An increasing part of any academic dean’s week is fielding calls (and sometimes unannounced visits) from concerned parents. These so-called “helicopter parents” are well-known to student life professionals. In the past, they’ve called to try and influence the admissions process, to negotiate improved housing assignments, and to manage the personal lives of their children.
Most higher education institutions are not organized to encourage, support, and reward collaboration. Yet, collaboration—across disciplines, functional units, institutions, and organizations—is a highly effective way of dealing with complex issues.
One of the goals of any academic leader is the ability to improve morale. But how do you do that in difficult times? How do you make members of the faculty and staff feel appreciated and optimistic about the future when raises are minimal or nonexistent and operating budgets are reduced?
Many academic leaders are involved in regional accreditations, and I am no exception. The six regional accrediting agencies are becoming increasingly stringent in the application and interpretation of their standards, and this can make the accrediting process a difficult one to survive. Our institution was a founding member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and has been accredited continuously from the beginning. I have been involved in four of the 10-year “reaffirmation” activities, serving as chair of the college steering committee twice and serving as our institutional liaison with SACS for many years.
As every academic leader can attest, the current generation of college students has been blessed with parents who remain highly invested in every aspect of their children’s education. It is not uncommon for parents of students to call the dean, provost, or even president to discuss a problem with a course. Occasionally even the parent of a graduate student will attempt to intervene in an academic issue affecting his or her child.
Editor’s Note: Today we feature part 2 of Dr. Greenstreet’s “10-Point Survival Guide to Being, and Staying, an Academic Leader.” If you missed part 1, please click here for yesterday’s post.
6. Talk straight: Someone once said: “Sincerity is the key to good leadership — if you can fake that, you’re in.”
While entering the administrative ranks of academia might seem a formidable task, staying there presents a whole other series of challenges. The average length of stay for a dean, vice chancellor, or chancellor can often be fewer than five years and in some programs, the duration of leadership has been known to be considerably shorter.
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.
Hiring, promotion, and tenure activities are full of risk and potential landmines. Poor hiring decisions are not only costly, but the hiring process itself opens the institution up to litigation if everyone on the hiring committee is not trained properly.
Now that I’m one of those “senior” faculty, I hear a lot of digs about faculty who need to retire … deadwood, still standing but hopefully about to topple. The belief that the teaching effectiveness of most “seniors” declines is strong and persistent. Is it true or yet another one of those academic myths?