Accepting and sharing responsibility for creating a productive work setting within the department and institution result, at least to a great extent, from how well each member of the community carries his or her own fair share of the common workload. The challenges faced by higher education institutions in the 21st century cannot be successfully mastered, nor can the efforts of dedicated professionals be sustained when the actions of a faculty member are divisive, uncompromising, and inflexible. In a similar way, it is destructive to a department’s morale and effectiveness when one or more of its members accept a significantly lower degree of responsibility for achieving a shared purpose. These elements lie at the heart of that salient, fundamental hallmark of successful interactions in academic life that is commonly called collegiality.
In Part 1, we examined several reasons why it’s important for universities to look at faculty work not in terms of the actions that are taken but rather in terms of the benefits that result. Of course, it’s one thing to say that changing how we view faculty roles can help promote research while advancing teaching; it’s another thing entirely to bring about such a massive change.
The transition to a new academic leadership position is full of complexities, unwritten rules, and new challenges. Whether the new provost, dean, or chair is new to the institution or has years of institutional knowledge, a simple orientation is not enough to get him or her off to a successful start, says Anne Massaro, project manager and organizational development consultant at The Ohio State University.
Colleges and universities have realized increasingly that effective teaching by instructors and successful learning by students does not occur through serendipity. Even though more and more graduate programs are providing doctoral students with experience and training in how to teach at the college level, many faculty members still reach their positions largely through an education based on how to perform research, not on how to include students in that research or train others in their disciplines.
If you’ve worked in higher education long enough, you’ve already had this experience. A supervisor or member of your institution’s governing board calls an administrative retreat, and there, following the inevitable icebreakers, brainstorming, and team-building exercises, you are presented with the “bold new paradigm” that is to determine how you are to reorganize your unit, “reconceptualize” your leadership style, or modify every policy and procedure that is already in place. Someone, it seems, has been reading a management book and has bought into a new approach to how you should do your job.
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned all-day orientation program to get new academic leaders acclimated and ready to tackle the challenges of their new positions, right? Wrong.
Given the rate of department chair turnover and the skills and knowledge required to do the job well, it makes sense to consider ways to smooth the transition.
For six years, Cecilia McInnis-Bowers and E. Byron Chew served as dean-partners for the division of business and graduate programs at Birmingham-Southern College, taking shared leadership beyond a simple division of labor by working together on every decision, jointly advising students, and conducting each meeting and telephone call together.
We hear a great deal these days about “accountability” in the academy. Many states (including South Carolina, where I try my best to be a “responsible” college administrator) have some kind of state law mandating that public schools—and, in some cases, colleges—demonstrate that they are indeed “accountable.”
On Tuesday’s post, we discussed an Oxford University study that looked at departments recognized for their excellence in teaching at 11 research-intensive universities. Based on what they learned, Christopher Knapper and Sergio Piccinin, two of the researchers who conducted this study, offer the following advice: