With all the investments that colleges and universities make in trying to develop their academic leaders—sending them to conferences and workshops, creating their own in-house professional development programs, assigning new leaders to mentors, and so on—institutions want to know whether they’re getting any return on their investment. In short, does the leadership development that current and prospective academic leaders participate in make any real difference? If so, what difference does it make? And in either case, how do we know?
Academic Leader Current Issue: August, 2017
In recent issues of Academic Leader, we discussed the importance of increasing student retention and included descriptions of several campus-level retention programs or interventions that work. While it is wise to start the process of improving student retention and success using proven strategies, it is equally wise to solicit and promote ideas from local faculty. This approach has several associated positives that include fostering faculty buy-in for a venture that is seen by some as one of investing scarce resources in those who “can’t,” taking advantage of those closest to the student culture, providing opportunities for faculty to develop a scholarship agenda in teaching, and potentially enhancing the visibility of the faculty and institution by developing the next best or high-impact practice (HIP).
Higher education is experiencing a rapidly changing and challenging environment. To succeed in better enabling necessary institutional and marketplace changes as well as creating maximum student learning opportunities, today’s academic leaders must look beyond old paradigms of success in higher education. Today’s academic leader must truly understand and act upon the wisdom of “It takes a village to raise a child” and educate a modern-day, more diverse, technologically driven, and mediated-existence-driven student.
At the beginning stages of a successful mentoring program, you must provide appropriate development and clear expectations for your mentors. Your program’s success will largely depend on how well you mentor your mentors. Don’t expect them to be expert mentors just because they may be excellent researchers or teachers.
To serve a college or university as a dean or provost is a special honor and responsibility. I had the pleasure to be in such offices—from department chair, to division head, to dean, to vice president for academic affairs, to provost, to interim president, and (finally!) to senior vice president for a total of 45 years in the same liberal arts college. But I decided to retire in 2015 to let others take the lead in our shared academic enterprise and to devote more time to other academic pursuits. My administrative colleagues have been kind and supportive, even allowing me to retain my fine office suite and providing clerical support for ongoing projects.