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The Magical Department Head!

Is your university or college searching for a new department head?  Following is a series of phone interview questions used in a recent department head search.    I hope that you find these interview questions to be useful.

Question One:  What generated your interest in the department head position at our university?

Question Two:  Key dimensions of the department head position include nurturing undergraduate student learning, supporting faculty development, and developing external relations. Give examples of your leadership experience in each area and indicate how you would prioritize these three areas as the department head.

Question Three: Describe your experience supporting interdisciplinary collaboration across departments and across colleges.

Question Four: Describe your leadership style. What have been your most significant leadership successes and challenges?

Question Five:  The successful candidate for this position must continue their scholarship to remain academically qualified. How might you stay active in publishing scholarly research while serving as department head?

FINAL QUESTION
What can we share with you about the department, the college, or our university that would be useful in evaluating your interest in the position?

FOLLOW-UP
If we go further, can we contact your references? Can we contact other people in addition to your references?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe 

 

 

 

Dwight Eisenhower at Columbia University

Columbia University President: Dwight Eisenhower

Below is a list of famous non-living U.S. university or college presidents followed by a brief biography for each.

  1. Dwight Eisenhower (president of Columbia University from 1948 – 1953).  Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. He was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Commander of NATO while still serving as president at Columbia University.
  2. Woodrow Wilson (president of Princeton University from 1902 – 1910).    Thomas Woodrow Wilson served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Wilson earned a Ph.D in political science, working as a professor and scholar at various institutions before being chosen as President of Princeton University, where he worked from 1902 to 1910. In 1910 he was elected the 34th Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1911 to 1913. As President, Wilson was a leading force in the Progressive Movement, bolstered by his Democratic Party’s winning control of both the White House and Congress in 1912.

    Princeton University President: Woodrow Wilson

    Princeton University President: Woodrow Wilson (1902)

  3. Joshua Chamberlain (president of Bowdoin College from 1871 – 1883).    Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain was an American college professor from the State of Maine, who volunteered during the American Civil War to join the Union Army. Although having no earlier education in military strategies, he became a highly respected and decorated Union officer, reaching the rank of brigadier general (and brevet major general). For his gallantry at Gettysburg, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. After the war, he served four one-year terms of office as the 32nd Governor of Maine. He served on the faculty, and as president, of his alma mater, Bowdoin College.   [see blog post “Joshua Chamberlain – When the Soul Overmasters Sense“]
  4. Robert E. Lee (president of Washington & Lee University from 1865 – 1870; superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy from 1852 – 1855).   Robert E. Lee  was an American soldier known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.  Lee was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and combat engineer in the United States Army for 32 years.  Lee transformed Washington College into a leading Southern college expanding its offerings significantly and added programs in commerce, journalism, and integrated the Lexington Law School. Lee was well liked by the students, which enabled him to announce an “honor system” like West Point’s, explaining “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student be a gentleman.”
  5. William Tecumseh Sherman (first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU) from 1860 – 1861).  Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the “scorched earth” policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States.  [see blog post  “Yankee President, Southern University: William Tecumseh Sherman at Louisiana State University (LSU)“].
  6. James Garfield (president of Hiram College from 1857 – 1860).  Garfield was the 20th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1881 until his assassination later that year. Garfield had served nine terms in the House of Representatives, and had been elected to the Senate before his candidacy for the White House.
  7. Millard Fillmore (chancellor of the University of Buffalo from 1846- 1874).   Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States (1850–1853), the last Whig president, and the last president not to be affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties.  As Zachary Taylor’s vice president, he assumed the presidency after Taylor’s death. Fillmore was a lawyer from western New York state, and an early member of the Whig Party. He served in the state legislature (1829–1831), as a U.S. Representative (1833–1835, 1837–1843), and as New York State Comptroller (1848–1849).  Fillmore founded the University at Buffalo and was the university’s first chancellor.
  8. Thomas Jefferson (rector of the University of Virginia from 1819 – 1826).   Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809).    In 1819, the 76-year-old Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He initiated and organized the legislative campaign for its charter and with the assistance of Edmund Bacon, procured and purchased the location. Jefferson was the principal designer of the buildings. Their innovative design was an expression of his aspirations for both state-sponsored education and an agrarian democracy in the new Republic. He also planned the University’s curriculum and served as the first rector. Upon its opening in 1825, it was the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. With no campus chapel included in the original plans, the university was notable for being centered about a library rather than a church, reinforcing the principle of separation of church and state.
  9. James Madison (rector of the University of Virginia from 1826 – 1836).   Madison was an American statesman, political theorist, and the fourth President of the United States (1809–17). He is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and as the key champion and author of the Bill of Rights.

It is interesting to note that only one individual on this list earned a Ph.D. – Woodrow Wilson earned a Ph.D. in 1886 from Johns Hopkins University.

Who is missing from this list?    Please leave a comment if you are aware of additional “famous, non-living” U.S. university presidents.    Thank you!

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

k2-_a5f2dc38-8463-431a-9f33-a0dc59db67fa.v1.jpg-66018fc2406f3216cfcf368a64aa376585858c5b-optim-450x450I have long been fascinated by famous individuals who served as university president.  The Academic Anchor has highlighted a few of these famous university presidents: Dwight Eisenhower (Columbia University), Joshua Chamberlain (Bowdoin College) and Clark Kerr (University of California).    Recently I discovered the most unusual university presidency.  It turns out that General William Tecumseh Sherman, Union Army General during the Civil War, was the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU).   

LSU was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy.  ….    In 1853, the Louisiana General Assembly established the  Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy near Pineville, Louisiana. The institution opened January 2, 1860, with Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman as superintendent. A year later, Sherman resigned his position after Louisiana became the sixth state to secede from the Union, on January 26, 1861. The school was forced to close on June 30, 1861, with the start of the American Civil War.

Apparently many of Sherman’s professors resigned to join the Confederate Army while Sherman, as you know, became known for his “March to the Sea” where his scorched earth policies were devastating to the South and the Confederacy.  As stated by David Shribman in his article ‘Sherman’s March Through the South Still Resonates at LSU’ (2007):

It is one of those curious wrinkles of history that the man who, at the beginning of one of the most frightful decades in American history, was a pioneer at one of the signature institutions of the modern South, was also, before the decade had reached its midpoint, the signature villain of the region. Life is not predictable, which is why it is so fascinating.

The legacy of Sherman is still reflected in the culture Army ROTC program at LSU.   According to the LSU ROTC web site:

Yes, from the day it opened its doors in 1860, Louisiana State University has been influenced by its military tradition. In return, for more than a century, LSU has produced a continuing line of military men and women who have greatly influenced United States military history. This long relationship can be seen in countless symbols, including two Civil War cannons, which were used at Fort Sumter and later presented to the University by General William Tecumseh Sherman. It is represented in the Oak Grove and the 175-foot Memorial Tower honoring LSU students and other Louisianians killed in World War I. It is reflected in the War Memorial flag pole and reviewing stand and wall of honor listing the names of those who died serving our country in World War II and all subsequent wars. The heritage also lives in the tradition of LSU’s Tiger mascot, a remembrance of Wheat’s Tigers (a Louisiana unit that distinguished itself during the Civil War). LSU’s character is steeped in military tradition.

Yes, Dr. Percy Trappe believes that the truth is stranger than fiction!

[note: for a list of famous university presidents, including William Tecumseh Sherman, see the blog post “List of Famous University Presidents (United States)“.]

internet-unfollowA trend in higher education is the move towards decentralized budgeting.   Terms like ‘Responsbility Based Budgeting’, ‘Activity Based Budgeting’, ‘Responsibility Centered Budgeting’ and ‘Value Centered Budgeting’ are used to describe this concept.   Support for responsbility based budgeting at universities has been mixed.  Organizations like the NEA have expressed their concerns with it (Beware Higher Ed’s Newest Budget Twist by Leroy W. Dubeck) and organizations like the National Association of College and University Business Officer’s have generally been supportive of it (The Case for Decentralized Financial Management, by Scott Scarborough).

If your university is engaged in discussions about responsbility based budgeting, it is important to understand how it works.  I have found the following document to be the absolute best source of information:   Responsibility Center Management: Lessons from 25 Years of Decentralized Management by Jon C. Strauss and John R. Curry.   This is a relatively old document (2002), yet it is the most comprehensive and readable report on the principles, guidelines and details on how to make decentralized budgeting work.

Please consider the following quote from the preface of the report”

Decentralization is a natural act in universities. Decentralization of authority, that is.  Decentralization of responsibility is not a natural act.That requires intention and design.  Many academic leaders will say that most authority lies with the faculty in departments and schools, and most responsibility lies with central administrators. In many universities today, this state still obtains yet is more often lamented than addressed and managed.  Increasing numbers of institutions,however, are making explicit efforts to address such imbalances, to design organizational structures and incentives to make responsibility commensurate with authority, wherever that authority lies. The problem we address is the decoupling of academic authority from financial responsibility.

I highly recommend that you read this document as you consider new budeting models at your university.

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

MBANerdThe following is the job description for the MBA Director at our university.   Enjoy!

The individual in this position provides academic leadership for all aspects of the Master of Business Administration program including strategic planning, admissions and daily operations. Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:
Curriculum Management

  • Leads Graduate Curriculum Committee activities and navigates proposals through University C&I process
  • Leads and coordinates assurance of learning

Academic Program Oversight

  • Serves as primary point of contact for prospective students
  • Promotes MBA Programs at information sessions
  • Reviews applications for admission and makes admissions recommendations to The Graduate School
  • Works with Academic Unit Heads to schedule faculty for MBA class offerings
  • Provides written teaching performance feedback to faculty and respective AUH’s for development and use in faculty annual evaluation process
  • Estimates revenues and expenses, by concentration, for input into self-supporting budgets
  • Coordinates with provider for iMBA international travel; moves proposals through purchasing process
  • Updates annually the Business Administration section of the graduate catalog
  • Writes annual report for MBA Programs
  • Maintains and reports data for rankings to U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review and Bloomberg BusinessWeek
  • Collects data for AACSB BSQ
  • Ensures adjunct MBA instructors meet College of Business faculty qualification standards
  • Creates program objectives, sets goals and reports outcomes
  • Monitors student progression and audits graduation applications
  • Provides academic advising to students
  • Manages the student grade appeal process

Supervisory Responsibility

  • MBA Program Administrative Assistant
  • Coordinates with faculty Teaching in MBA Program
  • Leadership Development Consultants

Qualifications and Requirements

  • Academic preparation: Ph.D. degree, rank of Associate or Professor
  • Experience teaching in MBA program or previous work experience with an MBA program
  • Teaching load – 9 credits per academic year
  • 12-month position
  • Solid record of scholarship, teaching, and service
  • Excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to work collaboratively with Department Heads, faculty, and staff, as well as with colleagues across the campus community

I would encourage anyone looking at hiring a MBA Director to look at and consider the position description for Graduate Director of Enrollment Management and Student Services.    Clarity of roles in the MBA office is extremely important when looking to maximize team effectiveness.

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

squareWhat words of wisdom could Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and the founder and CEO of Square,  possibly have for the academic dean?   In a National Public Radio interview with Kai Ryssdal on May 21, 2015, Dorsey discussed his management style.    In particular, he discussed a management style similar to my own.   One where people and their ideas are highly-valued, one where decision-making is pushed closer to the stakeholder, and one where organizational leadership is key.   Following is a quote from the interview with Jack Dorsey:

I say that if I have to make a decision, we have an organizational failure. (That’s) because I don’t have the same context as someone who is working day to day with the data, with the understanding of the customer. I definitely see the organization and the people in it as the ones to make the decisions, because they have the greatest context for what needs to be done.

How many academic leaders can honestly agree with a management philosophy where “my job is to make sure that decisions get made” and where “there is an organizational failure if I am making the decisions”?  I would like to re-frame Jack Dorsey’s quote to make it applicable in a university setting:

I say that if a provost, dean or department head has to make a decision affecting academic program curriculum, the university has an organizational failure. This is because the provost, dean or department head does not have the same context as someone who is working day to day with an understanding of the students and the expected learning outcomes of the academic program.  The provost, dean or department head should definitely see the university and the faculty in it as the ones to make the curricular decisions, because they have the greatest context for what needs to be done.  (quote: Dr. Percy Trappe)

What do you think?   Does this ring true?  Is this your experience?   I would suggest that department heads, deans and provosts have much to learn from Jack Dorsey.

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe   

logobigLinus Torvalds would seem an unlikely person to shed light on the role of academic Dean.    Torvalds was the initital creator of the Linux kernel that has become the most popular kernel for operating systems.  Today he is the chief architect of the Linux kernel and acts as the project’s coordinator.     Today hundreds of millions of computers, smartphones and embedded processors run Linux.   Beyond being the driving force behind a single software product, Torvalds is generally credited with popularlizing open-source software (OSS) and open-source software development methodologies.

It is Torvalds’s perspective on the open-source software development process that I believe has a parallel in academic leadership.   Following is a quote from Torvalds in a 2012 interview with Scott Merrill from “Tech Cruch”.

I like the *process*. I like writing software. I like trying to make things work better. In many ways, the end result is unimportant – it’s really just the excuse for the whole experience. It’s why I started Linux to begin with – sure, I kind of needed an OS, but I needed a *project* to work on more than I needed the OS.

In fact, to get a bit “meta” on this issue, what’s even more interesting than improving a piece of software, is to improve the *way* we write and improve software. Changing the process of making software has sometimes been some of the most painful parts of software development (because we so easily get used to certain models), but that has also often been the most rewarding parts. It is, after all, why “git” came to be, for example. And I think open source in general is obviously just another “process model” change that I think is very successful.

So my model is kind of a reverse “end result justifies the means”. Hell no, that’s the stupidest saying in the history of man, and I’m not even saying that because it has been used to make excuses for bad behavior. No, it’s the worst possible kind of saying because it totally misses the point of everything.

It’s simply not the end that matters at all. It’s the means – the journey. The end result is almost meaningless. If you do things the right way, the end result *will* be fine too, but the real enjoyment is in the doing, not in the result.

And I’m still really happy to be “doing” 20 years later, with not an end in sight.

What is the lesson(s) for the academic dean?  First, I love the phrase … “I needed a project to work on more that I needed the …”.      As a Dean, do you ‘need’ the project?    Is the ongoing ‘project’ of running the school your driving motiviation?   Second, clearly the journey is important.   Do  you enjoy being an academic dean?   Are you motivated by solving the problems facing your school and working collectively with your faculty?    Are you enjoying the journey?  Are we concerned with the “ends” – yes, but ultimately, it is about the journey.   Changing the way we do things – the academic processes are hugely important in academia just as they are in software development.   Thank you Linus!

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe