Sunday, February 18, 2024

Five Tips That Will Help You Thrive as an Academic Administrator


I have been in an administrative position for just over a year now. I started in January 2023. My position is unique. I am not a Dean or Provost. I direct a Center, but the role is unusual in that I am responsible for the physical building, the budget, the staff, the faculty, and the students. We have 20 staff members, 10 adjunct or visiting faculty, and about 200 students who live in the building at any given time. Our Center is akin to a very small campus.

Because my position is unique, I have been hesitant to extrapolate from my experience and offer any general advice or reflections on being an academic administrator. 

That's me on the left - moderating a conversation with our Provost.

That said, here are five things that have helped me thrive in my first year as the Executive Director of the University of California Washington Center. 
  1. Read books on leadership and people management. There are tons of books that offer guidance and most of the advice translates to the academy. I prefer the books that are based on empirical research over the ones that are just the insights of one successful leader.
  2. Block out two hours a day for “focus time.” Use that time to do tasks that require deep thinking. For me, that is sometimes my research and sometimes strategic planning. I enjoy writing and thus make time for it but my job also requires some deep thinking so I choose which of those two kinds of tasks I will focus on each day.
  3. Be ruthless about only working eight hours a day and not working on weekends. The tasks will fit into the time you allocate them. Try it before deciding it's impossible.
  4. Be ruthless about protecting time for self-care and connection with people who care about you. For me, this involves daily meditation, yoga, daily hikes with friends, and cooking and eating home-cooked food. 
  5. Get clarity on your values and stay true to them. Only do the work if it’s meaningful to you.
What about you? Have you considered taking on an administrative position?