CURRENT ARTICLE • August 16th tools

Filling an Empty Toolbox

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The convention in many video games is for the players to begin with only a few rudimentary tools or weapons and then increase their arsenal as they complete more complex challenges. Administrative positions are amazingly similar. Most of us start out with few, if any, tools in our leadership toolboxes and add resources only as we mature, gain more experience, receive appropriate training, and learn from our mistakes. In fact, we make a lot of those mistakes initially, largely because our repertoire of administrative strategies is so small. In the familiar adage that’s been attributed to practically everyone from Mark Twain to Abraham Maslow, “To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” So if something has worked once to solve a problem—creating a task force, working with opinion leaders behind the scenes, or simply forging ahead by making a decision ourselves—we keep doing that until the time comes when that approach fails—perhaps spectacularly and destructively.

OTHER RECENT ARTICLES

Approaches to Building and Sustaining a Diverse Adjunct Workforce August 14

Approaches to Building and Sustaining a Diverse Adjunct Workforce

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With nontenure-track faculty now comprising 70 percent of the faculty workforce, academic leaders face daunting challenges in creating proactive workplace strategies that address this new reality. Even though more than a quarter of nontenure-track faculty are now in full-time nontenure-track appointments, the majority still teach part time. Despite the urgency of addressing this dramatic shift in the faculty workforce, as we point out in Creating a Tipping Point: Strategic Human Resources in Higher Education (Jossey-Bass, 2013), higher education has been comparatively slow to realize the potential of human resources (HR) in developing strategic talent practices. By contrast, in the private sector, a twenty-year research study (Ulrich et. al., 2008) with 40,000 respondents in 441 companies found that when HR professionals develop high-performance work systems, these practices affect 20 percent of business results. Such practices, however, need to be integrated and systematic to produce these outcomes.


Surviving a Leadership Transition August 13

Surviving a Leadership Transition

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Leadership changes in the upper administration can be stressful for chairs and deans. We’ve all seen situations in which a new chancellor or president arrives, and between six months and a year later, there’s an entirely new team of vice presidents. Sometimes entire divisions are reorganized. Offices are moved from the supervision of the provost and vice president of student affairs to create a new center for enrollment management, or an existing division of enrollment management is dissolved, and the people who worked in it are reassigned to the provost and vice president of student affairs. At times, too, new CEOs like to bring in their own team, usually people they worked well with at their previous institutions. (On why such a move is almost always a mistake, see Buller 2016.) A new vice president for academic affairs is often followed by the hiring of new deans, a new dean by new chairs, and so on.


Peacemaking 101 August 9

Peacemaking 101

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You are the chair of a department of six full-time faculty members. You have been chair for three years, are tenured, and hold the rank of full professor. Four of your faculty members are tenured, three hold the rank of associate professor, and one, Dr. Bill Dudas, is a full professor. One faculty member, Dr. Amanda Thompson, is a tenure-track assistant professor in her fourth year at the university. You consider Thompson your most valuable and productive faculty member. She is a master teacher, a great scholar with many databased articles published in highly regarded journals, and on five university committees as well as three key committees in the department. She is project director for a US Department of Education five-year grant to fund students in the department’s master’s degree program.


How to Lead Assessment in Your Unit August 7

How to Lead Assessment in Your Unit

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Being in charge of assessment within one’s unit involves more than measuring student learning outcomes. It’s about leading cultural change, a process that is best undertaken in collaboration with those who know the discipline, program, and students best—the faculty and staff.

In an interview with Academic Leader, Linda Neavel Dickens, director of institutional accreditation and program assessment at The University of Texas at Austin, offered advice on how to lead this collaborative process.


Preparing Academic Leaders Through Simulation and Role-Play August 6

Preparing Academic Leaders Through Simulation and Role-Play

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When it comes to how we interact with our students, most of us have made the transition from teaching to learning. We understand that, in order for students to master a subject, they can’t be spectators; they have to engage actively and consistently in the learning process. Even when we struggle to live up to our expectations because our classes are too large or are taught online, we find ways to get away from the old “teaching by telling” model and move closer to our “learning by doing” ideal.

Why, then, don’t we follow this same principle when it comes to preparing academic leaders? A quick website search reveals that most institutions provide chairs, deans, and faculty leaders either no training at all, or a series of independent workshops on such topics as budgeting, time management, and conducting faculty searches. Make no mistake: Workshops of this kind play an important role in providing academic leaders with the information and skills they need, but they’re hardly enough by themselves. They need to be integrated into a program that’s continuous, structured, and interactive. We learn by doing no less than do our students. One way of making leadership training more effective is to incorporate simulation and role play.


Five Newbie Mistakes Made by Academic Leaders August 2

Five Newbie Mistakes Made by Academic Leaders

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The first six months (or even year) of a position is often called an academic leader’s “honeymoon period.” People are more likely to overlook an administrator’s mistakes and to cut the person a little bit of slack about taking the institution or program in a new direction. That’s a good thing, because new academic leaders frequently get in their own way by committing five mistakes due to inexperience—at times bringing their honeymoon period to a sudden, inglorious close. Although these five newbie mistakes are most common among academic leaders who are brought in from the outside, a few of them are also committed by those who are new to their jobs within the same institution.


campus sexual assault survivor July 31

The Traumatic Impact of Interpersonal Crime on the Campus Sexual Assault Victim/Survivor

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The word victim is derived from the Latin word meaning sacrifice. Suffering seems to be caused by the nature of the crime as it relates to the social character of the specific victim. And it is important to note that when a person is victimized, there may be other issues already present within that person that have caused trauma. As a result of heightened attention to victims, our systems have increased the ability to identify and address the needs of victims. It may be important to note the use of terms and the need to use more than one to include as many perspectives as possible. Both the term victim and survivor are used in popular and social science literature on sexual assault. The use of the term sexual assault survivor first emerged as a way to indicate the therapeutic stage in which an individual began recovery and healing. Those who argued that such healing began with a willingness to inform others about the assault, applied the term survivor more generally.


dealing with Problem Faculty July 30

Seven Steps for Dealing with Problem Faculty

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In a survey of America’s academic chairs almost 3,000 participants identified “dealing with problem faculty” as their greatest concern (Crookston, p. 13). The title of this article is not “seven easy steps for dealing with problem faculty.” The task was number one for a reason; rehabilitation is difficult and in rare cases may not be possible. Whether your problem person is a low achiever, a passive aggressive, a prima donna, a bully, or an exasperating jerk—you’ll probably spend far more time dealing with him or her than you want. One challenge is that problem faculty members are seldom self-made deviants; usually they are the product of ongoing department-wide neglect. From my experience as a department head and dean plus my research into the literature on leadership and chairing, I have identified seven steps that can help.


listening well July 26

Listening: The Greatest Compliment

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My responsibilities as associate provost and dean of instruction position me to serve as a sort of academic ombudsman, a person who receives concerns raised by both faculty and students and who, when necessary, facilitates the proper execution of the university’s grievance procedures. Given the typical demeanor of an aggrieved individual, I sometimes have the opportunity to engage someone who is a) frustrated and demanding restitution, b) mortified and seeking reconciliation, c) belligerent and threatening litigation, or d) a quixotic mixture of all the above. By their very nature, such engagements are seldom comfortable; indeed, the level of discomfort makes the all-important task of listening well difficult—but not impossible. Creating an environment that gently separates the emotional from the rational is the first step in addressing a grievance and perhaps defusing it.