managing through June 4

“Spider-Man Principle” and the “Categorical Imperative”: How to Address the Problem of “Managing Through”

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“Managing through” is the administrative practice of passing difficult decisions on to a higher level of the organization in order to avoid the consequences of having made an unpopular choice. For instance, a department chair may receive a request from a faculty member that the institutional cap on travel funding be waived in his or her case. If the chair believes that this exemption is unnecessary or inappropriate but that refusing it would cause negative repercussions, the chair might practice managing through by approving the request and hoping that it will be turned down by the dean or provost. The chair may be afraid of receiving a poor evaluation from the faculty member that year or may simply wish to avoid the unpleasantness of multiple appeals and claims that “you’re just not our advocate.” The dean is then placed in the difficult position of either overturning the chair’s decision or managing through again by passing the request on to the provost or president. In a truly egregious instance of this practice, the chair may even call the dean to say something like, “I just wanted you to know that I’ve sent on that travel request we spoke about the other day. I’m not going to be offended at all if you deny it. In fact, that’s what I’m hoping you’ll do.” The result is that the administration ends up playing a form of “good cop/bad cop” rather than deciding each issue on its own merits.





academic programs May 16

Weight Management for Universities: Evaluating Academic Bloat

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Historically, new academic programs have often been introduced by several mechanisms. An energetic faculty member is inspired to create a new major, a donor bequest stipulates the development of an interdisciplinary institute, a president mandates a “visionary” curriculum, or a dean or provost responds to a sudden market opportunity.


capstone course May 7

Can a Capstone Course Try to Accomplish Too Much?

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Kristi Upson-Saia thinks it can, and she has data from one field that supports her belief. When her religious studies department (at Occidental College) decided to reassess its capstone course, Upson-Saia looked for relevant publications in her field. Finding few, she began collecting data from other religious studies departments. She asked those departments to explain their course objectives and share capstone materials such as guidelines, checklists, websites, and syllabi. Her analysis of religious study capstones includes data from 29 different programs, and what she found is typical of the descriptive analysis of capstones completed in several other fields. The courses have different objectives, they address content in different ways, and students complete a variety of assignments, although most involve the application of research skills used in the field.


self-aware leader April 25

Becoming a Self-Aware Leader

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Being aware of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences enables leaders to decide where to focus their efforts and know when to seek help from colleagues. Becoming a self-aware leader involves a three-step process that Mabel Miguel, professor of organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, explained in an interview with Academic Leader.


advisory board April 23

Establishing, Maximizing, and Refining Your Advisory Board

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An advisory board serves an important role for academic departments, units, and programs: board members are key campus allies who provide leadership, visibility, and advice for your work. “Advisory Boards provide a mechanism for faculty involvement, ownership and buy-in to centers’ institutional change vision,” suggests Susan Gano-Phillips at the University of Michigan–Flint (2010). Usually consisting of campus leaders and advocates, an advisory board is an important “think tank” and source of ideas, expertise, and advice.


Adding Graduate Degrees April 9

Adding Graduate Degrees and a Graduate School at a Traditional Bachelor Degree Granting Institution

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To make transformational change, one must take certain considerations into account articles about the topic. There is a gap, however, in information about taking institutions from the undergraduate level to the graduate level. Academic leaders must make the case for adding graduate degrees. Will the institution miss out on the potential market share if they don’t make the jump?