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Special Report
8/26/2014 12:00 AM

When you were new to academic administration, were you offered training that helped you manage your new responsibilities? Or did your institution take a sink-or-swim approach to your professional development?

And what about junior-level administrators at your institution? Do you ensure that they have resources they need to address their knowledge gaps?

We recently surveyed deans and provosts about professional development — what they received as new administrators and what they provide on their campuses. We heard from 150 of them.

When you were new to academic administration, were you offered training that helped you manage your new responsibilities? Or did your institution take a sink-or-swim approach to your professional development?

And what about junior-level administrators at your institution? Do you ensure that they have resources they need to address their knowledge gaps?

We recently surveyed deans and provosts about professional development — what they received as new administrators and what they provide on their campuses. We heard from 150 of them.

In this first installment of the results, we reveal what training survey respondents received when they became academic administrators.

Most leaders received informal training

When we asked, “When you took your first position as an academic administrator, what type of training did you receive?” survey respondents said:

Those who chose “other” specified that senior administrators answered their questions, they followed the lead of their predecessor, they took advantage of other deans’ knowledge, and “trial by fire.”

We then asked what training was most important to survey-takers when they began working as academic administrators. The most common response was that gaining experience on the job was the most valuable. Mentoring and networking with other academic administrators were also popular answers, as was “I didn’t receive any training.”

A number of survey takers listed specific topics they were trained on that were particularly useful to them. If you are responsible for providing professional development to others — or if you are just starting out in administration — consider that these are skills you might want to focus on:

  • Supervising faculty.
  • Finance and budgeting.
  • Regulatory/legal matters.
  • Accreditation.
  • Learning to say no.
  • Leadership.
  • Human resources.
  • Conflict resolution.

We also asked, “If you could have had any type of training, on any topic, when you were a new academic administrator, what would you have chosen and why?” The topics mentioned above were named, with budgeting being the most frequent answer. Survey-takers also mentioned the following topics:

  • Accounting.
  • Records management.
  • Registration software. That would enable the respondent to help with students when the officers were especially busy.
  • Shared governance.
  • Curriculum. “Folks interested in administration should attend curriculum meetings on a regular basis to get the method by which curriculum is established and maintained,” the respondent said.
  • Work/life balance.
  • Understanding political dynamics.
  • Data management. One survey-taker said it would be especially useful to know how to use Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System information to break out education costs by student, department, college, etc.
  • Fundraising/external relationships.
  • Labor relations (dealing with unions).
  • Change management.

Some survey takers suggested specific formats they thought would have been most effective for preparing them for their new roles. Most often, they said that formal mentoring, with specific goals and regular check-ins, would have been helpful. Others wished for a yearlong training program with monthly meetings and the opportunity to attend a national conference.

Leaders give training a B-

We asked survey takers, “How would you rate the training you received as a new academic administrator?” They chose grades from A+ to F. The mean — and the most common response — was a B-.

About the respondents

Our survey-takers were about equally divided between deans (including associate and assistant deans) and chief academic officers (including associate or assistant provosts). The majority of them (64 percent) have held positions in higher education, including faculty positions, for 20 or more years. Most are seasoned administrators: 29 percent have held any administrative positions for 8 to 12 years, 33 percent have done so for 13 to 19 years, and 22 percent have been administrators for 20 or more years. The largest number — 37 percent — have held their current positions for 4 to 7 years.

8/14/2014 12:00 AM

PITTSBURGH, PA. — When academic and facilities professionals start the planning process for renovations or new construction on campus, they discuss what they want the space to be like. “We want it to be innovative” is a typical comment faculty members make, said Joseph Moreau, vice chancellor of technology for the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District. But “innovative” could mean a lot of things. Agreeing to a common language and thinking through the options available for achieving goals can be a long process.

The Flexible Learning Environments eXchange is designed to make space planning easier. The free, open resource is a repository of photographs of campus spaces, along with information about the spaces. The goal in creating it was to share best practices about creating learning spaces, Moreau said. He spoke at the Society for College and University Planning’s annual, international conference, along with others who have worked on the FLEXspace project.

The project was launched under the direction of the Office of the Provost for the State University of New York system.

Goals include:

  • Providing examples of peer solutions with return on investment for the projects.
  • Decreasing the time from facilities planning to construction.
  • Encouraging consistent terminology across stakeholder groups, including facilities planners, architects, faculty members, instructional support professionals, administrators and information technology specialists. “We discovered there’s not really a shared vocabulary across all the people with a role to play in a design or remodel project,” Moreau said.

Using FLEXspace can save institution officials time and money they might have spent visiting other institutions to tour facilities, said Lisa Stephens, senior strategist for academic innovation for the SUNY system’s Office of the Provost. With the photos and information FLEXspace provides, they can develop a much better idea of what they want before they plan site visits.

Officials from colleges and universities can create free accounts to share information about their spaces and view other institutions’ posts. They can post images, PDFs and Excel spreadsheets, said Megan Marler from ArtStor, a nonprofit that developed the FLEXspace site.

Officials complete three information screens about their space. They cover the areas of learning and assessment, instructional technology integration and facilities. When those three categories are represented in a Venn diagram, active learning is at the intersection, said Bradford Snyder, associate director of classroom technology services at SUNY College at Cortland.

When users view images on FLEXspace, they can zoom in and rotate them and save them to groups, Marler said. They can also generate a URL for an image and send it to another user with an account.

Officials involved in the project are working on adding a peer review component to FLEXspace.

To sustain the project, they have developed a sponsorship model. Herman Miller, a furniture manufacturer, is the inaugural sponsor.

Visit FLEXspace at https://flexspace.org.

Faculty Development
7/25/2014 12:00 AM

If you ask most faculty members to describe what they do, they will talk about teaching, research and service. They might not mention their role in recruiting and retaining students. But professors can be a vital part of these efforts.

Members of Dean & Provost’s advisory board participated in a conference call to share their best practices for involving faculty members in ensuring that students enroll and graduate.

“It takes a campus to recruit, and once you get students here, to retain them through graduation,” said Cynthia Worthen, vice president for academic affairs at Argosy University.

If you ask most faculty members to describe what they do, they will talk about teaching, research and service. They might not mention their role in recruiting and retaining students. But professors can be a vital part of these efforts.

Members of Dean & Provost’s advisory board participated in a conference call to share their best practices for involving faculty members in ensuring that students enroll and graduate.

“It takes a campus to recruit, and once you get students here, to retain them through graduation,” said Cynthia Worthen, vice president for academic affairs at Argosy University.

Enroll best-fit students with faculty help

Cynthia WorthenSome faculty members are resistant to helping recruit students for their programs or for the institution. “I’m a faculty member. I teach. I do research. I’m not a salesperson,” they say, according to Worthen. Worthen makes it clear to faculty members that they aren’t expected to act as salespeople. Their role is to accompany admissions officials to events to talk about their passion, their research, and what students can expect once they complete the degree. Put in that context, professors are able to see how they can impact enrollment without feeling like they are selling something.

But faculty members’ contributions don’t need to look like admissions representatives’ roles, Worthen said.

To emphasize the importance of recruiting and encourage faculty members to participate, at Argosy, professors are rated in their annual review for their outreach activities such as attending open houses and receptions.

Faculty members are tools for recruiting students, said Benjamin Akande, dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University. Recruitment staff members can talk about the institution but not about the specifics of studying in a certain area. “Faculty can tell the story about their experience in the classroom, students they have had, how they transformed the students and prepared them for life after school,” Akande said.

At the Walker School, 85 percent of the students are working adults, Akande said. When they’re deciding where to enroll, they want the types of specifics that the faculty can share.

Akande is also very active in recruiting students. When there’s a major recruitment event, either at the St. Louis campus or on one of the global campuses, he attends either in person or virtually. He also calls applicants who are making decisions about where to enroll. On a Friday evening or Saturday morning, he might make as many as 150 phone calls.

Darby DickersonAt the Texas Tech University School of Law, faculty play an important role in recruitment, said Dean Darby Dickerson. They call every admitted student. And they attend events at universities where prospective students are enrolled and participate in an admitted student weekend. Their roles during that weekend might include speaking to the group of prospects who attend, speaking one on one with students at receptions, or organizing booths where admitted students can get information about projects the professors are working on.

Faculty members in the College of Technology at the University of Houston participate in outreach activities for high school students, said Dean William Fitzgibbon. For example, UH hosts the area science fair. Mathematics competitions are held on campus. And UH offers camps on subjects including biotechnology, robotics and cybersecurity. Faculty members work with high school students who attend the camps.

Faculty members also play an extremely important role in recruiting students from community colleges, Fitzgibbon said. Some courses and programs are co-located on community college campuses. So faculty members are there on campus where they can speak with students about the programs. And sometimes UH professors teach community college courses. “They’re a natural advertisement,” Fitzgibbon said.

Engage professors in retention

Benjamin AkandeOnce students enroll, faculty members can play a continuing role in helping them persist through graduation. At one time, officials took for granted that once students came, they would stay, Akande said. But now, students continually consider their options, he said.

He continually engages students in conversation. “They’ll tell you if they’re not happy,” he said.

Students are asked for their views through surveys at the end of the semester. And Akande takes the opportunity to connect with students at events such as speaker series or receptions. He asks them to share their observations and challenges. You can learn a lot from those conversations, he said.

At Texas Tech’s School of Law, Dickerson focuses on building a customer relationship with students outside the classroom. For example, administrators and faculty members have an open-door policy. Plus professors are active with extracurricular activities and form connections with students through those. If they hear of a student who is thinking about transferring or who asks them for a recommendation letter, professors are asked to share that information. An administrator or a faculty member who is close to the student then speaks with her about why she might leave and why she should complete her degree at Texas Tech.

Dickerson’s primary retention strategy is to build an atmosphere that makes students want to stay at the school.

William FitzgibbonAt UH, one problem officials face is that the economy is so vibrant that students can find high-paying jobs without completing their degrees. Many students work in local restaurants, and that pays very well, Fitzgibbon said. Because they are making so much money, they take longer to graduate. “The longer it takes, the bigger the chance life will get in the way,” Fitzgibbon said.

Institutionwide efforts to boost graduation rates include tracking students’ progress and intervening if it looks like they’re in trouble, he said. Plus, statewide efforts to boost graduation rates include a cap on the number of hours students can take at the in-state tuition rate. If they don’t graduate by the time they reach the limit, they have to pay out-of-state tuition for their remaining credits.

“We have taken the village approach,” Worthen said about Argosy’s retention efforts. “It’s not just the faculty’s responsibility — it’s everybody’s,” she added.

At Argosy, students are assigned academic program advisors who help them through the administrative tasks of being students, such as registering for courses and understanding the catalog.

Plus, faculty members identify students who are at risk and complete a form that explains the problem (e.g., missing class, not turning in assignments, problems that may need remediation). Academic program advisors can also submit the forms, because not all problems arise in the classroom, Worthen said.

A team meets bimonthly to discuss at-risk students and consider the support they may need. For example, many undergraduate students are not aware of the services available to them or might have time management problems. A graduate student works one on one with students who need help.

“It might sound time-consuming, and believe you me, it is,” Worthen said about Argosy’s team efforts to increase persistence. But students share different things with different people, so working as a group can provide a more complete picture of who the student is, she said.

The bottom line…

Remember these best practices for engaging faculty members in recruitment and retention:

  • Help faculty members understand why their help is valuable.
  • Encourage faculty members to participate in recruitment events.
  • Plan outreach efforts such as summer camps that include professors.
  • Create systems for tracking student success and reach out to students who are having trouble.
  • Be available and encourage conversations with students so that you know what they like and don’t like.
Lawsuits and Rulings
8/13/2013 12:00 AM

30+ years of law practice are no substitute for scholarship

Case name: Spaeth v. Georgetown University, No. 11-1376 (ESH) (D.D.C. 05/09/13).

Ruling: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to Georgetown University, dismissing the plaintiff’s age discrimination claims.

Case name: Spaeth v. Georgetown University, No. 11-1376 (ESH) (D.D.C. 05/09/13).

Ruling: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to Georgetown University, dismissing the plaintiff’s age discrimination claims.

What it means: When a plaintiff claims he was not interviewed for a college or university position because of his age, it’s not sufficient to show that the individuals interviewed and hired were younger than he was. He must also show that he had all the qualifications necessary to obtain a tenure-track position.

Summary: Nicholas Spaeth — born in 1950 — attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He graduated from Stanford Law School in 1977 after serving as a law review editor.

Following law school, he served as North Dakota state attorney general for seven years, as general counsel to several Fortune 500 companies, and as a lawyer in private practice. He also taught constitutional law as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School from 1980 through 1983.

In 2009, he decided to pursue an academic career. Ultimately, he obtained a non-tenure-track position as a visiting professor of law at the University of Missouri at Columbia for the 2010-2011 school year.

In 2010, Spaeth submitted a resume to an online resume system in which 172 law schools participated because his visiting professor position was only a one-year appointment.

He also wrote to several law schools directly to indicate his interest in being considered for a position.

He did not write directly to Georgetown University because he didn’t think that he wanted to live in Washington, D.C.

Spaeth was invited to preliminary interviews by only two schools and received no job offers.

He then filed a suit against Georgetown, claiming that its failure to interview and hire him violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act because it ultimately hired three less-qualified candidates who were approximately 25 years younger.

Georgetown filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Spaeth’s online résumé did not reveal any interest or experience in producing the kind of original legal research and scholarship that Georgetown and other top-tier law schools required.

Spaeth countered that Georgetown had no written requirement that scholarship weighed heavily — or outweighed — teaching and service.

However, District Judge Ellen Huvelle said that the lack of a written requirement was irrelevant. She said there was no need to put in writing what everyone knew: that scholarship was — for better or worse — one of the overriding concerns among elite law schools in making hiring decisions.

She recognized that Spaeth strongly felt that law students should be taught by practitioners instead of academics. However, she said that he could not dispute that scholarship was indeed a primary focus of law schools when hiring faculty members, and she refused to interfere with the university’s priorities.

Judge Huvelle found that Spaeth did not demonstrate the necessary qualifications for an entry-level tenure-track position at Georgetown because he had no record of scholarly work and had not shown a potential for producing such work in the future.

She granted summary judgment in favor of the university.

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  • Meet the Editor

    Joan Hope
    Managing Editor

    Joan Hope became editor of Dean & Provost in 2007. She brings years of experience in higher education and journalism to her work. She has taught writing and literature courses for eight years at colleges and universities including Indiana University at Bloomington, Clark University, and Houston Community College
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