Teaching Certificate, which was really great, and built off of that Roundtable,” she adds.

Heminway also worked on the Office of the Provost’s Faculty Mentoring Taskforce this year, and led a faculty affinity group on entrepreneurship, which is part of the business law area she feels most passionate about.

Heminway says she sees these opportunities, like the Roundtable, as a way of communicating with people that she normally would not interact with – a move outside of her comfort zone to talk about things that are of great importance to her.

Teaching and getting through to students in and outside the classroom is a tricky business she says.

“Students change all the time, and we probably do too, and even sometimes we’re not changing in the same direction, so being able to communicate with students…is really important,” Heminway reflects.

“I’m working with professional students, so when I talk to the people that work with undergraduates – they’re my students of tomorrow, and so it gives me a little window into their world, so that I understand better where students are coming from when they hit the College of Law.”

Heminway also comments on the importance of cross-campus collaboration in regard to law itself. “We have worked a lot with the College of Social Work, and some with the College of Nursing, on projects, which has been fun,” she says. “Having those campus engagements makes us better connected because law doesn’t stand on its own. It often works with other things, and so, it’s important for us to know what’s going on across campus.”

In addition to her involvement with TLI’s programs and leadership positions, Heminway has also been involved with other campus organizations like the Chancellor’s Commission for Women and Faculty Senate. Having previously served as committee chair for the Faculty Affairs Committee, she later ran for Faculty Senate President and won. It was during this time that she became involved with the Commission for Women, of which she currently serves as co-chair with Dr. Katherine Luther from the College of Communication and Information. Until recently, she also served as the campus coordinator for Mic/Nite and the faculty advisor for sexual empowerment and awareness (Sex Week) on campus.

“It’s a privilege to serve the campus,” says Heminway. “I think a lot of people in the professional colleges in particular, like the College of Law, see themselves sometimes as being divorced from the rest of the campus because so much focus is placed on undergraduates, but really, the campus supports us in so many ways, institutionally.”

As someone who has been involved throughout campus for the past twenty plus years, Heminway says she is pleased with the way the campus is moving forward under current leadership. “I think our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion has been too long and coming, but I think we’re making greater strides in that area, not just for women, but for people of color, for the disabled, LGBTQ people, for international students,” she says.

As for the role she hopes to play, Heminway wants to focus on leadership development and professional development opportunities for students, faculty and staff across campus. Heminway hopes to remain as involved on campus – as her commitments allow – which includes teaching yoga once a week at the College of Law.

Known alternatively as “Yoga Joan,” she is a registered yoga teacher who is a big believer in exercise and mindfulness. If she is not doing yoga (or any of her other academic commitments), Heminway will most likely be posting food pics to Instagram or Facebook. A long-time hobby of her and her husband, Heminway says cooking – whether through Hello Fresh or classes at the UT Culinary Institute – has been a major pastime of theirs.