organizational leadership

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, sociologist Patricia Leavy argues, “let’s give student researchers the credit they deserve.” She notes,

Just as college students often serve as research samples because they are convenient populations for academic researchers, so too do students routinely serve as research assistants and co-authors. Credit and compensation is typically attributed to student collaborators based on individual negotiations with faculty mentors. In other words, whether the student is listed as a research assistant or a co-author, whether the student is listed as the lead author or a secondary author, or how the student’s contribution is both defined and monetarily compensated (especially with a work such as a book) is based on whatever arrangement the student strikes with the researcher (who is usually the student’s professor)…

Credit and compensation should be based on the level of collaboration and how much each collaborator has contributed to the final product; it should not be based on career level. It really is that simple.


One of my former colleagues in the University of Wisconsin system has posted an interesting article to the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ (AAC&U) LEAP Challenge Blog. Check out his “Learning Through Friendship” reflection. LEAP, by the way, stands for Liberal Education and America’s Promise, an AAC&U national public advocacy and campus action initiative. I should think more about how I can use LEAP in strategic planning for the college.

Last summer I posted an article about a short presentation I developed for first year students about the “keys to academic success.” This week I used the guide for the first time at SJSU, but revised it. Here is the new structure of advice to students:

  1. Study Smarter: How you study changes; it’s all about quality, not quantity.
  2. Time Management: There is a seismic shift from having a schedule planned for you to making your own schedule. Consider The Three T system:
    1. Triage: Determine priority of tasks
    2. Track: System for getting things done [a to-do list process; a great resource is and its apps]
    3. Trace: Establish good habits and patterns
  3. Navigation 1: General Networking. University is a bureaucracy, but there is navigation assistance. Talk with classmates. Talk with resident advisors. Use campus services, like the college advising centers.
  4. Navigation 2: Professors. Learn how to decipher professors’ demands, and then select the best strategies to meet them. This is about studying smarter (point 1) and also being proactive: go talk to professors!

I also encourage students to read the book College Rules! How to Study, Survive, and Succeed in College [Sherrie Nist-Olejnik and Jodi Patrick Holschuh, authors. Ten Speed Press, 3rd edition.] I begin to wrap up the presentation by reading the last paragraph in College Rules!:

“While in college, think about gaining the following skills – thinking critically, writing persuasively, problem solving effectively, and speaking convincingly. If you can develop these competencies over the next four (or five) years, you are ready to learn for a lifetime. These are also likely the skills that will help you land (and keep) your dream job.”

I then conclude by telling the students: “college is serious business, but enjoy it too. Have fun!”

Today SJSU’s Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications informed administrators about the latest phase in the SJSU brand initiative: a new set of banners that bear portraits of students, faculty members, and alumni have been placed on campus, and along one corridor the banners also spell out “SPARTANS.” The Associate Vice President notes:

The banners kicked off a storytelling campaign, “My Story is Here,” a statement of pride in being part of the SJSU community. This effort seeks to involve community members in the larger SJSU story — one of individual and collective grit, smarts, and imagination.

“My Story Is Here” also has an online presence, where the portraits and stories can be viewed. 15 profiles are in the launch, with many more expected to be added over the next few weeks. I’m happy that three of the 15 profiles feature College of Social Sciences folks: Mexican American Studies Professor Julia Curry, Psychology alumnus David Fales, and Behavioral Science/Anthropology alumnus Dylan Wondra. SJSU’s main brand is “Powering Silicon Valley,” but that goes beyond a focus on STEM fields. I look forward to seeing more social scientists being featured!

Yesterday I attended the San Jose Jazz Festival. In the main festival area I saw a couple of great high school bands on the “Next Generation” stage. In a loosely affiliated function, on campus SJSU’s African American alumni organized a BBQ that featured a jazz band. At the BBQ I was introduced to the community, along with other new African American administrators. There was also a presentation about a summer 2016 study abroad trip to Cuba, followed by an appeal for donations to help students make the trip. Overall the BBQ was a fun event, but afterwards my wife and I discussed a missed opportunity: the fundraising appeal did not provide any specifics about how much money is necessary to support the students, nor did it set suggested donation levels. While I can understand why the organizers were worried about being too pushy in asking for money at a social event — I’ve certainly experienced that before! — an appeal could have been crafted that set specific monetary goals at the event itself and afterwards via a soon-to-be-launched donation website. While any type of contribution would be welcome, of course, the appeal would be more successful with more information and targets for suggested individual and/or group contributions. I’ll have to keep that in mind as I start my own fundraising efforts later this week!

One of my earliest posts on this blog was about “Scheduling Time for Reading,” as learning new tasks crowded out some old activities. It seems that this challenge is popping up again two years later! My initial solution was to save articles to my Instapaper account, and read them on weekends. That approach worked particularly well in my second year at UWP, when I flew to Charlotte, NC to visit my wife just about every weekend, so I could read on the flights. Now we both have jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area and live in just one household, so I have to toss that solution out the window. My daily commute to campus via light rail is just a 10 minute trip door to door, so an option of reading while going to the office is also eliminated. Hhhmmm. OK, up until 2012 I read a paper copy of the Sunday paper on Sunday mornings, so maybe I can restart a tradition of reading articles and news at that time, but now on an iPad instead of the old fashioned way. Yes, I’ll give that a shot!

Yesterday I had lunch in the Student Center for the first time. I went to Panda Express, and my fortune cookie message read: “the riches of others makes you more valuable.” In a way, that’s a nice shorthand for describing the job of a Dean, as one of our major tasks is to make sure that the departments in our care are well supported and thriving. Money is probably the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the word “support,” and that is a necessary item, but another important aspect is the ability of department chairs to innovate, to try new things without unnecessary interference from above. I’ve started monthly one-on-one meeting with the chairs, and stress that the purpose of those meetings is not for me to give direction (or, worse, micromanage their decisions), it’s for me to become informed about issues and to help solve problems. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate department successes, and discuss ways in which we can maintain positive momentum. Monthly meetings with 12 department chairs will take a lot of time, but they are well worth the effort. In the end, successful departments lead to a successful college!

San José State U’s brand is “Powering Silicon Valley,” which emphasizes the STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. One of my tasks as Dean of the College of Social Sciences will be to advocate the importance of the social sciences. At my first meeting with department chairs we started to discuss some strategies in which the social sciences complement STEM, and other strategies that focus on questioning STEM’s place at the center of the equation. A page on the “Latin Correspondent” website captures many of the central ideas; perhaps I should ask the chairs to read it before our next meeting? Any additional ideas and/or resources I should share?

Before becoming a dean I loved attending graduation ceremonies. As noted in a previous post, my enjoyment has been tempered by discomfort with a new task: reading students’ names, as I worry about mispronouncing some of them. I just read about a new service that might help: NameCoach, a web page students can use to record their names with correct pronunciation. I’m going to have to get UW-Parkside connected to this service!

“A Woman Of Few Words” is Paula Krebs’ blog entry about how “one of the nice things about being a dean at this time of year is being asked to ‘say a few words.'” I agree with her advice about being concise and developing the proper focus:

“The trick, of course, is to find the Few Words that touch on the occasion and keep the focus where it should be. I’ve learned to try to pick one or two things to say about the students or faculty who are being commemorated, but they have to be things that come from me. It’s no good when I try to praise folks or fields I know nothing about. It rings false and ruins the mood, like a eulogy from a minister who can’t even pronounce the deceased’s name.”

That advice served me well when making banquet season speeches. I don’t have any speechifyin’ currently scheduled for the summer, but if something gets added I’ll be ready!