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Author Topic: VPAA Pipe Dream?  (Read 8756 times)
meagain
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« on: April 12, 2012, 8:48:31 PM »

Some quick background before the question....

I am a tenured, Associate Professor at a midsized (~15,000 students), mid-tier school.  After a few years at previous institutions, I've been at this one for 8 years.   From day one my 12 month/year position has been a weird hybrid of admin + faculty.  Over the years I quickly rose to serve as department chair, and most recently (for two years) Chair of the faculty Senate.   Lots of other admin and leadership experience (program development, budget and strategic planning committees) but always "officially" as a faculty member.  I've been asked several times to consider applying for administrative positions at my current school, but the timing and specific positions available were never great so I have declined.

Recently, the Provost/VPAA position at a small school (<1500 students) came open near my hometown/family.  I would love to move home and into this position.   My question:  Is it insane to think that my previous record of leadership would get my application a serious look?   I've never been 100% admin (e.g. never been a dean), but I also have some decent accomplishments on the academic leadership front.

Am I dreaming to think I might have a shot?   Do you have any advice regarding the application?   Thanks.
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aandsdean
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2012, 10:30:17 PM »

Some quick background before the question....

I am a tenured, Associate Professor at a midsized (~15,000 students), mid-tier school.  After a few years at previous institutions, I've been at this one for 8 years.   From day one my 12 month/year position has been a weird hybrid of admin + faculty.  Over the years I quickly rose to serve as department chair, and most recently (for two years) Chair of the faculty Senate.   Lots of other admin and leadership experience (program development, budget and strategic planning committees) but always "officially" as a faculty member.  I've been asked several times to consider applying for administrative positions at my current school, but the timing and specific positions available were never great so I have declined.

Recently, the Provost/VPAA position at a small school (<1500 students) came open near my hometown/family.  I would love to move home and into this position.   My question:  Is it insane to think that my previous record of leadership would get my application a serious look?   I've never been 100% admin (e.g. never been a dean), but I also have some decent accomplishments on the academic leadership front.

Am I dreaming to think I might have a shot?   Do you have any advice regarding the application?   Thanks.

There is very little chance that you'll get a serious look, I'm sorry to say, unless there's something so seriously wrong with the school or the location that the people who would normally look at such jobs are staying out of the pool.

There are many things a provost at a small school needs to know how to do and understand that have not been covered in your experience, no matter how good you've been at what you've done.  You've had good experience on leadership committees, and that MAY be a way in, but the other problem for you is that a 1,500 student private school isn't even in the same conceptual universe as a 15,000-student comprehensive (which I presume is public, too, as there aren't too many mid-tier 15,000-student private universities). 

It's not a complete waste for you to apply, but your better bet if you want to do this is downsize to a 5,000-student private university and be dean for a few years.  You need faculty evaluation, t&p, discipline, capital planning, assessment oversight, etc. to be really ready. 

I'm VPAA at a school with about 1,000 students on campus and another couple thousand in adult programs. For perspective, I have the library, the registrar, institutional research, instructional technology, and our adult and online programs as well as our campus academic program reporting to me.  I sit on all but one of the faculty senate committees.  I go to board meetings and make presentations to them.  I interact constantly with the other VPs.  I manage a budget in excess of $20,000,000.  I am at a conference now, but have had to answer over 20 urgent e-mails today about a tremendous range of issues and left about another 100 unanswered.

 I did four years as chair at a somewhat similar small private, five as chair of a 30-person department at a public, and three as dean at a 4,000-student private before I got here.  I thought I was ready when I was chair of the 30-person department, and I might have been able to fake it, but I am very glad I did the dean gig--it's made my current job much, much easier.

I was interviewed for a couple of Provost/VPAA jobs when I was chair, and the kind feedback I got was that I'd probably be a good VPAA but needed to do the dean job first.  I heard this, nearly verbatim, from a couple of search chairs and a president.  I am now absolutely convinced that they were right.

It's not just getting the job, thus, but being able to do it well once you do that are at issue.  It's not an easy job and you can get into trouble quickly if you don't know what you're doing.  And then you're really in a tough spot and probably not too happy either.
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meagain
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 11:12:23 PM »

aandsdean,

Thanks so much for the honest and direct advice.   Some of the areas you mention are areas in which I have some experience (faculty evaluation, budget management; either through my current admin capacities or in a previous career in business).  However, a dearth of experience in other areas (such as experience making actual T & P decisions) should cause any competent search committee to question my readiness.  (My only ace-in-the-hole is a pretty great fit regarding the mission of my current institution and the mission of my "dream" institution; when I served on a VPAA search committee, the issue of mission-fit came close, but only close, to trumping experience with some of our candidates.)

I was also looking at the size issue in a slightly different way.   I've had experience running a program that probably generates as many credits as the entire smallish school I am looking at, so I mistakenly thought that would count as a positive.  But, as I think you are suggesting, the VPAA at my current school has a 4 assistant VPAA to handle issues that, at a small school, would all arrive directly on my desk.  In other words, the smaller size of the school may mean that I need even more expertise, or at least expertise in a wider range of areas.

As always, your advice is wonderful (I've benefitted from your advice in years of semi-lurking as well!).  Many thanks.

    
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 11:14:49 PM by meagain » Logged
octoprof
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2012, 11:15:39 PM »

What aandsdean said. And, I'll echo with my experience as a faculty member under seven provosts so far; the guy with no dean experience was the absolute worst provost.
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sockington
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« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2012, 5:43:22 AM »

Long time poster using a sock.....

I'm suffering with this sort of VPAA now.  Never been a dean, tries to compensate for the lack of experience by bossing people around.  So never learned the collaborative stuff, which can probably only be learned by being a dean for a number of years.

My school also has a strange legacy of hiring administrators who -- it is hoped -- can "grow into" the job.  If that is the case at this little school, it makes  things all the worse, since the admins lacks seasoned colleges who accumulated experience working their way up at other schools.

« Last Edit: April 13, 2012, 5:43:58 AM by sockington » Logged
octoprof
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« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2012, 6:38:40 AM »

Long time poster using a sock.....

I'm suffering with this sort of VPAA now.  Never been a dean, tries to compensate for the lack of experience by bossing people around.  So never learned the collaborative stuff, which can probably only be learned by being a dean for a number of years.

My school also has a strange legacy of hiring administrators who -- it is hoped -- can "grow into" the job.  If that is the case at this little school, it makes  things all the worse, since the admins lacks seasoned colleges who accumulated experience working their way up at other schools.

I'm so sorry you are stuck at Old Octoville U.!
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aandsdean
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« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2012, 7:24:46 AM »

aandsdean,

Thanks so much for the honest and direct advice.   Some of the areas you mention are areas in which I have some experience (faculty evaluation, budget management; either through my current admin capacities or in a previous career in business).  However, a dearth of experience in other areas (such as experience making actual T & P decisions) should cause any competent search committee to question my readiness.  (My only ace-in-the-hole is a pretty great fit regarding the mission of my current institution and the mission of my "dream" institution; when I served on a VPAA search committee, the issue of mission-fit came close, but only close, to trumping experience with some of our candidates.)

I was also looking at the size issue in a slightly different way.   I've had experience running a program that probably generates as many credits as the entire smallish school I am looking at, so I mistakenly thought that would count as a positive.  But, as I think you are suggesting, the VPAA at my current school has a 4 assistant VPAA to handle issues that, at a small school, would all arrive directly on my desk.  In other words, the smaller size of the school may mean that I need even more expertise, or at least expertise in a wider range of areas.

As always, your advice is wonderful (I've benefitted from your advice in years of semi-lurking as well!).  Many thanks.

    

One other thing that I'm reminded of:  Though you've run a big program (which is very valuable experience), I thought the same thing about my 30-faculty department--it was 3 disciplines (though related) and generated a ton of enrollment and credit hours.  But now every single academic program reports to me, so I have to deal with:

Equipment purchases in science
Ridiculous salaries in business
Art supplies and studio maintenance
Psychology internships
Social work accreditation
Athletic training accreditation
The interface between the academic part of athletic training and the faculty's clinical work with our student-athletes

Etc.  If you want to pursue this dream further, make sure you get hooked into what's happening in other programs.  This is a huge deal.

Good luck!
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sockington
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« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2012, 9:59:08 AM »


Thanks octo, you obviously know what I'm up against.   Following up on aandsdean, we run into the vpaa and company lacking the understanding about specific programs goals and needs, how they operate, the resources they require, and so on.  So we have someone who never taught basketweaving telling long-term basketweaving faculty what they are doing "wrong."  It's like a case study of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
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chronanon
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« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2012, 10:30:35 AM »

aftdj.
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meagain
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2012, 3:52:45 PM »

First off, I am thoroughly convinced by the collective wisdom and experience expressed in these responses.  Again, many thanks. 

Having said that, I am beginning to wonder how some of these VPAAs were ever hired, or how they ever had success at the dean level.  How, for example, can you be a successful manager without being cognizant of the dangers of  overestimating your expertise in areas you know nothing about (as with the basketweaving example)?  I can't imagine even *wanting* a VPAA job if you haven't already learned how to collaborate, delegate, and communicate effectively.   Without those skills it seems like no amount of experience would ever suffice, and that the job would almost have to overwhelm you and make you (and those affected by your "leadership") miserable. 

An unexpected bonus of this experience/thread is that I have a renewed respect for my current  VPAA. 

Alas, the dream of moving home may have to wait, and in this case that is probably for the best.
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octoprof
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« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2012, 6:37:59 PM »

First off, I am thoroughly convinced by the collective wisdom and experience expressed in these responses.  Again, many thanks. 

Having said that, I am beginning to wonder how some of these VPAAs were ever hired, or how they ever had success at the dean level.  How, for example, can you be a successful manager without being cognizant of the dangers of  overestimating your expertise in areas you know nothing about (as with the basketweaving example)?  I can't imagine even *wanting* a VPAA job if you haven't already learned how to collaborate, delegate, and communicate effectively.   Without those skills it seems like no amount of experience would ever suffice, and that the job would almost have to overwhelm you and make you (and those affected by your "leadership") miserable. 

An unexpected bonus of this experience/thread is that I have a renewed respect for my current  VPAA. 

Alas, the dream of moving home may have to wait, and in this case that is probably for the best.
[/quote

VPAAs with no prior experience dealing with budgets are the scariest...

Now, what you need to do is apply for deanships!
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sockington
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« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2012, 7:39:59 AM »

First off, I am thoroughly convinced by the collective wisdom and experience expressed in these responses.  Again, many thanks. 

Having said that, I am beginning to wonder how some of these VPAAs were ever hired, or how they ever had success at the dean level.  How, for example, can you be a successful manager without being cognizant of the dangers of  overestimating your expertise in areas you know nothing about (as with the basketweaving example)?  I can't imagine even *wanting* a VPAA job if you haven't already learned how to collaborate, delegate, and communicate effectively.   Without those skills it seems like no amount of experience would ever suffice, and that the job would almost have to overwhelm you and make you (and those affected by your "leadership") miserable. 

An unexpected bonus of this experience/thread is that I have a renewed respect for my current  VPAA. 

Alas, the dream of moving home may have to wait, and in this case that is probably for the best.

About experience and skills, the typical person increases skills through experience.  (Or so it is hoped.)  So putting in three to five to whatnot years as a dean enables the typical person to learn and hone new skills.

There are also, as funny as it sounds, skills of the incompetent.  Play the part, boss people around, fire people who make waves, blame external factors, respond to criticism with the reminder that  the "study group" is working on it, and so on.  There's a language of these types that, at first blush makes sense, but then doesn't.  "We have to be who we are" (as a school), as an excuse of having so commitment to a greater vision or ambition.  And so on.


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meagain
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« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2012, 10:34:59 AM »

"Skills of the incompetent"; I love that phrase.  It is the academic equivalent of "All hat and no cattle."
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