During the past year or so the poor economy has forced everyone to do more with less. Now it’s almost December and we’re in the thick of the end-of-semester crunch … with the pressures of the holiday season closing in fast. Feeling a little stressed?
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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.
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.
To say that my first year as division chair was a “learning experience” filled with “teaching moments” is an understatement. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! In addition to the normal duties of chair, my division was moving to a new building, the college was working on its accreditation self-study, we began collective bargaining, we added two new members to the division, we conducted a search for an additional new member, and I taught a fully online course for the first time.
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.”
When John Pyle was vice president at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, one of his goals was to focus the campus’s energy on implementing the operational plan. “There was a lot of energy once the strategic plan was developed, but we kind of lost steam in implementing the operational plan,” he says.
Most professors will have to deal with classroom disruptions at some point, from the relatively minor—students who show up for class late or who talk excessively—to the more serious—disrespectful, uncivil, or threatening student behavior. It’s the role of the department chair to create a culture that helps prevent and deal with disruptive behavior effectively.