A Few Thoughts for the New Chief Academic Officer

Academic Leader

New chief academic officers come to the job from a variety of backgrounds—faculty, deanships, or other administrative jobs. They come with widely varying expectations and assumptions about the CAO role, including ideas that bear little relation to the reality they encounter.  After a number of years as CAO of a small southeastern college, I was asked to participate in the Council of Independent Colleges’ workshop for new CAOs. The organizers asked if I would lead group discussions on the theme of “Surviving and Thriving as a New CAO.” I agreed, though I warned the organizers that while I could speak as one who had survived (so far), thriving is always an aspiration. In some ways, thriving as CAO is a bit like someone who takes the stage and announces that she’s a comedian, only to be told by an audience member, “We’ll be the judge of that.”

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