A mouse in training to be a rat

At least that's what I told was the definition of an assistant dean--back when I was one.  Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, has some common-sense advice for those thinking of rathood.

Becoming a Dean
It's all about personalities. I came to say that almost daily as a dean, whatever the situation or problem I faced. That's because the most important part of my job was listening to people. When faculty members would apologize for taking my time, I would respond sincerely that I was there for them, that I valued talking with them.

That worked because I meant it: Dogs, children, and faculty members can spot a fake a mile away. (And I mean no disrespect to any of the three by linking them together. They're my favorites.) If you don't value faculty members and treasure time spent with them, don't become a dean, because that is the first prerequisite of the office.

That has always been the case, in flush times as well as in lean times, but it's been especially true since 2001, when I entered the dean's office and we started cutting budgets and never stopped. As the budget got tighter and tighter, my "cookie funds" (a term I crafted for money that could be used to finance unexpected faculty expenses) had dried up.


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