• April 19, 2014

Reflections of a Failed Dean

Climbing Ladder Illustration Careers

Brian Taylor

Enlarge Image
close Climbing Ladder Illustration Careers

Brian Taylor

"They say they can't work with you." With those words from the president, my life as chief academic officer ceased. Oh, I stayed on the job for a long time after that, but my value as a dean was effectively derailed. My career at, let's call it Hogwarts College, had ended.

I'm a failed dean. There are a lot of us out here, but since many of us want to continue working for a living, we don't reveal ourselves, and we don't say much.

There's a great deal of advice given to chief academic officers, and ever since my failure, I've read it assiduously to get a sense of what I did wrong. Like many progressive educators, I believe in the power of learning from mistakes and in reflection as a path to greater understanding. I have been reflecting up a storm and talking with many mentors, but I still don't understand what I did that led to this end.

The advice from people who know me and from experts in the field serves only to muddy the water. Their responses come in distinct categories:

It's the system. This theory is particularly appealing to many because it assigns no responsibility to a person or an institution. The gist is that higher education is built around hierarchy, order, and stability. My role—as someone whose job it was to get people to be more aggressive in serving students and to propose changes that shake up the status quo—naturally intruded on the system.

Many academic vice presidents have been effective in doing the kinds of things that cost me so much in my former position. Part of the job is making the hard decisions that no one in his or her right mind would want to make. You solicit opinions, you try to lay the groundwork for what might happen, but in the end, you have to make the decision within certain principles of fairness and a focus on student learning. So blaming the system for my ouster seems patently irrational, since other deans make tough decisions every day and manage to keep their jobs.

It's the institution. One outside consultant said to me, "That's just the way things are at Hogwarts College. No one could have succeeded." The focus here is mainly on the specific culture that the college has built up around itself; actually, it's a range of often-clashing cultures.

My advisers have a point here. Walking into a complex environment as a newcomer can be difficult. If the college itself doesn't fully understand its cultures, how can a lone outsider who is trying to feel a part of the institution understand all the undercurrents in a timely fashion?

This theory, too, appeals because it doesn't require anyone to take responsibility. At my college, I saw a culture of passive aggression, at war with a culture of desire to help "deserving" students (who always ended up being a very small percentage of the whole), and at war with a culture of overestimation of the professionalism and credibility of the learning enterprise. Everyone, including me, remained busy pointing out other people's cultural flaws, ignoring the enormous hand we all had in building those cultures.

It's the faculty. I remember driving home after a particularly touchy faculty meeting and talking on the phone with another administrator. He said to me, "You know, from my days as a faculty member, I always hated the old guys at meetings who would disparage faculty as the ones who stand in the way of education. But I'm becoming one of those old guys."

One would think that a blame-the-faculty assessment would come mostly from administrators and staff members (and certainly many of them, having a good working relationship with me, saw that as an inherent issue). But I heard that sentiment just as often from faculty members as well: "It's other faculty, not me."

While I tried to understand that they thought they were being supportive, I also felt frustration. Weren't they part of the faculty? If they thought that the majority of the faculty felt differently from the most vocal naysayers, didn't the majority have a certain responsibility to speak up?

I had won teaching awards throughout my career, kept active in my discipline, been elected a faculty leader, and kept in touch with faculty members and students from early in my career. It's not as though I didn't have faculty credentials as good as or better than the Hogwarts faculty regarding the things in which they took the most pride. But it was as though, once I entered the dean's office, I lost those credentials.

Ultimately, blaming the faculty, while tempting, leads nowhere. The nature of the dean's job is to cajole, lead, nurture, and enable a highly trained group of people with often difficult personalities. Other deans have done so successfully and will do so in the future.

It's the president. College and university presidents tend to be egocentric, demanding, and forceful. It's the nature of the job. You couldn't survive the constant barrage on all sides if you didn't have a strong core from which to work. For each president, those qualities manifest themselves differently, depending on the background, personality, and capability of the individual.

The president of Hogwarts had all of those qualities. A strong-minded guy, he felt and freely expressed frustration when he thought that people were standing in the way of what needed to be done. His critics often tried to make him into some kind of monster for that. Occasionally I would put him in the same box myself, but that didn't do the college, the president, or me any good.

As things started to unravel for me, he tried to maintain support of what I was doing and how I was doing it. Eventually, though, the pressures of the board, the faculty, and his own ego made him realize that the only path to survival was to take care of the problem—most easily represented by me.

When he spoke the words at the beginning of this essay, we both knew he was firing me. I never received a positive review from him again. He claimed to be supporting my job search, but when I was unable to land a position as quickly as he thought I should, he would berate me on my lack of effort and my inability to move on with my life.

While I don't think he behaved as kindly to me as he could have, I also think he was doing the only thing he could think of to do. His own depression at the situation—after it became clear that things were not going to improve even after I left—caused him to miss work, avoid interactions with faculty members, and stay away from public functions where he felt exposed. I withdrew from him to avoid more attacks on my abilities during an already shaky time for my self-esteem.

My life partner blames the president for all that happened. I merely see the two of us stuck in an untenable situation that tended to bring out the worst in both of us. Our only saving grace is that we tried to keep our strained relationship from the rest of the institution. Given the nature of the jobs of presidents and chief academic officers, a certain creative tension is inevitable. In this case, something inserted itself into the situation that went beyond the normal tensions.

It's you. You're a much better person than I am if you haven't already reached this conclusion.

With everything else out of the way, I'm the only constant in the whole equation. Now I have to figure out what it is in me that caused this outcome. I was a first-choice candidate, the kind of person who was often a leader when I was a faculty member, known for my resiliency, humor, and tact. In terms of what I might have done wrong, I have been told varying and contradictory things: I was too assertive, I was not assertive enough. I was too friendly, I was too distant. I was too consensus-oriented, I was too dictatorial. None of those explanations hits home in the way that a real truth about yourself tends to.

So what do I think are the things in me that didn't work?

I know the rules of essay writing. Now is the time for the twist, the turn, the revelation, the epiphany. Sorry.

I just don't know.

I've moved on. I work in a higher education-related position, often interacting with those who were in the same position I was in. These deans exhibit the normal range of personalities, none startlingly different than me, none startlingly consistent.

I enjoy my work. The people who work for and with me have expressed their satisfaction with what I do. I rarely talk about the details of my most recent past, because frankly, I don't know what to say.

I just don't know.

M.K. Ellis is the pseudonym of a former dean and chief academic officer at a small college.


1. lee77 - October 07, 2009 at 08:02 am

Thank you M.K. for sharing your story and insight. Been there; done that. With only minor wording changes,the story could be the same for staff in higher ed, as well as professionals in industry.

2. rburns - October 07, 2009 at 09:42 am

If your description of your time as a faculty member is valid, your mistake was making the move to administration. It is a different world, and you (you are right, the problem was you) weren't made for it. There is little time or effort left to do the job of Dean when you gave so much of yourself to figuring out why you were failing.

3. mnhighered - October 07, 2009 at 09:58 am

The issue wasn't the culuture of Hogwarts, it was the politics of the place. A politically astute person knows who to be assertive with and who needs a soft touch, when to build consensus and frame the decision to include input so as to avoid looking dictatorial, and reaching out to those personalities that are hard to reach so as not to appear distant. But these skills are needed at every instituion and industry, public or private, and are the sign of true leadership. These political realities define everywhere I have worked in a 30 year career.

4. copesan - October 07, 2009 at 10:00 am

Dear M.K., I had the same thing happen, and it makes it exceedingly difficult to learn from the situation when comments on what went wrong are so contradictory (you were too this, you were too that).
Something misfired between who you are and what the context was, and you may never fully understand it. Though the comment from rburns has merit - "it is a different world" - its also unnecessarily unkind.

5. 11134525 - October 07, 2009 at 10:01 am

I agree with lee77, though much depends on the specific circumstances.

AS a CAO of several small colleges, all of which I successfullly and substantially improved, I nonetheless ran into opposition, ultimately leading to my move to another college. In one instance, the president who hired me to change the college's culture proved the least interested in supporting the change, mostly probably due to his fear of the unknown. In response to my initiatives to professionalize the college, he engaged in activities clearly designed to sabotage the efforts. So an unsupportive, narcissistic and duplicitous president can be anyonne's undoing.

In another instance, and at a corporately owned college, corporately driven mandates for achieving budgets at the expense of improving education effectively thwacked my efforts. Although faculty were essentially supportive, their support was "quiet" and disinterested in battling against corporate headquarters. Despite my accomplishments there, including a highly successful reaccreditation effort, when the time arrived, it was unproblemmatic for the directive to arrive to cut me out of the budget.

Yes, we are often the agents of our own demise, but this endemic to the role of a CAO. A CAO has essentially two choices confronting him or her. The first is to go slowly and with the flow, ruffle as few feathers as possible, and basically play the part of an academic landlord. On the other hand, one can take the job more seriously as a change agent, improving student learning and pressing all stakeholders to support that objective. But if you pursue the latter, be mindful that you may elicit resistance and, worse, fear and envy, especially from among your senior administrative colleagues, since true efforts in organizational improvement with threaten them most, or at least they will perceive it that way.

I am a CAO at a small college, doing well, but still caught between and among my small institution's competing agendas of the president, the faculty, senior colleagues and the like. I do not do this job to be loved nor for the pay, as nice to have as these things may be. I do it because education is my vocation, and that I worry how students' education must be constantly advocated for to avoid its devolution into pablum. Do not do this job to be appreciated - few will do so. Just give it your best, help whomever you can, and take whatever satisfaction you can from your efforts at the end of every day.

To paraphrase something I believe Mark Twain said: "Do what is right! It will gratify some and astonish the rest!"

6. v8573254 - October 07, 2009 at 10:03 am

Yes, thank you for writing this essay. And it's all the better -- the essay, not how you feel -- for having the close it has.
I wonder if the qualities you carried with you from your faculty position to the dean's job were somewhat intimidating. Maybe you "knew too much." Or, they perceived that you did.
Another thought -- the qualities that work in teaching and working with students, whatever their ages, are not the same as those that work with adults/peers.

7. barbzirk - October 07, 2009 at 10:16 am

I find this a very interesting piece. Having been an academic dean at a small institution in a previous reiteration (and having changed positions voluntarily), I can relate wholeheartedly to his dilemma. At one point I had a member of the faculty fault me for a stand I had taken about a particular issue. I explained that I ultimately worked for the president and while I might argue with her in private I would never do so in public. And so it comes down to deciding on any one given issue where one's ultimate loyalty lies...never an easy issue for academic deans who come from the faculty, like to continue to think of themselves as from the faculty, but increasingly find that the line drawn in the sand puts them on the side of the president and other administrators, and at odds with the faculty - of which they are still a part in spirit if not title. It's a complicated tightrope.

8. 11301218 - October 07, 2009 at 10:47 am

I can see my situation evolving in the same manner. I was
the pick of the litter when I was hired (from the outside) --
assertive, careful and effective manager of resources, good
record of scholarship, knowledgeable about accreditation.
Now I am dictatorial and intefering with the decision making
in the departments, squandering limited funds, stifling research
and graduate programs, and nit-picking and demanding about
accreditation. The problem is that my predecessor was a
nice guy who never wanted to confront a problem and always
sought to keep things running smooth, even if they had no
direction. I found a college coasting with sacred cow, low
quality, expensive programs; academic policies that were
setting up students for failure; and some department chairs
I would be happy to sack tomorrow -- if I could find a
replacement (or had authorization to create a new slot).
The place has a culture of avoiding the chain of command
and end runs go to the president and governing board
directly -- unless they do not want to bother with you
in which case you had better find your place in the
hierarchy. I discovered that the sacred cows have
constituencies and support far from campus who rally
behind them at the first whiff of firing up the barbecue pit.
It looks like they wanted change while maintaining the
status quo. As soon as I am vested in the pension plan,
I am rewriting my resume.

9. dwunsch - October 07, 2009 at 10:50 am

It's indeed a worthwhile read -- thanks for having the courage to write it.

I think there's nothing wrong with having a go at something different and then moving on. Also, success and failure aren't binary. I bet you had a positive impact in many ways and that in the future you will look back and see that this was a necessary step in the evolution of both you and your former institution.

One of the best administrators I ever knew was forced out of his position. I'm proud to count him among my friends and mentors. When he left, one of our most successful alums wrote an editorial for the school's newspapers praising him as the best person we ever had in his position. Just being fired is not the sole metric for success or failure in a job.

I'm a faculty member who doesn't hesitate to push back on the administration when appropriate. But I also try to see things from their point of view. We're all on the same team, after all.

10. mvclibrary - October 07, 2009 at 11:04 am

Is that you, Earl?

11. twleslie - October 07, 2009 at 11:11 am

What no one ever mentions to faculty who are being groomed or sounded out about administration is that many qualities that make an outstanding faculty member (patience for long research stints, e.g., a mind open to options instead of narrowly focused on results, or a willingness to ask tough questions that might make others uncomfortable) tend to make lousy administrators. My two brief stints in interim admin positions haven't been disastrous, but they've been tough enough for me to realize that while I may be good at what I do (teach, research, write, speculate), I do in fact suck at running things and in 'leading' others. I want nothing more to do with admin, and would actually rather have my Dean or chair selected from a group of people that have proven themselves good at what they're supposed to do.

12. frankschmidt - October 07, 2009 at 11:22 am

It really was the institution, which is why long-lived (not necessarily transformative) administrators tend to be home-grown. It sounds like you were transported into a different culture, and couldn't find out all the shibboleths that made the place run in time to save your job.

13. marcovaladez - October 07, 2009 at 11:22 am

This is indeed a good reflection on what it's like to be in role that can be very difficult to transition into after being a faculty member. Every role, be it faculty, administrator, or lowly staff member, has different perceptions on their responsibilities and how best to pursue the mission of their particular institution. While it may seem moot at this point one resource you may consider looking at is How Colleges Work by Birnbaum. Given your essay I think you would be able to look at this resource and see how it was the culture, politics, other faculty/administrators, and perhaps even yourself who all combined in such a way as to produce this particular result... and hopefully you could glean from it some ideas that would be beneficial the next time around.

Best of luck in your current position and thank you for sharing this experience with your colleagues.

14. 11358172 - October 07, 2009 at 02:55 pm

Thank you for writing this piece. As someone who has been successful and unsuccessful (sometimes in the same place at different times), as one who has been 'brought in' and 'homegrown', and as one who has chosen to leave and one who has been asked to leave, I think it has something to do with whether or not everyone remembers that we are people and not just the roles in which we find ourselves. I have noticed this when other colleagues have been the ones targeted, too. It is easier to vilify someone if you don't think of that person as an individual. Communication is not as open or as rich, either, and so problems are not addressed as well as they could be.

I also agree that you need to do what you think is the most appropriate for the constituents, the most ethical, the most true to yourself ... and to be willing to take the consequences, even when they surprise you. Integrity is more important than political savvy in the long run. You will do well in some situations and not in others. Good luck to all who choose these roles.

15. drvirginia - October 07, 2009 at 03:41 pm

M.K., I think you name your problem inadvertently by labeling yourself as a "progressive dean." While all my sentiments favor "progressives," my experience as a faculty member over almost 40 years, at two rather different institutions, suggests that "progressive" is not the way to a dean's longevity. Deans who establish themselves firmly begin, for example, by using the time-honored strategy of divide and rule, pitting faculty and departments against one another so as to minimize the danger of their attributing their problems to the dean. They may be harsh with the faculty, but subservient (at least in appearance and manner) to provosts, presidents, etc. They maintain their power by telling these higher administrators how irrational the faculty are, implicitly representing themselves as the only force capable of warding off chaos. In some institutions they may also find it useful to play on the anti-elitism (i.e. envy and resentment) of a large group of mediocre faculty against high achievers. I wish it were otherwise. I suggest that someone who has the fire in their belly to be a long term dean read Robert Greene's "48 Laws of Power" and "War."

16. tridaddy - October 07, 2009 at 03:49 pm

As an outsider brought in because the institution saw that I could be a change agent, after two years the changing is essentially over. This is not because of faculty so much has other administrators who have "grown up" at the institution and have a strangle hold on moving it in a progressive direction. I will shop my cv before I'm ever vested at this university.

17. drvirginia - October 07, 2009 at 03:56 pm

An anecdote to supplement my earlier post: A few years ago the president of my institution resigned, after offending various constituencies. One of the main complaints of the faculty in Arts and Sciences was that the president was insensitive to many serious criticisms that we had of the dean. The president has gone, but the dean remains.

18. akprof - October 07, 2009 at 04:53 pm

I headed a professional school for eight years - the school had previously had to "permanent deans" who were initially successful with faculty and administration - ultimately both of them left after receiving no confidence votes from the faculty. The lesson that taught me - things are cyclic and eventually the annoyance that you cause to individual faculty members accumulates until it overwhelms those you haven't annoyed. When I assume the leadership role, out school was not highly regarded in the institution - we were too expensive and we complained too much - by the time I left the position, we had more than doubled enrollments, attracted significant external (corporate) funds to partially pay for the expansion, begun using distance technology to deliver the program all over the state, had shifted our baccalaureate program to a trimester schedule, increased faculty salaries (despite the presence of a collective bargaining unit), and had begun to shift our graduate program to being completely on-line. And we had stellar accreditation visits in which only strengths and no weaknesses were identified. Our school had become the darling of the institution and the faculty and staff like and respected me (I think). I chose to retire - knowing that eventually that I would make enough people mad that the anger would become cumulative and they would figure out a way to make me leave. I still get called for advice and paid to solve problems and teach courses and even the new faculty (since I "retired") sometimes ask for my advice or help. I remain the only "permanent" dean who left on her own - and it's kind of nice being an "elder statesman". So my advice to any Dean is to anticipate the cyclic nature of post-secondary institutions and to plan an exit strategy from the outset - it at least protects you from the devastation of knowing that everyone (or most everyone) wishes you would go. My best wished M.K. Ellis.

19. akprof - October 07, 2009 at 05:00 pm

Whoops - two permanent deans - spellcheck doesn't always work!!

20. marnall - October 08, 2009 at 07:57 am

Like any other work environment, higher education has its stakeholders, who have self-selected based on at least a gut-level, if not wholly conscious, understanding of the externally-determined "rules of the game." These stakeholders will fight fiercely to maintain current conditions, especially their privileges, the implicit contract under which they were admitted as players. Short of a crisis threatening the entire playground, there will be little significant change. As an "outsider," hired to continue board/donor/funding-source perceptions that fundamental change is possible, you will preserve your self-respect and sense of self-efficacy only if you take all resources offered and do your best for a limited period to push the envelope ever so slightly. Be modest and remember that if higher education did not serve the social forces that rule us all, it could not survive in its current form. Consider yourself a consultant, contracted for a short period of time (less than 5 years) to bring a particular institution of higher education into a better position to weather the unrelenting and unforgiving forces of the external environment. Then, move on the another project. You have done your best.

21. vceross - October 08, 2009 at 08:24 am

Two observations:

1) Universities, to my knowledge, are the only large organizations that allow people to leapfrog from essentially the "worker" position to upper-level management--with no training, grooming, education, or mentorship. That any academic administrators are successful, given their woeful lack of preparation--much less suitability--for executive positions, is remarkable.

2) Lacking profit orientation, university cultures are extremely change-averse and conservative, particularly if there is no immediate and concrete gain in sight (such as sabbaticals, raises, etc) for those involved. Change = risk, with no foreseeable advantage. If compensation were tied to profitability or some other such measure, attitudes toward change agents would alter.

3) Without strong backing, a change agent is doomed, most especially but not only at a university.

22. 22077761 - October 08, 2009 at 01:41 pm

I agree with vceross's 3 observations. As others have observed the "place setting" is also very important - you want to enjoy the feast and not become the main course. I served on a plantation once where I could not work with the president and provost - too authoritarian and arrogant to even think about faculty investment in decision-making. Not all dynamics can be predicted from an interview, but with the web we have a powerful means of learning more about an environment before we visit. And much can be gleaned from body language as well as words - both of a person's nature and their evaluation of you. All that said there is much you can't foresee. I was brought in as an agent of change at my current institution - which I have frequently had to remind faculty and administrators. Not all changes have been accomplished after 4 years, but I did not expect that to happen. Much patience has been required despite pressures to move more quickly from above (unless it required a budget) - and heel-dragging by faculty and some department chairs. Department chairs are critical - if they are not working with you they increase the likelihood of insurmountable obstacles developing. The faculty were split and risk-averse - moving to greater research imperative - not all realized how much regrouping and retooling is demanded of a college/department whose traditional mission emphasized teaching once a doctoral programs is initiated.

23. whizzkid43 - October 08, 2009 at 02:51 pm

I spent 15 years as a military officer and used to grouse at how much training they felt they had to give you to do your job. But now I can see that I would never want to be a Dean or move into any level of administration because they don't train their newly minted administration folks and they cruelly eat their young. I am not one of those who just grouses about adminstration though. I tell my colleagues to stop whining and get your job done. Support your dean. prez and they may or not support you. But if they don't, try not to lose perspective. After all, for some, it's only business :)

24. smiddletonhjr - October 08, 2009 at 05:50 pm

This has been a really good exchange. We've all been there, done that. On my wall (at two institutions) I hang a quotation from Abraham Lincoln given to me by my father-in-law (a former corporate executive) when I first became an associate provost. He had it in his office. I read it often as I try to do what is best for the students and the institution IN THE LONG RUN. Perspective is critical.

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how- the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." (Unfortunately I don't have the full citation for the quotation.)

I thought DrVirginia's first posting was very insightful. I also agree with marnall's posting. Begin with the "low hanging fruit" and build to the more difficult challenges as you develop trust and familiarity. Anyone up for a review of the "core curriculum?"

25. vceross - October 09, 2009 at 08:38 am

smiddletonhjr: "Anyone up for a review of the 'core curriculum'?" Now THAT's administrator humor if ever there was: thanks for the chuckle.

26. oatmeal - October 09, 2009 at 09:24 am

This is a very interesting thread and I really admire your candor M.K. Ellis. I also found the comments very thought provoking. In my experience, I have seen many "failed" Deans who did not realize it and kept on going (and going...) with little support from the Faculty. Institutions need quality leadership, especially at the President/Chancellor level. I think five year reviews (or four) are vital for Deans (and Provosts). I also think that some faculty members need to realize that they should work with Deans and that change can be a good thing. Just a few thoughts.

27. darylorris - October 09, 2009 at 09:47 am

Dear Failed Dean,

As a formally trained administrator, Ph.D., Higher Education Administration, I am amazed when I read an article like this.

Having no formal training other than being there in the right place at the right time, and by observing what someone else has done assuming what they left behind, and then to wonder why you weren't successful. Perhaps you didn't really know what in the hell you were doing.

Your discourse offered no evidence of "Leadership" or any sense of administrative management understanding. Higher Education is unique because of "Varied Organizational Purpose," and the unique history of the institution itself. Your lack of understanding that fact left you clueless as how to progress.

New Administrators must first determine the organizational purpose, the historic precedence and then assess the students and faculty they serve. Once this is done and there is agreement with the faculty, the Dean then develops an action plan to either maintain the status quo or adjust the organization itself to obtain the desired objectives and goals agreed upon by faculty. The Dean charts a course of action and uses management tools to achieve those goals and objectives to achieve mission.

The Dean is a leader responsible for determining the organizational structure, developing resource support, implementing change, and conducting its administration. His ultimate responsibility is to ensure that the organizational mission as determined by the faculty is achieved, and that the educational goals and objectives of the academic unit are progressively achieved. The Dean leads this consensus of faculty, in conjunction with central administration for education, research, and public service.

The Dean uses management tools such as MBO (management by objectives), quantitative method management or a myriad of other management tools and programs to provide for adequate organizational advancement and management.

Deans fail because they fail to achieve a consensus among faculty and or students, or both, and fail to achieve academic goals and objectives set by central administration, or they fail because they lack leadership abilities and/or an understanding of management itself.

I saw no such discourse in your rambling navel gazing approach to self-serving administration.

Managers, which Deans are, are responsible to their constituents, and to senior administrators in central administration for the smooth and progressive operation of the administrative unit they have responsibility for. Successful managers are leaders who instill a sense of common purpose and direction to advance the administrative unit for the good of the students they serve.

What amazes me is how individuals barely able to balance their own checkbooks are given fiduciary responsibility and the responsibility for leading people having never led anyone or anything.

Management is both an art and a science. The art is people skills and creativity, which is why Political Science faculty have traditionally ascended to leadership positions. It is a science because of the multitude of valid quantitative tools and, management techniques and methods available to leaders.

So MK, I cannot lament your loss. The organization you once served is lucky to be rid of you.

There are several higher education institutions that offer degrees in Higher Education Administration designed to prepare educators for administrative challenges. I can recommend the University of Minnesota educational leadership program. Admittance to the program requires a terminal degree in your academic program, and they train people to be deans of liberal arts/arts and science colleges and schools, professional schools of law, business, nursing, medicine, denistry, and the like. They offer certificates, Ed.D., and Ph.D. degrees in educational leadership or educational administration.

28. superdude - October 09, 2009 at 01:41 pm

Sigh. Another rant from someone with a "PhD" in Higher Ed. Sorry, but about all that gains you is an ability to spout the latest management fad-jargon. Darylorris, there's nothing in your screed that indicates you have an ability to manage faculty, or anything else related to Academic Affairs. I see someone who could bean-count their way to successfully managing the food services in the dorms but little else.

M.K. Ellis, thanks for your reflective essay. Darylorris, there's a cook in the kitchen who needs some "Motivation by Objective". Get to work.

29. darylorris - October 09, 2009 at 06:53 pm

Dear Superdude,

You are your own impediment to your future, and to advancing higher education in the United States. It wasn't a rant, but truth.

No it isn't the "latest spout of management fad-jargon. In point of fact I graduated in '76 (in the olden days) and then assumed an arts management position, then went on to become the President & CEO of an Advertising Agency in San Francisco, then to become the owner and President & CEO of an advertising agency in Minneapolis and then a President & CEO of an manufacturing company.

I had abandon the academy in favor of riches, instead of struggle.

The reason was that the academic field I aspired to was cluttered with has beens, who were given the end of career gold watch position, Chairman or Dean. I was fortunate to be wooed into a more lucrative business career then what was offered in higher education. My Ph.D. in Higher Education became my key to success in the business world.

Being in advertising as an Agency President & CEO I became an multi-millionaire working for many of the world's leading corporations. Something I doubt I would have ever achieved in academia. Using my riches I then invented a new product and category of products, frozen liquor - Liquor ice cream and advanced it using my administrative skills which you have dismissed.

So, no rant, but reflections of someone who has experienced higher education at its highest levels to abandon academia for riches elsewhere.

The simple truth is that higher education requires trained administrators not rank amateurs as Superdude is seeming to advocate.

If business was conducted as it is in US Educational Institutions, the country would surely be bankrupt.

For your information, after abandoning higher education I was the successful President & CEO of two advertising agencies and the President & CEO of a manufacturing company

I choose money over intellectual fluff, the search for truth and other academic fluff and what they call achievement as espoused by the academy.

Only in my old age have I felt the need to once again contribute to the academy. Foolish as it may seem. I have done this for the simple reality that I have identified "truth," the once vaunted aspiration of academia and that what I once held as truth, "the search for truth."

After having made millions for myself, and billions for my corporate clients, I can say with some considerable administrative and business experience, Higher Education Administration lags well behind established business principles and practices employed by the nations leading corporations.

As a business, higher education is a retard in obtaining its potential as an industry and in creating a standard that could advance our country in the world. Simpletons such as "Superdude" assist in keeping higher education in the dark ages and this mentality also assists in keeping higher education in the United States as less than it could be, hurting not only the students it serves, but the nation as a whole.

So, Superdude, F*ck You, you deserve to muddle through your life in the ignorance you have advanced, surviving however in academia, at the whim of the Dean who employs you. It is your goose that is cooked, I've been in the battle and won elsewhere, you're the loser, it is your future that is in jeopardy from inadequate management. I cooked myself up millions with my education in administration - leaving the academy and applying my knowledge elsewhere.

I assumed an academic professorship at the end of my career. It is from that experience and hindsight that I comment now.

Best of luck Superdude in plodding ahead in a managerial nightmare or should I say quagmire of yours and others like you, making.

30. superdude - October 09, 2009 at 08:29 pm

Thanks for admitting your shallowness, your cowardice, and your choice of the easy way out.

And I find it ironic (and I'd laugh but too many are crying) over your statement about business operations and the bankruptcy of our governments (I'll include state and local governments). Where have you been over the past 12 to 18 months?

Thanks, for the f-bomb too, if only to prove that I got'cha. Good luck with your wealth, and the knowledge that in the end, all that you've "accomplished" won't matter a whit.

31. darylorris - October 09, 2009 at 08:32 pm

Supoerdude is too kind, I should say Superwhimp based upon your inept comment.

32. darylorris - October 09, 2009 at 09:20 pm

Superdude, aka Superwhimp,

One more thing, "what I've accomplished won't matter a whit." I am sorry to disappoint you, but I will be forever be known as the inventor of Liquor Ice Cream, like Orville Rickenbacker is known for popcorn, I will be forever known for Liquor Ice Cream. Like it or not, you and everyone will eat it from here on and into eternity.

So my education did matter a whit. Without it I would have not known the scientific research methods and techniques which enable me to invent it.

It is your education that is a void, save only the accomplishment of your students.

I was once offered a full professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, Division of Higher Education in the seventies to teach Evaluation Methodology and Techniques. The professor who was my mentor offered me his textbooks in progress, and the research in progress, and then to be its next author and editor, its revisions, and all of his other research in progress. Moreover, he offered me his position as the Chief Central Administration Evaluation Investigator for the Western Association of Colleges and Schools and all of the hefty annual fees that came with the position, and I had already served as a Research Associate at UC Berkeley conducting central administration evaluations for him, and for the Western Association. For me, it was a kind of, been there, did that, it having no more interest to me. There was no innovation or advancement here, it was purely status quo and don't make waves that left me looking for more.

I passed this up based upon his comments to me: that all of this is transitory, a point in time only, to be usurp by future research. I was amazed, as I idolized him and his accomplishments -- only to hear him say that it will all be usurped by someone else, within the year - everything you do will be replaced in time. The classic textbook is now a myth.

So, Superwhimp, it is you who are disposable and sentenced to obscurity. I will live on forever in history with Liquor Ice Cream.

Give up your shallow endeavors now and seek out something truly useful to society and to the world. Something like a better Liquor Ice Cream, or something like Burger King's Broiler. The guy who sold Burger King to Pillsbury, thought his invention was the 'Burger Machine' that broiled hamburgers and not the franchise itself.

Or do something useful like Jeno Paulucci, who invented "Pizza Rolls." My advertising partner was at the meeting where Jeno chided the Chun King Egg Roll Sales Manager who told Jeno, Egg Rolls are not Pizza, Jeno.

Jeno said, then put pizza in the G&d D*mn things, and in saying so, invented Jeno's Pizza Rolls, now called Totinos, Pizza Rolls. Or invent something like Frozen Pizza like Jim Totino did - he owned a restaurant in NE Minneaplois on Central Avenue - he had been freezing cheese and dough on advanced buys to save money when ingredients were on sale - using his knowledge of handling and reconstituting frozen ingredients, Jim Totino invented Frozen Pizza. What would our world be like without frozen pizza?

And your contribution is what?

Superwhimp, do something useful with your life like me, then when you're old and grey, come back to the academy and contribute what you've learned - even if it ruffles feathers. We in academia call it the search for truth. Whether you like it or not.

33. darylorris - October 09, 2009 at 09:57 pm

Dear Superwhimp,


34. darylorris - October 09, 2009 at 10:06 pm

One final statement: my apologize to MK. Ignorance is bliss. May you forever stay in that state. As you stated, you've moved on, and I say, good for you. No animosity intended. My intent was only to advance higher education administration and in doing so, advance higher education.

35. darylorris - October 09, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Whoops not the final statement -- my apologies, or should I say that I apologize, it was hard to get out. I do apologize, as my intent was not to insult the author but to advance formal administrative and management training for administrators. My diatribe did not accomplish that end. So, I apologize. That was easier to get out the second time around.

To Super dude, my apologies to you as well, too much wine with dinner

36. catmurray - October 11, 2009 at 03:48 pm

hmmm. I think maybe someone has been drinking too much LIquor Ice Cream. All I can say is thank god my own dean doesn't think about our college this way.

Hang in there MK.....

37. halfcuban - October 17, 2009 at 01:14 pm

I have to say that for someone who has "formal adminsitrative training", that has to be the most unprofessional series of comments to be displayed, with one's OWN name, on a public website. Amazing.

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.

subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.