I've taken on many administrative roles during my time in academia, and even went fully to the "dark side" for a few years as Vice Dean for Academic Programs at Rutgers Business School. Academic administration is an interesting exercise in herding cats and can lead to enough abrasions to cause cat scratch fever, depending upon just how much change you're trying to make. But it can also make a huge difference in how programs are run, to the benefit of the students, staff, alumni, communities, and yes, even faculty. For those willing to take it on, maybe I can save you a little trouble by sharing some of the ideas I implemented, some more successfully than others.
One of the first things I did as incoming Vice Dean was set up two new offices: Office of Diversity Programs and Office of Mentoring Programs. I was fortunate to hire two great people to run each: Charles Brown & Sangeeta Rao. Both are still in place years later and have built up tremendous programs. One of the premier programs that Charles oversees is B-STAR. This program has now created a sizeable cohort of graduates who might not have otherwise made the transition to success. It has a complex structure that we ironed out over time, but it's worth undertaking if you can put the moving parts together.
To build a diverse pipeline of strong business leaders, you have to intervene as early as possible. We created the PREP program to bring Newark area high school juniors with high potential to Rutgers Business School to take coursework, so that they gained comfort, confidence, and competence. This early-ish intervention is well worth the overhead. This program feeds in B-STAR.
I love a good acronym, and we struggled for a bit with this one. The "UP" part stands for Undergraduate-Professional. We figured out that mentoring isn't something you can leave to chance. Sangeeta has done a great job of professionalizing the mentoring relationship, bringing much-needed structure and oversight to ensure that our undergraduates have great formal mentoring opportunities.
OK, from an acronym standpoint, this was my hardest one, and is maybe a bridge too far, I'll admit! I still recall standing in front of my whiteboard with Sangeeta and Charles, sweating though dozens of combinations to come up with Business Undergraduates In Leadership Development (BUILD). This one is for women. But the plan was for other groups to have their own BUILD programs, and all of this to fold into, get ready for this, various Pathways Leading to Undergraduate Success (PLUS).
You know what, this is surely my most over-reaching acronym. I wanted a program to provide informal mentoring for the broad swath of undergraduates who weren't going to get formal mentoring through Team-UP. With the HEIR program, I found a leading practitioner in each discipline, typically an RBS alum, who would visit the school (the "in residence" part) from time and time and just help our students to understand that career path. Turns out, the undergraduates were a bit too shy to interact without formal structure. Moreover, the MBA students piped up that they wanted access to these folks. So, it has since become a specialized masters student support program.
The ten p's
At RBS, I oversaw more than a dozen academic programs that enrolled more than 7,000 students across two primary and several satellite campuses. How do you get a handle on all of this? Lucky me, in the Air Force, I mastered bureaucratic control. Unlucky me, in academia, it doesn't tend to work so well. Few saluted and carried on, even though they were fully involved in the development of the guidelines. There was even a minor insurrection at the sheer thought of me daring to exert structured oversight. Apparently this level of supervision was new to them. Eventually, most came around to some degree to abiding the "10 P" framework I outlined in this document.
metrics for the ten p's
What gets measured gets done. So, to put the 10 Ps into practice, I worked with the program directors to determine relevant metrics, and then asked for regular reporting that included these metrics. The idea was to share these metrics with the faculty and the oversight committees, so that they knew how these degree programs -- the heart of what we do as a school -- were doing. We never got past baby steps in creating and sharing meaningful metrics before I returned to the faculty.
reporting schedule for 10 p's
To spread the reporting requirements over time, I created a schedule of when each of the ten degree program characteristics would be discussed. It provided some much-needed structure that allowed everyone to plan better. It mostly worked, though some weeks involved more hand-waving than others, as some areas were more prone to measurement than others. Hey, it's a continuous improvement process!
program policy committees
I'm a firm believer in shared governance. But I also know that faculty, like just about everyone else, prefer control without responsibility. We have faculty committees that hold authority over many aspects of the school, to include each of the degree programs. I was shocked to learn that many committees had no records, hadn't met in years, and simply didn't function. I created the attached guidance and met with each committee. I pulled out the Bylaws and made full use of my ex officio role in each. I asked committee chairs to publicly speak to their committee actions at faculty meetings. I was met with mixed reactions of course. But I think this did kick start greater formality and function in faculty governance, something I modeled after returning to the faculty and chairing a committee.
program committee reporting
You've seen that I dig a good acronym. I also like a good template. I created many of them, for syllabi, student disciplinary proceedings, course approval, on and on. Here's one that I created for each program policy committee. I forget, but my recollection is that few if any actually completed the form -- but I feel I was close to getting full compliance ;)
I created the Business Education Reading Group (BERG) to bring faculty together to discuss a germane topic in depth. We get surprisingly little faculty development that isn't field specific, so I focused this one on school and education system level issues. I secured funded to purchase the books. Many indicated interest, but only a handful came. After three or four, I put BERG out of its misery. From time to time, I've been asked to restart it. I haven't mustered the willpower. I think everyone has far too many other things to focus on.
As part of the AACSB maintenance of accreditation process that I oversaw, Nancy DiTomaso and I had to sort out how to classify the many ways that faculty (of various sorts; new faculty categories were created during my tenure as vice dean) can make intellectual contributions. After many iterations, this is the list we came up with. I'm not sure it's the final list, but it certainly covers many areas to consider if you are trying to do something similar.
TOMCAT idea to aom
Many years ago, I dreamt up the idea of a Theories of Management Catalog (TOMCAT). I wrote up the idea for an opinion piece in a journal and, much to my chagrin, they rejected it. It felt pretty weird to have my opinion rejected for an opinion column (as I unreservedly reported to the nonplussed editor), so I sat on it for a while. Then I ran across the Academy of Management's "Strategic Doing" initiative and decided to submit the idea to them. Well, they reviewed it, and they seemed to like it, but they said, hey, you should go do it! But the whole point was that I lack the capacity to do it, whereas they're a huge organization . . . again, not a great outcome. Years later, I've successfully published the idea (see below), and I've talked with some colleagues interested in it, but it sits on the shelf, unclear how to proceed. Google, if you're out there, please take it on!
tomcat idea explained
Here's the addendum to the proposal I sent to AOM, in which I describe TOMCAT in more depth. See -- pretty cool stuff, right??? Wanna help me put it into action????
on my so!apbox with tomcat
Strategic Organization gave me an outlet to explain TOMCAT, as well as the potential for scholarly roadmaps. I still think TOMCAT -- as well as the roadmaps discussed in the attached article -- are great ideas. Maybe I'll focus on the latter in the future, as I don't have any real hope of pushing the former without major technical assistance and high level backing (hint, hint).
There are a ton of customizable trinkets that you can emblazon with your school logo. At RBS, we have tried most of them. And in the mail, from various schools, I have received tons of them. I wanted something distinctive. Drawing from my military experience, I created "challenge coins", first to honor those who make exceptional contributions to the school, and then later as a gift to graduating MBA students (pictured here). The "challenge" part is that they come with an obligation to carry them around always, and if ever someone else with a coin challenges you, and you don't display yours immediately, then the round is on you. They're pretty affordable in mass, convenient to distribute, and I think more meaningful and more likely to be retained than many other trinkets.