Preparing Academic Leaders Through Simulation and Role-Play August 6, 2018

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, 2018

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.


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.


Faculty to department chair July 13, 2018

The 5 Most Helpful Experiences for Moving from Faculty to Department Chair

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Inadequate preparation, unrealistic expectations, and increased workload can be overwhelming for faculty members making the transition to department chair. Brenda Coppard, chair of occupational therapy at Creighton University, found this transition “just a little mind boggling” and decided to focus her research on it.


Perception problem July 6, 2018

The Perception Problem

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Whose problem is it when there is a perception that the performance of a faculty or staff member has not been satisfactory? Consider, for instance, the following scenario. A chairperson is conducting an annual performance appraisal of a faculty member and says, “Your teaching seems to have been quite good this year, based on both student and peer evaluations. Your research productivity exceeded our institutional expectations. And you served on more than your share of departmental committees, worked with the recommended number of advisees, and even chaired an important search for us. But there’s still this lingering perception out there that you’re just not a team player, that you put your own agenda ahead of the department’s. I’m worried that that’s going to hurt you when you come up for promotion in a few years. I’m not saying that this is my opinion or that it’s even justified; I’m just saying that it’s a common perception.”


Medieval university leadership July 2, 2018

Financial Leadership from a Medieval Point of View

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Universities can be subtle keepers of tradition. For instance, one of the first university endowments was created from feelings of being “unjustly vexed” and “enormously damnified.” It was in 1260 that John Balliol apparently caused these ill feelings by somehow offending the lord of an English castle. To make amends, John presented himself at the Durham Abbey, was publicly scourged by the bishop, and pledged perpetual maintenance for poor scholars. The upshot of John’s penance was Balliol College, Oxford. My colleague in institutional advancement liked the idea of public whipping for some donors. He suspected that it might be a useful way to boost the annual fund but doubts whether exacting money in such a way can be called charitable giving. In any case, endowments have been supporting higher education since the beginning. And enormously vexing regulations for resource management followed shortly thereafter. In keeping with tradition, modern institutions of higher education are still required to observe execrable rules that must be navigated by the highest-ranking officers of the college.


department chairs June 29, 2018

Rethinking Councils of Chairs

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Over the last two decades there have been occasional conference presentations and articles in the higher education literature about collectives of academic department chairs that meet to discuss a variety of topics. These groups are not the same as a chairs’ council that is convened on a regular basis by the dean to disseminate policy and other information. Instead, it is a chairs-only organization that sets its own agenda and works on assigned or self-generated tasks independently of other administrators.


appreciative inquiry June 27, 2018

Using Appreciative Inquiry to Facilitate Positive Change

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As leaders we are expected to lead and manage change. A core success in that endeavor is to foster, create, and lead highly collaborative teams. A powerful way to achieve this is through appreciative inquiry. It’s a process I use with groups of all kinds. In this article, I will illustrate how you could use appreciative inquiry in two practical examples, a time-limited project team and an ongoing department team. I hope these two examples will offer a structure that you can use in your own leadership as you build and foster the teams you lead and are part of.


leadership June 25, 2018

Congratulations—You Are a Leader! Now What?

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Whether you are new to the school or moving into a position of leadership with more responsibility in your current department, there are some things to keep in mind for a smooth transition. In either situation, the work of a leader is not easy. Shifting from being a member of a team within a department to being the leader of those same people can be complex. Similarly, joining an existing team as an outsider can pose a comparable challenge. The potential for pitfalls exists in either situation; however, there is also potential for significant gains on all sides.


bottom-line leadership June 22, 2018

Bottom-Line Leadership

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A friend of mine posed a question that I’ve been grappling with: “Why are so many college and university presidents so … bad?” The question caught me off guard since many of the college presidents I meet are hardworking, creative, dedicated leaders. But I knew exactly what he meant. Increasingly, the faculty and even many midlevel administrators at colleges and universities are finding themselves dealing with presidents and chancellors who appear to view faculty members as though they were the enemy, micromanage colleges and departments within an inch of their lives, alienate one group of institutional stakeholders after another, and then depart from the institution after five or six years, leaving others to pay the bill for the damage they’ve done. The fault lies, I believe, in something I call bottom-line leadership.