Beki Grinter

Snowbird: Working with your Dean

In academia, academic management, computer science, discipline, women on July 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

The final session I attended was a session called working with your Dean. Eight Deans offered their perspectives on this. It was a session that was targetted at Department Chairs, but even though I am not one I found it very useful, and really enjoyed hearing what the Deans had to say. The majority of the session was small group discussions, and I found the dialogs very productive and illuminating.

Some take aways I got from this session.

I continue to develop an understanding of the partnerships that are Deans and Chairs. How they both work together and towards execution of the University’s mission and strategy. That sounds obvious as a single sentence, but what emerged during the discussions were processes for doing this and details about how to go about this. Differences also emerged between Deans with Chairs, those without, Deans who have many departments in their School, and those who have less. And of course, for Computer Science which can be free-standing, within Engineering, within Sciences, etc… each one comes with different sets of constituents and concerns.

I learnt that there is scholarly evidence that shows that women are far more likely to leave if they get an alternate offer. This led to a discussion of how retention policies that force the acquisition of an alternate offer are likely to have a negative affect on diversity. I also learnt that some universities have policies on how many times someone can be a retention case, usually it’s a number of years between each retention bid.

Dual body opportunities also came up. I was delighted to learn that Deans increasingly see dual body opportunities as the normal hiring mode. Some are dual body academics, but there’s a large class of professional partners, so whether the partner happens to be an academic or not, hiring is increasingly having to account for the presence of another person who needs support.

Clear, open, communications came up over and over again. While I think this is true in any working environment, I have the impression that it is uniquely true in academia. Given the role of the faculty in raising funds that support the University operation, tenure and academic freedom, and a variety of other features that are unique to the University setting, communications seems to take on a particularly crucial role.

I heard people talk about the multiple constituencies that a leader interacts with including faculty, staff, students, the educational mission of the University, and the other University leadership.


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