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I’ve been a tenured faculty member for five years and my goal is toeventually become a dean. What should I be doing to prepare for thatstep?


Dean, College of Education, William Paterson University Wayne, NJ.

The usual requirements of a tenured faculty are essential, that is:scholarship and research, service, and teaching. Beyond the scholarlyexpectations, you must begin to acquire administrative experience inhigher education as a way of demonstrating organizational leadership.The leadership position will provide opportunities for others beyondyour department to see and appreciate your abilities. I would suggestthat you also take some courses in higher education administration toprovide a historical context, a theoretical framework, and an overviewof the role of dean.

Department chairpersons often move on to become deans. Aschairperson, you are placed in a position where you would not only leadthe department in developing and implementing goals, but you would bethe person empowered to preserve and further the academic program.Among other duties, you will be in a position to resolve faculty andstudent issues and or disputes, and manage a departmental budget. Thisexperience will be magnified in the role of dean as you will become thechief officer for many departments and programs, with oversight overbudgetary and personnel matters. You will need a responsibleadministrative service while focusing on implementation of youruniversity’s or college’s goals.


Associate Provost, Rice University Houston, TX.

My quick response is that it depends upon the type of institution.It appears by having been tenured for five years, you are on thetraditional track to a deanship. Other tracks depend upon the uniqueskills or expertise you bring to the table that match the specificneeds of an institution.

Recently, my university completed two dean searches, so yourquestion is relatively fresh on my mind. An examination of theintersection between the qualifies of the successful candidates andthose qualifies sought by the search committees might help you andothers who are looking to secure deanships.

Of course, scholarship, teaching, and service remain as the troikaof the academy. Not surprisingly, these new deans distinguishthemselves for their achievements within these three areas. A closerexamination reveals that these individuals also took on significantleadership roles that had a positive impact on their institutions. Inthe process, they took on challenges and risks most colleagues shunned.These challenges included curriculum reform, institutional or programreviews, and strategic planning. They stuck with the task, weatheringthe often stormy campus debates that accompany such activities. Theirability to effectively collaborate and negotiate generalized theirwork. Their accomplishments were undergirded by garnering the respectof their colleagues on campus and in their fields including thosecolleagues who may have disagreed with them.

I suggest, therefore, the following steps. First, assess yourcurrent environment to determine the major challenges being faced.Second, decide which of those challenges best suits your interest,skills, and expertise. Third, make your interest in the issue knownthrough your participation. Fourth, participate in national networksand associations within higher education. Fifth, find a set of mentorswho are willing to counsel you. And sixth, be willing to help othersmove into the administrative ranks.


Dean, College of Education, Roosevelt University Chicago, Ill.

Having served as a faculty member, it is apparent that you cansucceed in an academic culture. You need to find a niche for yourselfby exploring an administrative role that is consistent with yourinterest and background. In making this decision, it is advantageous toremain on the academic side of the institution.

As a potential dean candidate, it is important that you demonstratea level of commitment to the well-being of the total institution. Bymaintaining a commitment to the role and value of the faculty, you alsomust demonstrate to the administration that you are capable of fundraising and you are fiscally responsible.

Finally, you need a professional agenda that is important to you,and hopefully, it is somewhat connected to the academic unit andinstitutional mission.

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