Aphorisms for Academic Affairs July 17, 2018

Aphorisms for Academic Affairs

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Over the years, I have realized that most of the preparation for academic leadership is focused on how to effect institutional change and make a positive difference. These certainly are the “big ticket” items. The truth is, however, that such broad topics don’t really hit on the blocking and tackling of daily management. With that in mind, here is a little collective wisdom that may prove especially useful for those who are beginning their journey in academic affairs.


The Cost of Leadership November 6, 2017

The Cost of Leadership

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As a recently retired academic leader—a former department chair, division head, dean, vice president, provost, and interim president—I have had time to reflect on the joys and woes of leadership at a small liberal arts college. What successes did I have? What failures? What could I have done differently that would have made my college a better institution? “Too soon old and too late smart,” an old saying goes. But there is some value in ex post facto assessments, yes?



Department Chairs Managing Up May 29, 2017

Considerations for Successfully “Managing Up”

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A great deal has been written about department chairs in higher education who deal with a myriad of issues related to the faculty for whom they have leadership responsibility. Such an emphasis is appropriate when one considers that virtually everything our institutions deliver in teaching, scholarship, and service results from the expertise and effort of the faculty. Thus, the development of leadership skills of department chairs has become a major focus; however, the literature puts significantly less focus on helping chairs “manage” the next layer up—the dean.


Introvert Leadership May 22, 2017

The ‘Quiet’ Dean: Rethinking the ‘Extrovert Ideal’ of Leadership

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I am sitting quietly in my dean’s office, a serene place I first occupied in 1986, reflecting on a book by Susan Cain, one that I think you all should read, titled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I would much rather communicate to you from my peaceful digs by way of a memo than set forth my ideas in a sparkling speech at a conference. Perhaps, like you—or perhaps not—I am an introvert and quick to admit it. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert (and so many academic leaders now embody the “extrovert ideal” of our contemporary culture), you will find Cain’s book informative, thoughtful, and (even) practical.


5 newbie mistakes May 15, 2017

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.