Archive for May, 2013

Intellectual CapitalIt has indeed been my privilege to serve on the Dean’s Search Committee for the past several months. During that time I have learned a tremendous amount about the characteristics of an outstanding business school.  Each Dean candidate has provided us with unique perspectives on what it will require for our business school to achieve its strategic vision.

Based upon our face-to-face meetings with eleven different candidates and multiple discussions with colleagues in both the academic and business communities, I make the following observations:

  1. The collective intellectual capital of a business school’s faculty is, for better or worse, the defining factor of an outstanding business school.
  2. Our business school must aggressively recognize and reward scholarship and the development of intellectual capital as a foundation of its success. The currency of the academic marketplace is the development of intellectual capital.
  3. I believe faculty in our business school have a unique opportunity to broaden the traditional definition of ‘outstanding scholarship’ and to find ways to reward faculty for the development of intellectual capital that is highly relevant to members of the business community and that furthers the ideal of ‘service to others’.

In order to take our school to the ‘next level’, the immediate challenge for the new Dean will be to work with vested constituencies (with perhaps an emphasis on our alumni) to create a broad vision that bridges the gap between the research strengths of the faculty and the greater business community.  In my estimation, the entire business school community must build on this new vision to develop our resource base, to build and expand our academic programs, and to energize our classroom teaching (particularly at the graduate level).

The result of not aggressively emphasizing academic scholarship (i.e. not emphasizing the development of intellectual capital, research) is:

  • Inability to effectively attract and retain faculty talent (the marketplace says that the intellectual capital of a faculty member is what most directly determines their value). This will take place in a world with a looming shortage of business PhD’s.
  • MBA Program: forced to compete at the low end of the market. Why? Faculty will continue to be viewed by students merely as instructors (reactive presenters of others’ concepts) rather than being viewed as sages (proactive developers and presenters of original, peer-reviewed concepts).
  • Inability to grow PhD program and attract chaired professors. There is a direct correlation between ‘top flight’ faculty, their PhD students and the academic reputation of the university. This reputation is built largely on academic scholarship.

Please do not take this memo to suggest that teaching and ‘service to others’ should be relegated to a lower status than research. Rather outstanding classroom teaching and service should be the expectation for all faculty members at our university.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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job-interview-leave-last-job-dilbert-cartoonDennis Barden, senior vice president at the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, has identified a ‘top ten list’ of mistakes made by aspiring university president, provost and dean candidates.

  • Mistake 10 – Eschewing graciousness.
  • Mistake 9 – Not dressing the part.
  • Mistake 8 – Overzealousness in showing your stuff.
  • Mistake 7 – Handing out material during the interview.
  • Mistake 6 – Excessive seriousness … or excessive levity.
  • Mistake 5 – Ignoring the obvious.
  • Mistake 4 – Telling the search-committee members what the candidate thinks they want to hear.
  • Mistake 3 – Not signaling a desire for the job.
  • Mistake 2 – Talking, talking, and then more talking.  
  • Mistake 1 – Not acting like a leader.

The complete article can be found in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Bardin, D., ‘Not Dressing the Part, and Other Interview Mistakes’, May 13, 2013).   Be sure to read the comments at the end of the article where readers provide additional mistakes such as:

  • Additional Mistake 3 – Not writing a follow-up thank you note/email.
  • Additional Mistake 2 – Being snotty to the secretary/receptionist.
  • Additional Mistake 1 – Gentlemen, check to see that your fly is in the upright and locked position!

For two vignettes of job interview mistakes, please read the following post “Academic Search Campus Visit – Mistakes to Avoid”.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Cover-Bradt_3E_Rev51-200x300On February 15, 2012, I posted ‘Academic Dean – Job Interview Questions’ on the Academic Anchor.   In that posting, I credited the consulting firm Primegenesis with the ‘only three interview questions‘.     Well, it turns out that three leaders from Primegenesis have written a book entitled The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan.    In this book, the authors (George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, and Jorge E. Pedraza)  expand on their thoughts.

Again, according to Bradt, Check and Pedraza there are only three interview questions:

  1. Can you do the job? (strengths)
  2. Will you love the job? (motivation)
  3. Can I tolerate working with you? (fit)

The authors go on to say that there are only three fundamental interview answers:

  1. My strengths are a match for this job.
  2. My motivations are a match for this job.
  3. I am a good fit for this organization.

A quote from Bradt, Check and Pedraza caught my eye.

Interviews are exercises in solution selling.   They are not about you, they are about them – their needs, their problems.  You are the solution.   Think of the interview process as a chance for you to show your ability to see, hear and solve the organization’s and the interviewer’s problem.

Good thoughts indeed!

Finally, Bradt, Check and Pedraza developed a list of “Questions You Should Ask Yourself’ when preparing for the job interview.

  • Have I thought through multiple examples of how I can answer the three key questions?
  • Have I done enough research to understand what’s most important to the people I’m talking to?
  • Is this the right job for me in terms of strength, motivation and fit?
  • What would a videotape of my interview say about me?

I highly recommend the book ‘The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results’.    While the book was not written for academia, nearly all of the material directly pertains to seeking an administrative position in higher education.    If you would like to become an academic dean, this is a must read.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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globalisation-of-rd-and-innovation-four-reports-150x92Our university just completed a search for the Dean of Research.    Following are the interview questions created by the search committee.   Based on my experiences in talking with each candidate is personal commentary associated with each question.   Note: at other universities this would be analogous to job interview questions for the Vice Chancellor of Research or job interview questions for the Vice Provost of Research.
1. Why are you interested in this position at our university and why at this point in your career?

Commentary:   A softball question, but surprisingly not many answer this well.   This is a chance to make a connection to the university through geography (i.e.  I grew up in a location near the university, or my spouse’s family is from the area) or through academic association (i.e.  I was on a review team that visited your campus, I am good friends with Professor X from your university, or  your university is known for X in my academic circles and this has always created a connection for me.)

2. What is your vision for the role and aspirations of research at our university?

Commentary: Here is your chance to demonstrate some knowledge of our university.   Is the university looking for someone to bring in big dollars for research?   Is the university looking for someone with NSF and NIH connections?    Are the aspirations of the university much broader than this?    Suggestion – take a look at the composition of the search committee.   What are their backgrounds?    If the committee is from a broad range of disciplines from across the campus this might suggest that the university is looking for someone who can represent research, scholarship and creative activities to a broad range of constituents.

3. How do you envision engaging the university community and its other stakeholders in developing a broadly accepted position on this vision?

Commentary:   Can you identify key stakeholders?   Can you give examples of how you have engaged stakeholders in previous positions?   Will you listen before ‘charging forward’?

4. How do you define diversity and what role does it play in scholarship at our university?

Commentary:  You should be ready for this one.   Anyone applying for a leadership position in academia should be prepared to answer a question along these lines.   Universally candidates provide a broad definition of diversity – a definition that includes diversity of thought and ideas.    Surprisingly, few can give concrete examples of how they have played a role in embracing diversity on their campuses.

5. What are three leadership competencies you possess?  Please provide an example of when you have used these to provide effective leadership during a difficult time.

Commentary: Wow!  It is clear that not many academic leaders have taken the time to think about their leadership.   Taking the time to reflect on one’s strengths and weaknesses as an academic leader is essential – particularly if we are looking to advance.

6. If people who are supportive of your work and those who are not as supportive of your work were randomly called, what would they be likely to say about your strengths and areas for improvement?

Commentary: See question 5.   This one is perhaps a bit harder to answer, but if you’re ready for it, you can knock the ball out of the park.

7. With the current financial challenges facing higher education and federal agencies, discuss how you can help build our resources to support research and scholarship.   Please provide examples of how these strategies have been effective in your current work.

Commentary: Now we are in the wheelhouse for most candidates for a Dean of Research position.   However, the examples that you provide should align with the university.    If you are interviewing for a position at an engineering-focused university, provide at least one engineering example, even if you are not an engineer.

8. Please provide an example of an ethical decision you have made in your professional life.

Commentary:   Best answer came from a candidate who said ‘All of the decisions that I make have an ethical dimension.’   Give an example of the process you use to reach an answer.   Do you consult others?   Do you consult ethical guidelines for the university?   For the profession?

9. What questions do you have for us?

Commentary:   Two of our candidates dropped out the running by not having questions for us.  Seriously?    Here is another opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the university, but seek additional knowledge.   For example, ‘I see from your strategic plan that your are increasing your scholarship in the biological sciences, how do you envision that impacting the Dean of Research?’   or ‘I see that this is a new position at your university, how do you envision this role effecting the different colleges of the university?’

I hope that you find the questions and commentary to be of interest.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

p.s.  If you would like to learn from two unsuccessful VP for Research Candidates, please read the following post “Academic Job Search Campus Visit – Mistakes to Avoid”. 


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