Join our collegial odyssey—based on v41n3 of "Planning for Higher Education"
Elizabeth H. Simmons, dean of Lyman Briggs College, a residential undergraduate science college at Michigan State University, reflects on her 9 years as an academic leader (administrator), and shares how she views all of what she does as "The Greatest Course [She'll] Ever Teach.”
An interesting different perspective might be to look at other administrative positions, not always held by faculty, also as teaching positions? Are space planners, institutional researchers, IT staff, and more—all teachers, too?
While leadership roles are often described as constituting “service” to the institution, much of what one actually does on a daily basis as an administrator involves acting as an educator. If you become a chair or dean, you will find yourself simultaneously teaching a faculty class, a staff class, separate seminars for disciplinary research groups or departments, and even a slew of individual tutorials for faculty or staff mentees at transition points in their careers. These courses may also intersect in multiple ways, through their topics or participants. Applying your prior experience as a teacher to your new leadership role can help you approach unfamiliar responsibilities more effectively. ...
In this article, I take a few examples of responsibilities that chairs and deans often face (leading meetings, coaching faculty, building inclusive excellence) and show how one might approach each of them as extensions of familiar teaching tasks. Analyzing my administrative work through this lens has helped me maintain perspective on what I am trying to accomplish as dean; I hope it will be of similar benefit to others.