LOADING

Type to search

Associate/Assistant Deans: Leading from the Middle

Leadership and Management

Associate/Assistant Deans: Leading from the Middle

There are many varieties of associate and assistant dean positions. Some specialize in a single area such as assessment or faculty development. Others have broader duties (i.e., associate dean of academic affairs). Those who serve in these roles do so for a variety of reasons. Some become associate dean to determine if a career in administration is a good fit. Some view the role as a part of a progression to higher administrative positions. Some serve temporarily with the intent of returning to a faculty position. And some view it as a long-term position.

To continue reading, you must be a Academic Leader Subscriber. Please log in or sign up for full access.

Tags:

You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

There are many varieties of associate and assistant dean positions. Some specialize in a single area such as assessment or faculty development. Others have broader duties (i.e., associate dean of academic affairs). Those who serve in these roles do so for a variety of reasons. Some become associate dean to determine if a career in administration is a good fit. Some view the role as a part of a progression to higher administrative positions. Some serve temporarily with the intent of returning to a faculty position. And some view it as a long-term position.

While serving as a department chair, as a center director, or in some other faculty leadership role can help develop the necessary skills to succeed as associate dean, there are some important differences. In an interview with Academic Leader, James M. Sloat, assistant dean of faculty for academic development at Colby College, talked about the role of associate dean and the important transitions into and out of these positions.

Familiar but different

One of the challenges of becoming an associate dean is managing the transition from being a faculty member to an administrator. “Associate deans and assistant deans often feel more profoundly in between that they have previously,” Sloat says.

Faculty leaders often feel “in between” the faculty and the administration; however, they know departmental colleagues well and understand their disciplinary perspectives. As assistant or associate dean, not only is the person now on the administrative side of issues but also the faculty he or she works with are from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds.

If the role is temporary, this feeling of being in the middle can be a bit unsettling. “You’re really neither fish nor fowl. You’re not really in the faculty because you’ve jumped over into administration, but you’re also not really the administration because in many cases people are in these roles on a rotating basis,” Sloat says.

A broader perspective

Serving as an assistant or associate dean opens up one’s perspective beyond that of a single department. “To me it’s incredibly fascinating work because one gets to see the institution as a whole. Over the years I’ve had the great opportunity to work with colleagues from the entire college—faculty in all departments and administrative colleagues are in admissions, development, student life, and athletics. There’s great opportunity for contributing to institutional transformation over time. And these roles are more operational than the dean’s role. Deans have bigger questions and don’t have the time to get down into the operational details of how a program will run. Associate deans have more of an opportunity to do that, which for long-term institutional change is a great position to be in,” Sloat says.

Managing transitions

Sloat offers the following advice for managing the transitions into and out of associate and assistant dean positions: