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.


univerisity organizational cultures February 9

The Two (Organizational) Cultures of the University

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In a now legendary lecture at Cambridge’s Senate House in 1959, C.P. Snow coined the expression “the two cultures” as a way of characterizing what he saw as an increasing rift between science and the humanities in modern academic life. Since Snow’s time, we’ve seen even greater isolation of many disciples that has created the “silo effect” we so often lament as academic leaders. But in addition to this division on the academic side, we also should realize that the complexity of colleges and universities means they sometimes split into two other cultures as well.


Locating the Academic Leadership Land Mines February 2

Locating the (Leadership) Land Mines

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Beginning a position as an academic leader can be challenging under any circumstances. But those challenges increase exponentially when you’re hired into an institution from the outside. You enter a world where nearly everyone knows more about most local issues than you do. Alliances have already been formed. Coalitions that stand in opposition to those alliances have emerged. People have strong opinions about what should and shouldn’t be done, and they all have plenty of evidence to support their views. How do you know whom to believe and whom to regard with a bit of skepticism? If you make the wrong choice on an important enough issue, it can make it much harder to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself. You can find that people mistakenly believe you’re aligned with this or that faction, causing them to interpret everything you say with a certain degree of distrust. Even in the best of circumstances, being in academic leadership can sometimes feel as though you’re constantly trying to negotiate your way through a minefield. But how do you locate the land mines in new and unfamiliar terrain?


Translucent Academic Leadership January 1

Translucent Academic Leadership in 3 Steps

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At a college meeting I once attended, one of the department chairs accused the dean of not being transparent enough in the way she made decisions. The dean answered that it wasn’t that simple. Confidential matters were sometimes involved. She couldn’t violate the trust of people who had shared certain information with her. She needed to be discreet about personnel issues, and so on. There was a pause, and then the chair asked, “Well, if you can’t be transparent, can you at least be a little more translucent?”


Academic leadership lessons November 20, 2017

Lessons from an Interim K–12 Principal

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The superintendent of schools called me at 9:00 p.m. on August 13. “Can you come and be an interim principal? My principal left on short notice, and I need an experienced K–12 principal starting in September.” “Are you crazy?” I said. “The fall semester starts August 24th!”

As we talked some more, I became intrigued with the idea of being a principal again. I had served as a principal at that school eight years earlier and greatly enjoyed the work. Moving on from there, I had worked as a superintendent of schools before retiring from school administration and then becoming a professor of educational leadership at Virginia Tech. In addition to enjoying working with students, teachers, and community members, I was an assistant professor of educational leadership, after all. I should be able to do what I profess to my graduate students!
My program leader agreed and said that she would run the idea by our faculty chair. If he agreed, she said that she would promptly work on finding highly competent adjuncts to take my place. He did, and she did. I applied for an unpaid leave of absence, and my request made it through the director of the School of Education, the dean, and finally a vice president.


delegation of duties October 27, 2017

How an Academic Leader Changes a Lightbulb

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The very first house I bought was a condominium, and the purchase price included 10 hours of service by an electrician. The idea was that each owner would want to customize the unit with special lighting fixtures and built-in appliances, and covering the cost of the electrician was intended to be a selling point. I was just starting out as a college professor and far too strapped for cash to afford luxuries like special fixtures and appliances, so my 10 hours of included service lasted me for several years. Each time one of my unit’s floodlights would burn out, rather than climbing up on a ladder myself, I’d call the manager’s office and have the electrician come do it for me. After having done so four or five times, I heard the manager sigh and say, “You know, an electrician is certainly capable of changing lightbulbs; it just seems to me that you’re wasting a perfectly fine electrician by having him do so.”


Build emotional intelligence October 23, 2017

How to Build Emotional Intelligence in Emerging Leaders

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Part of the responsibility of managers in the enrollment field is to prepare developing professionals for the future. While there are certainly opportunities for formal professional development through national and regional conferences, these opportunities are not sufficient for forming well-rounded leaders. Although budget constraints often limit our ability to send junior staff members to a sufficient number of conferences, the events themselves are often more focused on content and knowledge transfer than on specific skill building. This is particularly true when it comes to helping staff develop their emotional intelligence, which is a critical tool for success in enrollment and all of higher education.


Managing administrative issues October 18, 2017

4 Principles to Manage a Variety of Administrative Issues

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In his role as vice president of learning and student success at John Tyler Community College, Bill Fiege faces a wide variety of issues—dealing with student concerns, allocating resources, and managing change.

All issues have the potential for more significant conflict, and one of his goals is to address issues efficiently and effectively to minimize the amount of energy he (and others) must devote to them.

The following are some specific things he does to manage the issues he faces:


Preparing future academic leaders October 13, 2017

Preparing Future Academic Leaders in Graduate School

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Doctoral students typically do not receive preparation for future academic leadership roles, a shortcoming of graduate education that Rutgers University’s PreDoctoral Leadership Development Institute (PLDI) is seeking to fix.

In an interview with Academic Leader, Brent Ruben, PLDI director and executive director of the Center for Organizational Development and Leadership, and a distinguished professor of Communication, talked about the rationale for the program and progress to date.


Preparing Academic Leaders September 25, 2017

Best Practices in Preparing Academic Leaders

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It’s increasingly common for colleges and universities to offer programs designed to help chairs, deans, and other academic leaders become more effective. Sometimes falling under a center for teaching and learning, at other times existing as an independent office for leadership and professional development, these programs reflect the recognition that college administrators often come to their jobs woefully underprepared for their responsibilities. How can institutions know whether their academic leadership initiatives are worth the resources they require? Here are five practices commonly followed by successful leadership training programs.