Saturday, April 29, 2017

EPA Removes Climate Change Information from Website

Click for photo credit.
The Washington Post reported here yesterday that the EPA has scrubbed extensive climate change information and data from its Website. As many know, the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a climate change denialist and this move, while disappointing, was expected.

However, what is lost in much of the news about this change is that the EPA still has a legal obligation to address climate change. This is long decided case law. President George W. Bush originally directed the EPA to work on climate change management near the end of his presidency as a result of Massachusetts et al vs. EPA and President Barrack Obama continued what Bush started. While Pruitt may deny climate change, the courts, including the Supreme Court, have accepted human-caused climate change as fact. As a result, if Pruitt dismantles policy, expect to see significant legal challenges. Ultimately, EPA's climate change policy has an extensive body of law to back it up and Pruitt will find it difficult and expensive to try to roll back the clock regardless of what he removes from the Website.

Academic Leadership Part 4--Going Mobile vs. Promotion in Place

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Recently I led a workshop with my terrific colleague, Terri Shapiro, on academic leadership. We split the workshop into two parts. I covered introductory topics around academic leadership and how to find a position to fits one's skills and Terri reviewed information on how to avoid pitfalls once in a leadership position.

In this multipart series, I will review some of the highlights from my part of the presentation. Part 1 introduced the series and defined academic leadership. The second post detailed how to find a position that is right for one's skills. In the third part, I reviewed 4 simple ways that you can create opportunities for advancement. Today I will review issues around whether to find opportunities at one's current institution or whether to ponder a move.  Part 5 will consider what step-up skills to build as one prepares to advance. Finally, Part 6 summarizes the steps one should take to start to advance within an organization. The complete series is linked here.

Another thing to consider is whether you like your location.
Not everyone will fit into New York or New Mexico.
This is the new Oculus in New York City. Photo by Bob
Brinkmann.
There are three simple questions to ponder about the next step in your career as to whether to consider a move for advancement or whether you can find a way to earn a promotion at your current job.

1. Is the opportunity you want available at your institution? Some people are amazing administrators and stay at their administrative jobs for a long time. Of course some people are also poor administrators and stay at their administrative jobs too long. If you are considering some type of promotion at your institution, you should survey the landscape of the promotional ladder. Are there promotion possibilities for you in the near future? It doesn't hurt to have a conversation with people holding administrative positions to determine what opportunities might be available in the future. There may be changes coming and it might be good for people in a position to make decisions to know of your interest in taking on greater responsibility.


Not every place can be Oxford, but can you find happiness
at your institution? Photo of Oxford University by Bob
Brinkmann.
2. Do you like your colleagues and your institution? Every university has its own culture. Some people fit into the culture and some do not. Plus, each department within a university has its own social dynamic that may or may not work for individual faculty members. If you are unhappy at a university or department, it is a sign that you may wish to consider looking for administrative opportunities at another institution. We have all seen the miserable senior colleague who complains about their university and their colleagues. Why be that person?

3. What opportunities are out there? Many faculty members who earn tenure do not recognize that tenure is often mobile. What I mean by that is that if you earn tenure at one institution, you can usually carry that tenure with you to another institution as long as you have the research record that would be expected at that place. This allows us to be mobile to take on chair, dean, or other administrative positions at other institutions. At any given moment, there are usually hundreds of administrative jobs open at universities around the world and there is likely a fit for those interested in finding opportunities elsewhere. One can conduct searches for academic jobs at www.chronicle.com or www.insidehighered.com

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Coming up next, I will review some step up skills that one could consider gaining as one explores administrative options.

Previous posts on this series:

Academic Leadership Part 3--Creating Opportunities for Advancement

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Baba Brinkman, Rap, and Climate Chaos

Baba Brinkmann. Click for photo credit.
One of the things that is so interesting about rap music is that often each album tells a story. For someone old school like me who remembers thematic albums like Pink Floyd's The Wall or Bowie's Station to Station, the rap genre provides similar immersive experiences that allows one to take in a total message in an hour or so of music. Baba Brinkman (no relation) is one of the more unusual rap artists one could encounter. He focuses his work on science, religion, literature, and a variety of thoughtful topics not often included in the art. He considers himself a peer-reviewed rapper in that he gets his pieces peer-reviewed by experts in the field to ensure accuracy.

I had the pleasure of seeing him perform his Rap Guide to Climate Chaos last night at Hofstra University and I was amazed at how he was able to cover so many important concepts about climate change within an hour and a half performance. He very wisely covers a range of topics from science, policy, climate change denial, corporate responsibility, and economic realities. He does this with an impressive background video that communicates visually many of the concepts that he raps about. For example, when he raps about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (really!), he includes graphs, images, and photographs that illustrate key points. In some ways, this hour was a review of a whole unit on climate change in a sustainability class. During the performance, he performed many different songs that really got at the heart of climate change and was able to communicate key concepts in ways to get one thinking differently about the issue.

Brinkman performs all over the world and is often asked to college campuses. For those of you in higher ed, you may wish to consider bringing him to your campus if you are interested in an innovative, informative, and entertaining program. 

For more information on Baba Brinkmann check out his Website here which has a ton more information about him and his music.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Academic Leadership Part 3--Creating Opportunities for Advancement

 Recently I led a workshop with my terrific colleague, Terri Shapiro, on academic leadership. We split the workshop into two parts. I covered introductory topics around academic leadership and how to find a position to fits one's skills and Terri reviewed information on how to avoid pitfalls once in a leadership position.

In this multipart series, I will review some of the highlights from my part of the presentation. Part 1 introduced the series and defined academic leadership. The second post detailed how to find a position that is right for one's skills. In this part, I will review 4 simple ways that you can create opportunities for advancement. Coming up, Part 4 reviews issues around whether to find opportunities at one's current institution or whether to ponder a move.  Part 5 will consider what step-up skills to build as one prepares to advance. Finally, Part 6 summarizes the steps one should take to start to advance within an organization. The complete series is linked here.

In this post, I will review for simple ways to create opportunities for advancement.

1. Show up

Click for photo credit.
Woody Allen famously said that 80% of success is showing up. In higher education, we obviously show up to classes, department meetings, and committee appointments. However, universities have a myriad of events one can attend on any given day such as a college-wide gathering, a union meeting, or a talk by a colleague or external expert. While many faculty attend these types of events, it is surprising to many outside of our field that most faculty do not show up. By taking the time to attend meetings, talks, and events one can get a broader understanding of your university that will be useful in many ways in your career and that gives you an advantage over your colleagues who do not take the time to participate more broadly in campus meetings and events.

2. Say yes

Click for photo credit.
Universities are managed, in part, by the hard work of committees. While every faculty member steps up and does his or her fair share at some point of their career, most tend to do just what is needed for promotion or what is expected in their department or college. However, there are ample opportunities to gain tremendous experience within committees that will help you throughout your career. Most committee chairs are constantly searching for new committee members to add value to the work of the team. For example, right now, my university is in the midst of its 10-year accreditation process. Everyone involved in the various committees associated with our accreditation will gain great value in understanding how a major accrediting body works, how to manage an in-house accreditation process, and how to develop an accreditation report. While some may run from committees that do these types of tasks due to the workload involved with such an intensive process, many involved with the process fully understand that the experience will be extremely valuable.

3. Chop wood, carry water

Me sitting on a log as my brother and father saw fire wood.
Service work at universities can be a thankless task. However, those who do service work well are often good candidates for future administrative roles. Some service work can be grunt work--writing a report, analyzing data, conducting interviews, etc. There is no glory in this type of work. However, you do gain valuable experience and you become known as someone dependable who understands the workings of your university. The skills will prove to be useful as your career develops. Most people I know in administrative positions point to time spent working on a particular service project as the key experience that helped them recognize that they were interested in career advancement.

4. Point out problems and offer to fix them

Click for photo credit.
Universities are constantly changing. Each academic year starts a new cycle of experiment and change. With such dynamism in a system, there are often problems that emerge. Certainly it is important to report any serious problems. But it is especially helpful if one can identify solutions to problems. Say, for example, your department has a serious issue with its curriculum and it needs updating. Instead of pointing this out without a solution, think through a process by which the curriculum could be improved. Everyone knows someone who always points out the flaws but who fails to look for solutions. They are great at identifying issues, but often fail to recognize that they have the power to be part of the solution.

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Coming up next, I will review the pros and cons of promotion in place or taking your talents to another institution.

Previous posts on this series:



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Academic Leadership Part 2--Finding the Right Position for Your Skills

Recently I led a workshop with my terrific colleague, Terri Shapiro, on academic leadership. We split the workshop into two parts. I covered introductory topics around academic leadership and how to find a position to fits one's skills and Terri reviewed information on how to avoid pitfalls once in a leadership position.

In this multipart series, I will review some of the highlights from my part of the presentation. Part 1 introduced the series and defined academic leadership. Today's post will detail how to find the position that is right for one's skills. Part 3 focuses on how to create opportunities for advancement. Part 4 reviews issues around whether to find opportunities at one's current institution or whether to consider a move.  Part 5 will consider what step-up skills to build as one prepares to advance. Finally, Part 6 summarizes the steps one should take to start to advance within an organization. The complete series is linked here.

In this post, I will highlight four critical issues to consider when considering which position is right for your skills.

1. Evaluate your rank.

Once I had an undergraduate student tell me that he wanted to be an academic dean of a college after he graduated. He wanted to have an impact on how universities are managed. I encouraged him, but detailed the steps he would need to take to become a dean. First, he would need to finish his masters and Ph.D. That would be at least 5-6 years. Then he would need to get a job as an assistant professor and earn tenure. That would take about 7 years. Then he would need to get promoted to full professor, which is another 6-7 years. After getting an undergraduate degree it takes about 20 years to become eligible to become an academic dean--and that is if you are on the fast track. That is why so many deans are so, well, venerable. The student was surprised it would take so long to become dean and his expectations did not meet reality.
The example above demonstrates that one must evaluate one's rank prior to developing a strategy for entering an academic leadership position. The most senior level leadership positions go to full professors who have gained tremendous experience on their path to earn their lofty academic rank.

But regardless of rank, there are ways to gain academic leadership experience. In fact it is difficult to rise in academic rank without gaining early experience as a committee member, committee chair or other leadership positions in one's career. In fact, it is wise to take on progressively more responsible leadership positions as one rises in rank. As a student, one can serve on an officer in clubs or serve on university committees. As an untenured assistant professor, one can serve on department, college, or university committees and even chair them. As tenured faculty members, the options expand. Certainly for more advanced positions such as the dean position I outlined above, one should wait until one earns full professor status. However, there are many leadership positions that are possible at the associate professor rank. Each institution has a different culture on what is appropriate. For example, at some institutions it is common for associate professors to have department chair opportunities whereas in others that position is reserved for full professors. Regardless, take a look at your own institutional culture to find out what opportunities are available for your current rank.

2. Evaluate your family situation.

The job of a university professor is one of the best jobs in the world. While there are great responsibilities and there are tremendous demands for earning tenure and full professorship status, the lifestyle of a university professor is rewarding and enjoyable. Moving into leadership positions changes that lifestyle tremendously. Many administrative positions require one to work a normal 12-month schedule just like all the non-professors on the planet. Some require you to be available into the evening for scheduled events and academic programs. 

As you consider moving into administrative roles, it is important to consider your family ecology. Will your family be okay with your absences or your lack of long summer vacations? Will they be fine with your frequent 12 to 14 hour days due to evening responsibilities? Are they willing to be part of your campus life by attending social events and programs? Some administrative positions are less jobs but are instead lifestyles. Your family needs to understand what their lives will change as you take on more responsibility. 

Over the years, I have seen many administrators go through personal challenges due to family conflicts that emerge as a result of their administrative responsibilities. The more your family understands and supports what you are doing, the happier everyone will be.

3. Evaluate your skills.

One of the first jobs I ever had in college was as a security guard in an emergency room at a hospital in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Most hospitals have security in emergency rooms, but in Oshkosh, particularly on weekend evenings, it was a requirement due to the late night bar fights that broke out in the blue collar college town. I was tall, but weighed about 150 pounds. I was probably the thinnest security guard on the planet. But I was a good security guard. I did everything I needed to do and was able to keep the fights down and the hospital secure. However, one of the other security guards, who happened to be fit and muscular, was terrible. He was a well-built buff guy who was naturally aggressive and confrontational. However, everyone knew he stole from the hospital and he found himself absent whenever some type of drama in the emergency room required the presence of security. He was eventually fired, but I was able to stay with the security company throughout my undergraduate degree. While my body size didn't seem like I would be good security, it turned out I was able to manage the job quite nicely due to my overall ability to diffuse tense situations.

While a career in security was not what I desired, the job did pay the bills for many years because my skills matched the job. Take some time to evaluate your own skills. Do you have the needed skills to become a chair, dean, or provost? If not, build upon your own administrative skills by taking on lower level responsibilities and by taking advantage of training opportunities at your university or at conferences.

4. Evaluate your personal mission.

No one chooses an academic career for the money. While the compensation is usually good for full time faculty members, the pay is lower compared to similar jobs in the private sector. We go into academic careers because we love teaching and research and because we want to make a mark on our profession. Those of us who go into administration often do so because we want to provide our services where we work. We want to make them better or we want to offer our unique skills to provide service to our colleagues.

There are very few who go into academic administration for the money. Ask any chair why they decided to become chair and most of them will provide altruistic reasons. Most want to make improvements in their department or are doing a rotation service that is expected of them. 

While enhanced salaries or stipends are certainly a carrot for moving skilled faculty into administrative roles, most take on administrative tasks because they have a desire to make improvements to their institution. I have found that the most successful administrators are the ones that have a clear personal mission that is motivated not by money but by a sense of care and responsibility to their university. Take a look at your personal mission (if you don't have one, take some time to write one out). Consider your motivations for moving into an administrative role. If you do not find yourself motivated largely by altruistic themes, you may not be in a good place to move into an administrative role.

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Coming up next time, I will focus on how to create opportunities for advancement.

Previous posts on this series:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Academic Leadership--Part 1: Defining Academic Leadership

A friend of mine recently sent me a stack of old Emerald
Echo
papers. The Echo was our high school newspaper
in Waterford, Wisconsin. One of the notices in the paper
was my statement to try to get elected onto the student
council. I think I lost the election, but I kept involved with
school governance or management my entire life. I'm
not sure how my name got misspelled.
Recently I led a workshop with my terrific colleague, Terri Shapiro, on academic leadership. We split the workshop into two parts. I covered introductory topics around academic leadership and how to find a position to fits one's skills and Terri reviewed information on how to avoid pitfalls once in a leadership position.

In this multipart series, I will review some of the highlights from my part of the presentation. This part will introduce the series and define academic leadership. Part 2 will detail how to find the position that is right for one's skills. Part 3 focuses on how to create opportunities for advancement. Part 4 reviews issues around whether to find opportunities at one's current institution or whether to consider a move.  Part 5 will consider what step-up skills to build as one prepares to advance. Finally, Part 6 summarizes the steps one should take to start to advance within an organization. The complete series is linked here.

Before moving forward, it is worth defining academic leadership.

Academic leadership is leadership that:

  -Provides guidance, vision, and organizational management for a department, committee, college, or university.

  -Provides specialized expertise (i.e. accreditation, diversity, or research)

  -Provides disciplinary leadership for external organizations such as a professional association.


Frederick Douglass statue at Hofstra University.
Of course, more broadly, leadership can be defined as leading a group toward a common goal. Some have informally defined leadership as herding cats.

Many university faculty do not consider academic leadership a good career option. They look at those who go into academic leadership as former colleagues who go to the dark side. This is not a very nuanced view of university life. Administrators are a necessity at universities and it is important that some of them come from the faculty. In addition, academic leadership positions provide amazing opportunities. Certainly leadership is not right for every faculty member. I know many amazing professors who would be poor leaders. They are great teachers and scholars, but are not so great at herding cats. 

It is also important to note that most university faculty spend about a decade earning a Ph.D. on a very narrow topic. In that time, they get very little administrative training except through the school of hard knocks. Contrast this with many administrators of other organizations who have MBA's or other types of business or management degrees. Unlike administrators in other organizations, university faculty learn how to become administrators over time by taking on progressively more complex roles. That is why it is worth considering whether or not to move toward administration early in one's career.


Oxford University.
There is a range of leadership positions at university and not all of them are in administration. Below is a list of some of the kinds of leadership opportunities that exist on most college campuses:

  -Committee chair
  -Department chair
  -Student club advisor
  -Center director
  -Associate dean
  -Dean
  -Vice provost
  -Vice president
  -Executive director
  -Provost
  -President

This is a short list that could be made much longer. What other academic leadership positions are available on your campus?

Next time, I will review how to find a good position that matches your skills. One topic to reflect on prior to Part 2 of this series: How do leadership opportunities vary by rank? What opportunities are available for adjunct faculty, assistant professors, associate professors, and full professors?


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

New "Uber Green" to Use Entirely Organic Fleet

Uber's new biofleet. Click for photo credit.
A new article in the Washington Times is reporting that Uber, the car service company and app, is launching Uber Green to limit its carbon footprint. The new service will offer transportation options using burros and donkeys.

"We are really thrilled to enter into this new phase of our company," said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. "Our clients have been asking us for green options and we have out competed Tesla to provide a totally organic experience for our passengers."

The first biofleet started today in New York City.

This Uber Green driver focuses on the Columbia University area.
Click for photo credit.
"I believe that burros and donkeys will add some much needed nature to New York City," said New York's Mayor de Blasio. "I have been trying to get rid of the horses that carry the heavy carriages in Central Park so I am very pleased with the Uber Green initiative because the company limits the weight that the draft animals are required to carry."

Some have critiqued the plan and question how the burros and donkeys will fit into the New York landscape.

Bike messenger Carl Cohen is not in favor of the new initiative. "I can barely find space on the street for me and my bike. How am I going to navigate the streets with a donkey in the road?"

Yet New York City gardeners are thrilled with the new initiative. "I have had trouble finding manure and compost for my tulip bed," said Shirley Wu. "I can't wait for Uber Green to start in my neighborhood."

Some Uber Green drivers are using the alleyways of New York City
to ferry clients around the city. Click for photo credit.
The Uber Green project is the brainchild of Melissa Long. "We have surveyed our customers for the last few years to find out what they are looking for in an Uber ride. By far, most people are interested in just getting to their destination. However, they are also interested in the experience and in being green. We believe that this unique organic experience will be highly profitable for us and for the drivers."

Henry Adams, a representative of the Central Park hansom driver association is glad that the horse handlers of Central Park have options. "I know that many of our drivers will be very pleased to diversify their options."

Traditional yellow cab drivers were not so happy. Filberto Yoark, a long-time cabby said, "We have enough asses in the city. We don't need any more."

For more information about Uber Green, please click here.