Q> It’s been four months since you were appointed dean and now that your first semester is close to half over, what can you tell us about the registration process and getting started?
A> All beginnings are hard because one does not have the experience of the past school year cycle. No matter how much one knows about the process, living through it has no substitute. This semester from what I am told was much easier and faster than previous years. The vast majority of returning students were able to register online or on the computers in the registration areas. We worked with faculty, IT staff and administration to remove as many barriers to the whole registration process. As a result we had no fires to put out.
Q> Now that you are in to the day-to-day operations how has the preparation as a librarian helped you in your work? How have the skills transferred?
1) The reference interview experience taught me how to listen. Much of the time people do not know what they exactly want. I learned to use probing questions and friendly conversation to help people formulate better questions. With better questions I can help them find satisfactory answers.Q> What is the hardest type of decision to make?
2) I have learned to be exact. When someone wants a card, I make sure that I am giving them the correct card. When someone wants help I try to figure out the best way to help.
3) I learned to be flexible. The first answer may be technically correct, but not what they needed. The first answer or plan may not work and so a second or third plan is needed. I learned to think both inside and outside the box.
4) Nothing beats having access to the best and most up-to-date knowledge. I have helped people get the right knowledge so that they can appear to be experts. One of the frustrations when I was a librarian was that I couldn’t always find information about the college. I learned from being a librarian our task is to get readers to the right information. I have improved the way information comes and goes to the dean’s office. Previously we had a hard time keeping track of the offices for adjunct faculty. Now the list of all faculty and staff is now available online for everyone—faculty, staff, and students. This list has done much to show the administration cares and values students and all faculty. Any teacher or staff person can help a students find a professor or office. The security desk has a list of all activities so that they can direct people to the correct place.
5) We are a learning based institution. My background in teaching and scholarship directly translates to how I can help teachers improve their classrooms and students improve their quest for knowledge.
6) No one is an expert on everything. I seek help and advice from anyone who could help. When I was a librarian I sought advice from my colleagues in my library and through my professional contacts. As a dean I consult and build consensus. I know from experience where to go for answers. I learned that I before making a decision I need the correction information, knowledge and facts.
A> When the information needed for the decision is limited, ambiguous, or involves conflicting interests, the decision is hard. When there is a choice between difficult outcomes, the decision process is hard. When the mayor needed to balance the budget, jobs were cut. So far I have not needed to make decisions to cut jobs. So far I have only needed to tell people “no” when it was a question of time or limited resources.
When the questions are well defined, the decision process is easy. Sometimes I won’t tell people what I think is best answer; I’ll help them clarify the situation and let them decide.
The second interview with the newly appointed dean of the University’s School of Education. Part 1 appeared in this blog on June 1, 2011. Note: this interview is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real university, college, school, or dean is strictly coincidental.