This essay discusses the transition process for academic vice presidents from the perspective of an academic vice president. Given that many institutions do not adequately plan for the exit and entry of academic vice presidents, and the lack of literature on this topic, as well as the importance of this position at many institutions, this essay is offered as a beginning for further study.
The movement of academic administrators from one institution to another is done with perhaps more regularity today than in past years and decades. It has been argued that while many academic vice presidents spend most of their careers at the same type of institution, it has is also been the case that many have moved among several institutions (Allen 1984, 9). This job change activity is apparently similar for academic leaders at many levels whether they are department chairs, coordinators or directors of programs, deans and with particular respect to vice presidents/provosts. It may be that job changing is the result of the challenges inherent in such positions given that some have argued that the position of academic vice president is “the toughest job in any college or university” (Allen 1984). Conversely, one can also make a case that senior academic leadership positions are the most rewarding and interesting as well as important administrative positions at colleges and universities. It is clear that successful transitions into and from such positions are critical to colleges and universities and that the senior academic leader is an important position in every academic institution (Miller and Pope 2002).
Academic leaders often, and rightly should, feel a sense of obligation to both institutions involved in a job transition. Similarly, once one “crosses over to the dark side” (Dowdall and Dowdall 2005) to fully embrace an administrative career track the value system of those who are successful requires full dedication to the leadership role requiring one to take on both the responsibilities and trappings commensurate with such positions rather than hold onto a more faculty-centric approach and mind-set.
This paper was written in part while the author was in an academic vice presidency at a previous institution and finished once the transition to a new vice presidency, at a new institution, was completed (e.g., after one year in the new position). While the perspective of this paper is decidedly from the perspective of an academic vice president at private institutions, one can argue that the issues of transition are similar for many academic administrative positions both in higher and secondary education. That is, leadership positions that work directly and broadly with faculty and staff across large multifaceted institutions have similarities in responsibilities, expectations and complexity.
One can also reason that the basic job of academic leadership has consistent rhythms and routines that are known to the academic vice president in transition. Broscio and Scherer (2003) have suggested that transition advice that addresses confidence, mindset and emotions is more valuable than nuts-and-bolts topics. Certainly these suggestions have implications for academic administrative positions of many types and levels. The premise of the current article is to provide a set of illustrations of what may be important when one moves from a senior academic administrative position at one institution to a senior academic position at another institution.
There is very little published research or conceptual articles on job change of academic administrators and much fewer on senior level positions. “It has been more common to ask current position holders whether they are considering a position change or whether they would again accept an administrative appointment” but more typically the questions are about a presidency (Cejda, McKenney and Fuller, 2001). There is even less literature on the position of vice president for academic affairs or provost and job change at that level. This lack of focus in the literature implies that there is a place for discussions on topics of interest concerning these positions such as is offered in the current paper.
Moreover, and given the broadening role of vice president for academic affairs or provost at most institutions as the internal operating officer and the large range of responsibilities and personnel that they typically oversee for their institutions (Martin, Samels, & Associates 1997), it is important to support smooth transitions based on more consideration than the simple process of handing in one set of keys for another. Institutions are sometimes inattentive to the proper orientation of a new academic vice president to their culture and organization and perhaps also less than focused on the necessary transition work with a departing provost. Given this reality, it is incumbent upon these leaders to focus on their transition and to bring the necessary transition skills to their new institution and to close their time at the departing institution in a way that places it in the best position possible.
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Senese, Jeffrey D. Ph.D., "Trading in One Set of Keys for Another: Suggestions for Success Self-Management of Senior Academic Job Changes and Transitions" (2006). Administration Publications and Research. 5.