May 16, 2013, 11:47 am
Last year at about this time I wrote about my participation as a workshop facilitator at the Council of Independent Colleges’ workshop for department and division chairs in Indianapolis. As I write this, I am sitting in my hotel room in Cincinnati, where I just led another workshop in one of this year’s iterations of the CIC program.
Last year my subject was supporting and developing adjunct faculty. This year, it was “Serving as Department/Division Chair: Beyond the Job Description.” This topic was developed in response to discussions last year at the four regional workshops, during which it became clear that many chairs didn’t have a job description at all, or, if they did, that it was either too vague to be helpful or, in fact, did not cover the actual, if unspoken, core of the job.
In preparation for the workshop, I asked the participants to send me their job descriptions, if…
April 26, 2013, 3:02 pm
Nothing in academic hiring incites more controversy and conspiracy theories than the issue of inside candidates, either those who occupy a temporary or interim position that is being replaced by a permanent hire, or those who occupy another slot at the hiring institution and who seek to move into the advertised position. Finally—although this is a somewhat different case—there are the institution’s adjunct faculty members, who may be seeking to be hired for a tenure-track or full-time position.
I come to this discussion with a good bit of experience, both as an inside candidate (once) and as someone who has led searches that included insiders, some of whom obtained the job and some of whom did not. I’ve also at various stages of my career lost out to a couple of inside candidates, and once been hired instead of one, so to some degree I understand many aspects of the predicaments…
March 8, 2013, 2:03 pm
I haven’t written as much lately as I’d like because my institution is in the midst of a very challenging year, which has taken a great deal not only of my time but of my mental energy, some of which I used to channel into considering issues to write about for this blog. This predicament, along with some recent conversations with friends and colleagues, has made me reflect again on the question of vocation and how one’s love of one’s work can provide sustenance through challenging times.
It’s safe to say that most people are motivated to become academics through some combination of disciplinary interest, compulsion to learn, and desire to teach. No doubt some act out of less attractive motives as well, but many aspects of academic life are so challenging that making it all the way to a faculty position requires a notable degree of passion for teaching and learning along with a high…
January 16, 2013, 2:46 pm
I have had money on my mind all year. There are a variety of reasons for my preoccupation, including some new fiscal challenges on my own campus and the conversations I’ve had with people in my professional network.
One thing I’ve been doing a lot is looking back on my faculty career and thinking about what I wish I had known about institutional finances and the overall picture of higher education’s economic future. A recent article by Kevin Kiley at Inside Higher Ed answers a number of questions I either had or now know I should have had as I began my professional life.
Kiley, summarizing a report by Moody’s Investors Service, argues that for many small private institutions with limited prestige and “brand recognition,” the next few years are going to be marked by very slow increases, or even decreases, in net tuition revenue, which is the bottom-line financial lifeblood of a…
December 11, 2012, 2:33 pm
I’ve written about what job candidates should know about endowment spending and its effect on a college’s or university’s overall budget. In these difficult and complicated financial times, candidates must understand the basics of institutional finances to avoid stepping into a disastrous situation and to become effective campus citizens who, once on board, can contribute to governance and planning in an informed way.
Beyond endowments, another key component of institutional finances is debt. In this post, I am primarily talking about small and midsize private institutions, though there is some general applicability to certain types of public institutions, too.
Private colleges and universities take on debt for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, they borrow for capital projects (buildings, large equipment purchases, and similar expenditures) in much the same way families do. For …
November 19, 2012, 3:05 pm
I recently returned from the Council of Independent Colleges’ Chief Academic Officers Institute, the annual meeting of vice presidents for academic affairs and provosts at small and medium-size private colleges in the United States and a smattering of international locations. This is one of my favorite meetings of the year because hundreds of people who face similar challenges get together to discuss how to solve them, or at least deal with them, and we tend to speak a common language fostered by the nature of our work.
One of the more interesting sessions I attended was about faculty-workload considerations and creating “faculty friendly” flexibility policies at Albright College, in Pennsylvania. The session’s definition of flexibility was very broad, including distributing each faculty member’s workload across the traditional areas of teaching, scholarship, and institutional and…
October 22, 2012, 3:12 pm
I recently attended the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, in Los Angeles, which got me thinking about some of the ways the sustainability movement has affected academic hiring.
To me, as an academic leader, one of the most interesting things about the AASHE conference was how clearly it showed that sustainability as a discipline is, to borrow a term, a “digital native.” Much of the conference took place via social media, and it was apparent as well that developments in academic sustainability are moving in close parallel with discussions about the crisis in higher education, including discussions about cost, access, student-loan debt, and new forms of delivery such as MOOC’s, more basic online programs, various kinds of crowdsourcing, and new models such as Khan Academy.
These connections make sense because the major…
September 25, 2012, 5:26 pm
As I’m sure has been evident from my recent entries, I did a lot of reading on professional issues this summer. I’d like to recommend Victor E. Ferrall Jr.’s recent book, Liberal Arts at the Brink (Harvard University Press, 2011). Ferrall’s subject is the perilous future of small liberal-arts colleges in particular, but he discusses the financial forces that are behind many of the challenges facing small private colleges in general.
I have urged job seekers to pay close attention to the financial well being of their potential employers, and to teach themselves at least some of the basics of institutional finance so they can become effective citizens of their college or university. Ferrall’s book is a good start—he was the president of Beloit College, an excellent but not rich institution that no doubt led him to the lucid insights he displays.
He talks generally about how…
September 13, 2012, 2:44 pm
I have worked at four institutions that have had very distinct cultures, each with strengths and weaknesses that had and have a significant effect on the texture of daily life on the campus. In my current role I think a lot about our culture and how to work with and within it to strengthen the university and the opportunities we provide for faculty, staff, and students.
This year we’ve brought a large number of new faculty, deans, and vice presidents to the campus. The magnitude of our new hiring was brought home to me over the past couple of weeks as we’ve had our opening activities, which included several opportunities to meet with and introduce new colleagues. Pondering how these new people will affect the institution and our students, and how these new people,…
August 16, 2012, 3:09 pm
This summer my wife and I participated in a seminar on vocation in higher education. One of the readings was Pierre de Calan’s Cosmas, or the Love of God. We and our colleagues found this book provocative and helpful in thinking about the role of vocation in higher education and how an intense vocational drive may not actually line up very well with what one thinks one’s vocation to be.
In Cosmas, the title character believes that God has called him to become a monk in a Cistercian abbey. He arrives for his novitiate having memorized the Rule of St. Benedict, which governs life there, and with a thorough knowledge of Benedictine theology. As the narrator, the novice-master Father Roger, recalls, “Both his faith and his vocation seemed to be a matter of course. Just as he had never had the slightest doubt about the meaning of his call, so he seemed never to have been at all troubled by…