Archive: May 2014

The blogger “Female Science Professor” has posted an interesting article about her path to leadership positions. She notes, “although the ‘path’ concept might be relevant to the future (as an image of some potential future directions to take), it doesn’t work so well as a metaphor for the past because ‘path’ implies that I was on a particular trajectory, with a particular destination. More accurate descriptions for me would be that I parachuted into my current position (after a bit of a push), or that I wandered around bushwhacking in a dense and somewhat unfriendly forest before accidentally stumbling into the administrative sector.” My initial adventure into administration was also unplanned — the dean suggested that I become the interim chairperson of a department when I sought to transfer to his college — but my path to become a dean quickly came into focus in my first year as chairperson, as I discovered that I loved administrative challenges. I can still say that 11 months into my first year as a dean, and hope that it continues!

Tonight I’m attending a ceremony to honor University of Wisconsin-Parkside alumni, tomorrow I’ll attend a lunch between the two UW-P Commencement ceremonies, and on Sunday I’ll attend an awards ceremony for the local Phi Delta Kappa chapter. A couple of weeks ago I was the keynote speaker for an Optimist Club scholarship dinner. Spring banquet season is here!

I am co-editing an anthology, the Minority Dean Survival Guide. Below is the general description; please send me a note for more information if you would like to participate or know someone who should receive the call for submissions!

The Minority Dean Survival Guide is a multidisciplinary volume that takes a no holds barred approach to academic life from the perspective of a senior administrator.  Although the roles of president and provost are critical for running a university, no university thrives without a competent set of college deans who indeed are responsible for leading academic enterprises, some of which are the size of small to mid-size universities, but each of which are vital no matter what the size. Similar to becoming a professor, being a first-time dean comes with little to no training.  Most deans enter into these roles subsequent to being department head, associate dean, or a program director.  Neither of these roles adequately prepares new deans for what they will experience as dean.  In this book the contributors candidly uncover the privileges, perils, and politics of being a minority dean in a simple, easy to read, and compelling writing style.  This approach provides an interesting pastiche, since there are clearly dimensions of the job that are common among all deans.  There are also particular elements of being a minority dean that distinguish these persons from all other deans across the academy. That is what readers will discover in this volume, as they are invited to engage the experiences of current and former minority deans, each of whom, due to the politics that will be discussed in the introduction, will use a pseudonym.  This collection brings together cross-disciplinary deans from a range of institutions that vary by size, region, demographics, and focus.  Each will provide their own advice and personal narratives, and will discuss their leadership styles, successes, failures, and recommended rules for survival.

There are two name plates on the door to my office suite. One reads, “Walter R. Jacobs, Dean.” The other: “Vivian Williams, Dean’s Assistant.” When I started the job last July it never occurred to me to NOT list Vivian on the door, but as I visit other Deans’ offices (at UW-Parkside and elsewhere) I’m learning that this is not always the case. For me, the Dean’s Assistant is an integral part of the Office of the Dean team, as Vivian met weekly with the Associate Dean and me. Her experiences and input were highly valued, and her contributions went far beyond her official office manager duties. I will miss that, as Vivian has left UW-Parkside to start her own business. A part-time person will be joining us next week while we search for a full-time replacement. Hopefully the full-time person will be able to start on July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, and the weekly meeting tradition will resume. (I also meet individually with the Associate Dean at least once a week, and have lots of individual interactions with the Dean’s Assistant during the week.) I hope that I can find another Dean’s Assistant with Vivian’s incredible skills!