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The Greatest Course [She'll] Ever Teach: Administrator as Teacher

The Greatest Course [She'll] Ever Teach

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. 

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Tags: #ChangeMojo, Administration, Faculty, SEN, SENv25n46


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Comment by Annie Newman on December 10, 2012 at 3:19pm

All staff positions are opportunities to teach. All interactions have in them the opportunity to teach (and to learn) - interactions with other staff, faculty, students. Planners in particular have to educate their colleagues on the value of planning, of the value of data (and maintaining/updating the data you have), on the value of considering the institution as a whole rather than from the perspective of one's own department. Planners also have to educate upwards - presidents, vps, deans change over the course of a planner's career, and each new set of them needs to be educated in the history of planning at the institution, what has worked and more importantly, what hasn't, and why. 

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