Stuck in the Middle? Are you an academic stuck in the middle, somewhere between faculty and the upper administration? Are you a department chair or associate dean, caught in that grey area where they label you a “faculty administrator”? Welcome to the club–this blog is for you! We are the middle-management of our institutions: chairs, directors, and associate deans. We are not provosts or vice presidents. No, we are a different breed of administrator. We are the ones who still teach in addition to their administrative responsibilities. The ones who usually receive modest, if any, increases in pay for their labors.
And I chose to become one. I have been a department chair for several years now. For better or worse, I have always had some talents in this area. Some people can tap dance, some can bake pies with flaky crusts. I can run a meeting that won’t make you want to tear your hair out or run screaming from the room (rules of a good meeting to follow in a future blog post). A lot of it is common sense, but it never hurts to be reminded.
Why This Blog? Despite coming to this position with some administrative experience and some modest skills, in these last years I have learned volumes about myself and how to manage people. I have made mistakes. I think I am good at being chair, but I decided that a forum for posting about it would help deepen and hone my skills and hopefully make me a better chair as I serve a second three-year term. I am also deeply troubled by how little institutional preparation and mentoring there is for faculty who choose or find themselves in these positions. I don’t know about you, but nobody taught me how to be a department chair when I was in graduate school. I see this blog, then, as a space for that kind of advocacy and support. And finally, there is also, of course, the question of maintaining one’s personal sanity, finding time for research or creative activity, and having a life while being stuck in the middle. I hope to be able to offer some insight about that, too. For starters, I recommend some sort of cardiovascular sport that makes you sweat a lot (for me, it’s running) and a beverage that makes you happy (for me, it’s a dirty martini).
I welcome your comments, feedback, and suggestions for topics for future posts.