Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

September 17: Exploring the working relationships between faculty and administrators

Department chairs, deans and academic vice presidents, as well as science deans, are critical players on a campus in the process of translating a good idea into a project or program. The PKAL Volume IV postings for September 17th, 2004 explore the working relationships between faculty and persons in these positions of administrative responsibility.

It is important to understand what role you would like to play, and could best play, in the process of change. Becoming a leader does not necessarily mean one has to be out in front banging the drum. Further, realizing the value of listening gives one the opportunity to step back and understand what is going on before proposing personal solutions to the task at hand.

Change is not sustainable unless and until it is seen as advancing the work and goals of the vast majority of stakeholders. (Doing no harm is not sufficient.) Further, the future benefits of the new initiative must manifestly justify the reallocation of existing and future resources. Basically, the change has to be, or become, what everyone wanted to do anyway, even if they didn’t know it at first.

Revitalizing undergraduate STEM is a complex problem. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken: for every complex problem, there is a simple solution, and it is wrong. While institutions, both local and national, play a role, changes that “stick” are carried out in reality by academic departments, energized by faculty leadership and colleagueship, in a complex interplay that recognizes and understands local missions and local constraints while keeping an eye on high standards set by the national STEM community.

– PKAL National Steering Committee.

From A PKAL Essay: Leaders: Lessons Learned.

Essays, Stories & Reports:

  • Getting support and budget for your great idea
    - Peter A. Facione, Provost, Loyola University Chicago
    Peter Facione's essay develops a scenario through which a faculty member (or a team of faculty) with a good idea builds internal connections within a campus in order to secure resources to advance their ideas. He urges faculty to figure out how a single good idea fits into their long-term goals for professional advancement, into the departmental and institutional priorities, and how to articulate that connection to people with decision-making responsibilities. His main point is that good administrators "remember people who have good ideas and show initiative and energy, even if [they] cannot support the person at that moment and in the way the person is asking. [They] are talent scouts and coaches, mentors and leaders....looking for motivated people whose work and vision they can use for the betterment of that person and of the school."

  • The role of the science dean
    – James M. Gentile, Dean for the Natural Sciences, Hope College
    The story from Hope College, about the impact of strong leadership at the divisional level from the science dean, is presented in an essay by James Gentile, currently dean of science at Hope. How such leadership helps to frame and form a sense of community that breaks down disciplinary boundaries, encourages the joint pursuit of a research-rich learning environment, and forsters the scholarly career of each member of the faculty in the context of serving broader institutional goals.

Responses by the PKAL F21 community:

PKAL is inviting Faculty for the 21st Century (F21) Members to respond to the lead Volume IV essays posted each week. In reflecting on Facione's essay, Getting support and budget for your great idea, the particular knowledge and experience of these two F21 members about how administrators and faculty work together to advance institutional priorities are in the essays below.

  • Reflecting on faculty requests for funds
    - Roger E. Thibault, Associate Dean for Resources, Planning and Student Services, College of Arts and Sciences, Bowling Green State University
    This commentary on Facione's essay provides some further insights into understanding the process for requesting funds and highlights the key administrative players who can provide the budgetary support for your ideas.

  • A response to Facione's roadmap for securing a budget
    - Jessica Young, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Western State College
    This commentary emphasizes for faculty the crucial lessons of Facione's essay. Young explains the importance of knowing this information early in one's faculty career in order to carry out the projects necessary in being a succesful agent of change.