transition to deanship June 6

Maintaining a State of Readiness for Sudden Transition to Deanship

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Many deans enjoy long, productive careers that terminate with retirement. In some cases, deans may make a voluntary strategic career move to a larger institution as a step in a grand plan to move to the highest levels of administration. In cases of impending retirement or an announced move, time may be available to groom a temporary or permanent replacement or conduct an external search. However, in other cases deans may have shorter tenures and their departure may be sudden and unexpected.



failing gracefully April 27

Failing Gracefully

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Make no mistake about it: If you serve long enough as a university administrator, sooner or later you will fail at something—massively, undeniably, and embarrassingly. Either the result that you intended from an initiative never came close to being achieved, or you’ll have a new supervisor who feels you’ve wasted your time pursuing X when you should’ve been pursuing Y, or you’ll charge off in a bold new direction only to discover than no one is interested in following your lead. Never having a failure isn’t really an indication that you’ve done everything successfully; it’s more likely an indication that you haven’t been trying enough new ideas or endeavors. Certainly, you can fail by attempting to do too little rather than too much. But to fail miserably … that usually entails the launching of a new, albeit ill-advised enterprise.


higher education administration April 20

Zen and the Art of Higher Education Administration

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One of the best books on how to be an academic leader actually has nothing to do with higher education administration. Daniel Levin’s The Zen Book (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2005) is a combination of introduction to Buddhist practice and guide to daily life. It is also a wonderful summary of principles that are useful to any academic leader. Consider the following.


using stress April 13

Using Stress to Create Change, Just as Nature Intended

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Organizations are often anthropomorphized— attributed with the characteristics of living things. One might describe an organization as strong or weak. Organizations might be said to flourish or wither. They might be said to experience periods of peace or other periods in which they are under attack and in a position of mortal danger. We might describe an organization as a family or as a team. The stock price of a company may be said to dive or to soar. Organizations are said to be born and, sadly, they often die.




Developing a Leadership Philosophy March 21

Developing a Leadership Philosophy

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In the busy, sometimes chaotic world of academic leadership, it’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by the managerial tasks of the position and not give adequate attention to the broader, more important leadership duties. To be an effective leader, it helps to have a set of principles—a leadership philosophy—to guide your actions and inspire others.


faculty buy-in March 7

What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Faculty Buy In’

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At a recent meeting with fellow community college administrators, I found myself increasingly bothered by the repeated invocation of a certain term: faculty buy-in. At this particular meeting, the term was included as part of some well-intentioned advice (“If you want this program to succeed at your campus, you absolutely need faculty buy-in.”), as a means to highlight a successful venture (“I was pleased at how quickly we were able to secure faculty buy-in.”), and as a way to underscore the potential pitfalls of moving the college in a certain direction (“Without faculty buy-in, this initiative is doomed to fail.”). Upon reflection, I realized that it was more than just the repetition of the term that bothered me—it was also the actual use of the term itself and what it implies about how faculty members are viewed at many institutions.


deans interpersonal skills February 12

Deans’ Interpersonal/Negotiating Skills

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The ever-present “revolving door” syndrome, where education deans leave their posts within four to five years, served as the impetus for our research. We wanted to understand what we were doing as veteran deans that enabled us to exhibit a certain degree of resiliency with our job responsibilities. We adapted Eisner’s connoisseurship model (1991, 1998) and served as both a connoisseur and critic of our patterns of behavior over a six-year period. Eisner’s model explains that a connoisseur is able to identify the different dimensions of situations and experiences as well as their relationships. A connoisseur not only appreciates a situation but also critiques the same situation to help others see its subtle and not-so-subtle aspects.