Janni Aragon, writing from Victoria, Britsh Columbia in Canada.
I have something to admit: I know that I eventually want to go into administration. Please continue reading! I realize that within higher education there is often this us vs them mentality. It is us (instructors, graduate students, support staff and more) vs. the at times faceless, nameless enemy, the administrators. We are the 99% on campus and they constitute the 1%. But, I have to admit that during the last few years, I have had lots of conversations with colleagues and family about what I would do if I had an administrative role on campus. We academics talk lots, and part of this talk includes constructive comments and perhaps even some criticism. I partake in these conversations, but I always get to the part of “what would I do to fix this.” And, my sense of justice and desire to mentor students has meant that I want to go into administration in a role where I will help students or oversee student issues.
My first paid job was as a tutor. I continued tutoring throughout my undergraduate days and as a Graduate Student, I found the Teaching Assistantships rewarding. It is no exaggeration to say that I probably love teaching more than I did in 1998, when I taught my first class, but I also have come to realize that there is work to be done in administration. We also need more women administrators and I know that the only way to change this is to actually take the leap and go into administration. I have no desire to stop teaching, though. I also know that there are certain units in campus that I have a natural inclination toward.
One of the best parts of my job is the repeated opportunity to mentor students. I find that I can mentor in the classroom, but the really priceless moments take place during my office hours. My office hours as an Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Political Science offer those teachable moments for me and my students. When I saw the posting for the Associate Dean of Academic Advising, it looked like a perfect fit for my skill set and desire to help students on campus. I am not going to lie; right before I clicked send my heart was fluttering. I sent my dossier and hoped for the phone call—the one that informs me that I made the shortlist. I got the phone call and my interview is next month.
The reaction by some co-workers has been surprising. A few were surprised that I would entertain having an administrative role and leave the classroom. One remarked that it is unfortunate that good instructors (reference to reputation and university evaluations) go into administration. I understand the unease, but think that a university needs people who want to go into administration and these people should enjoy teaching, mentoring, research, and service.
The interview is in early January and my fingers are crossed. But the reality is that if I do not get the position, as an Undergraduate Advisor, I will work closely with the new Associate Dean to support projects to improve advising on campus. Either way, the good news is that the committee perused my dossier and shortlisted me. The next time there is another administrative job that is in my area of interest, I’ll apply for it.
This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.