Sunday, May 7, 2017

Academic Leadership Part 5--Building Step-Up Skills

Click for photo credit.
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 skillsIn the third part, I reviewed 4 simple ways that you can create opportunities for advancement. Part 4 reviewed issues around whether to find opportunities at one's current institution or whether to ponder a move.  Today's post 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.

Getting involved in committees is a great way to begin to learn
administrative skills. Senior faculty impart knowledge to junior
faculty in committee settings. Click for photo credit.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a mentor was to learn as much as I could about university governance and management by getting active on committees. The committee level didn't matter--department, college, or university--because by working on committees one can gain important knowledge and skills that will prove useful throughout an administrative career. However, as one gains experience, it is useful to specialize in some particular skill set to provide direction to your administrative trajectory. Below are several step-up skills that I have identified that will be useful to develop. While one does not need to gain experience in all of them, although one should have a degree of familiarity with them all, it is important to try to build expertise in one or two of them.

There is a great deal of chopping wood and carrying water in
administrative roles. This is my father cutting firewood in Wisconsin.
1. Accreditation. Every 5 to 10 years a university goes through a rigorous accreditation process that takes about 2 years to complete. Accreditation is a difficult and time consuming endeavor that is often a thankless task for those involved with the process. There is a great deal of chopping wood and carrying water involved in the effort. If one builds enthusiastic expertise in accreditation, one will be invaluable to an administrative team.

2. Personnel management. Faculty and student personnel issues are complex. They involve hiring, disciplinary action, tenure and promotion, and conflict resolution. In addition, there are many personnel rules and regulations along with collective bargaining requirements that must be taken into account.

3. Student advising. We all know faculty who are amazing student advisors. They work with students on degrees, clubs, and job searches. They know the ins and outs of student governance. These individuals are great candidates for academic administrative positions that manage undergraduate or graduate affairs.

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
4. Budget. Few faculty are really good at understanding university budget processes. Chairs and deans typically manage most of the budgetary problems faculty have to confront. Yet for those who are good at budgeting, there are many opportunities. Most dean and provost offices have a faculty administrator responsible for managing budget issues for the office.

5. Curriculum development. University curriculum is in constant flux. Whether it is the core courses required for all students or the major courses required in a particular department, curriculum is always under review. Some faculty members are very good at understanding national trends and are committed to improving curriculum in partnership with their faculty colleagues. Coordinating curriculum changes is usually a full time faculty administrative job, in part because changes have to be coordinated with state accrediting agencies.

6. Grant management. Oversight of grant offices by faculty administrators is common at most universities. They help to provide a link between the needs of the faculty and the legal and finance realities of dat to day operations. They also help to drive research agendas and build faculty research teams for complex grant initiatives.

Understanding university space, building construction, and
building management is another important skill.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann
7. Faculty development. Some faculty administrators specialize in faculty training in areas such as teaching, technology, research, and a variety of professional development topics.

8. Communication. Some universities have administrative roles for faculty who are good communicators. They often write speeches for senior administrators, create Website content, develop magazines, or write a myriad of other social media pieces that provide a unique perspective on university life. Good written and verbal communication skills combined with interpersonal skills are very useful for all administrative positions.


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

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