Book offers advice for and by academic leaders

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2015

Years in graduate school, teaching and research do little to prepare professors for administrative posts. Now, a compendium of advice for new faculty administrators, written by experienced academic leaders across the country, aims to fill the void.51CH6HgCPmL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Academic Leadership in Higher Education: From the Top Down and the Bottom Up” offers readers a view of leadership from many different perspectives and levels within the university.

“Faculty often go into leadership roles feeling fairly clueless,” said Robert Sternberg, professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and senior co-editor of the book published by Rowman & Littlefield. “The chairs, deans, provosts, university presidents and chancellors who so generously contributed chapters did so because they realize that people new to academic leadership desperately need advice.”

Despite the many perspectives presented, common themes emerge in the book. The vital importance of strategic planning, for example, is highlighted by Alan Mathios, dean of the College of Human Ecology. His chapter discusses developing the college’s mission statement and creating a culture of community. Emphasizing educational and scientific leadership rather than administration, Charles Brainerd, chair of the Department of Human Development, demonstrates another theme – staying connected to your academic discipline. Sternberg concludes the volume with a distillation of the top 10 pieces of advice, starting with “don’t compromise on ethical principles.”

While the book is written for faculty members who are in, or are thinking of entering, academic-leadership roles, it offers insights into leadership and academia that may appeal to many other readers.

Sternberg co-edited the volume with Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University; April C. Mason, provost and senior vice president of Kansas State University; Robert V. Smith, vice president of Collaborative Brain Trust University Consulting; Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas; and Michele Wheatly, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.