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04/23/2012

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Richard Weis

Steven, I think your observation about it taking 3+ years to get things figured out and to build trust is right on the mark. For some time now I've been convinced that the Alban Institute's observations about short-term and long-term pastorates applies to deanships as well. The typical 3-5 (2-4?) year deanship means one is leaving just as one has built up enough trust and knowledge of the institution and its context to begin to really do things. Longer term deanships hold a much greater potential for moving an institution. Although there was a lot of activity in my first 4-year term at United, it wasn't until the second and third terms that I think I really moved us anywhere. What Alban says about the long-term pastor needing to change focus and re-tool to respond to the changing needs of a congregation also hold true, I think, for long-term deanship. I was focusing on different things and had had to learn some new tricks by the time I left United for Lexington.

Israel Galindo

Thanks, Steven. Thanks for sharing your story, and, for the invitation to reflect on ours. Here are some responses from my experience:

• By what process did that happen?

Our seminary had just experienced a downsizing after our last dean left the office. The Trustees, appropriately, determined that an outside search was not feasible and a current faculty member needed to step into the office. After deliberation two of us made up the short list. After interviews, the President recommended me, despite not having majority vote.

• What questions did you ask before agreeing to do so?

Since I was familiar with the culture I didn't have many questions. I did my best, however, to state my expectations for the things that needed to be addressed during my tenure ("If I take the job, expect these things to happen and these to be the priorities."). Not all popular.

• Whose counsel did you seek?

Third time I've been asked that question. As an internal processor, this is something I did not do, for better or worse. It was a difficult process of internal discernment.

• What gifts did you identify or did others identify in you for this role?

My willingness to serve was in part at perceiving that I had the skiils set, and experience, to address institutional development issues critical for the time. Another way of saying it, "The job fit all my neuroses."

• How do you understand this role or position as a call or with a sense of vocation?

Certainly a calling for a season. A vocation only in the sense of fully embracing the job and all it entailed. If you're going to be the dean, then be the dean--it is your vocation for however long its tenure.

• What have you given up? What have you gained?

I gave up having a life. I used to write a book a year. For the past four years the only bound monograph I've written is the school catalog. My accountant says I lost about $60k so far in potential consultations. Gains: the burden of responsibility; a sense of gratification in knowing I can do a difficult job (relatively well); the grudging respect of critics; and admittedly, opportunities unique to the office.

• In thinking about “professional development,” do you spend time and resources on development as Dean in addition to whatever academic discipline you call your own?

This is a big issue. In my case I've invested heavily in the professional development of the deanship at the expense of professional scholarship. It's an issue of stewardship--everything in its season.

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