Dear BI Career Consultants:
What should African American faculty members do to prepare themselves for a career change
from faculty to administration?
Dr. Muriel Wright Brailey
Director of the Institute for African American Studies, Wilberforce University
I have had the experience of making a career change from faculty to administrator and back to faculty status. And now I am an administrator again. I hope to end my career in higher education as an administrator. I don’t know that there is any special or significant preparation for a career change from faculty to administration as an African American or as a female African American because in my own experience and observation (I’m going out on a limb here and bordering on the polemic), historically Black colleges and universities remain largely a bastion for males in administration, especially at the upper ranks. So ethnicity and gender are significant determinants according to the “kind” of institution. In fact, it seems gender is more a factor in HBCUs than in predominantly White institutions. This is not to ignore or discount the core issue of ethnicity regardless of what type of institutions one is a part of. To do so would be to ignore the primary factor which drives higher education and most other things in U.S. racial dynamics.
I draw an analogy between changing status from faculty to administration with changing from being a stay-at-home parent and returning to work/career outside of the home. Transferring all skills used in course and curriculum preparation teaching methodologies, budgeting and managing students is fundamental. Attend workshops, institutes and taking courses in fiscal management is also helpful. It is good as evidence of your abilities on your résumé and might let you know of skills you possess, but may not be aware of. If possible, it can be applicable whether one remains in an institution and makes the career change internally or changes institutions. Since the academic side of the house is the core of any college or university, academic rank is a great bargaining chip that one brings to the table as administrator. Finally, demographics of African American faculty and our “endangered” status may indicate a trend toward career change to administration. Perhaps more administrators can solve this problem of the diminishing African American scholar. But while this is an intrinsic issue relevant to the original question, this last comment is more suited to another forum.
Dr. Barbara A. Sizemore
Professor Emerita and Former Dean
School of Education, DePaul University
Preparation for higher administration opportunities in the university has a three-way pathway through: (1) scholarship in academic disciplines demonstrated by published research; (2) teaching and (3) community/university service. The administrator in higher education is expected to have fulfilled all three of these requirements in order to be prepared. The first step, of course, is to gain employment in the institution. This is not always easy for people of African descent. Racism still prevails. In the university people are selected by association and paradigm allegiance. If the people in the university do not know a person, he or she is less likely to be chosen.
The second step is to obtain tenure and/or promotion, an even more precarious situation for people of African descent because they are less likely to secure funding for research efforts, unlikely to be published unless a more distinguished co-author is available to legitimize the endeavor, and less likely to get superior student evaluations especially if the topics taught are controversial ones such as race, religion or discrimination.
The third step is to accumulate significant service time. This is often the only area where the person of African descent has abundant opportunity in the White universities where there are few faculty able to understand and counsel minority students and where time-consuming committee work eats away at the energy available for conducting research and publishing results.
The fourth step is to become well known on the campus. This means the aspirant must spend a great deal of time in meetings, available to his/her superiors for extra work and responsibilities and eager to do favors for those who count. Many start with the head of faculty senates or faculty groups, the acceptance of department chairs or other semi-administrative functions, which get across the notion that a particular person is highly capable and effective.
For aspirants to the deanship of schools of education, however, another route is through the public school superintendency. Here, the reputation for effective work in that domain makes one desirable to the school. Sometimes the superintendent is recruited straight to the deanship. Others progress through the ranks by the process cited above. Whatever the route, to be sure, the African American is not permitted to skip steps or land in a good job through association or paradigm allegiance unless that association or allegiance is neutral about, indifferent to or differentiated in a substantial way from race.
— Compiled by Joan Morgan
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