BEING A DEAN is not an easy job. “It’s being part leader and part cheerleader
and having the wisdom to know when to be what,” says Joyendu
“Joy” Bhadury, who leads the College of Business and Economics at
Radford University in Virginia. While deans have absolute responsibility
for leading their schools, he adds, they often don’t have absolute
authority, so sometimes “they must lead from the front, other times
from behind—but always lead.”
The best advice he ever got from a longtime dean? “There are three
kinds of problems—those that you can solve, those that you cannot,
and those that you have to outlive. The trick is to know which is what
and react accordingly.”
For associate deans and department chairs who aspire to be deans,
it’s useful to have those kinds of insights about what the job will entail.
Those insights might be even more critical for nontraditional candidates,
such as managers or CEOs, who want to make the switch to academia.
But higher education is not known for preparing individuals for
administrative positions, and many aspiring deans don’t know what
it takes to complete the journey from candidate to dean. To address
that gap, in 2003, AACSB International
launched the Lessons for Aspiring
Deans seminar. It helps prospective
deans assess whether the job would be
right for them and gives them the tools
to prepare for the search process.
By the end of the seminar, attendees
better understand the dean’s position
and how the dean must interact with all
of a school’s stakeholders. They’re also
prepared to answer key questions:
What skills and credentials must
new deans possess? Most institutions
are looking for similar experiences and
credentials among their deans, but there
are distinctions. Some schools have
religious affiliations and might expect
the same from their leaders. Other
schools might want candidates who have
experience working in a union environment.
It’s important for candidates
to peruse each advertisement for new
deans carefully to make sure a school is
a good fit for them, both professionally
and personally, before they apply.
But it’s also important for candidates
to understand that there are ways to
close gaps between their skills and the
job’s requirements. For instance, aspiring
deans might have done no fundraising
in academic environments—but if
they have raised funds for community
projects, they should discuss that experience
with search committees.
How can candidates get noticed
during the interview process? Aspiring
deans must learn to write winning cover
letters, compose their curriculum vitae,
and select references carefully. Candidates
also must be prepared to make an
impression throughout the interview
process—from the often impersonal
early rounds that take place in airports
or over electronic platforms to campus
visits where they meet stakeholders.
How should a candidate negotiate
an offer? At this phase, candidates
can negotiate not only salary, but rank,
tenure, club memberships, and perks
such as a car allowance. But many don’t realize that this also is the time they
should negotiate for the business school.
Does the school need additional faculty
or staff? Is the technology in the building
up-to-date? Will fundraising dollars
be used to enhance the business school’s
budget, or will the university reduce the
business school’s budget by the amount
of money the new dean raises? Candidates
can address these issues during
the negotiation phase and often win concessions
that benefit the school.
How can nontraditional candidates
transition from business to academia?
How will their knowledge, experience,
and management style translate to the
university environment? Do they need to
modify their people management techniques?
How strong are their fundraising
skills? Can they establish research credibility
through published papers?
Once a candidate accepts an offer,
what’s the next step? There are often
weeks or months between the day candidates
accept their offers and the day they
arrive on campus. During that time, they
must prepare themselves for their most
critical tasks. What kind of institution
will they be serving and what kind of institution
do they want it to become? Will
their first responsibility be to plan for
AACSB accreditation, or will they need
to dive right into strategic planning?
Seminar attendees work through all
the questions above, as they meet with
facilitators who discuss their individual
situations, review their CVs, and suggest
ways to upgrade their materials.
The job of dean is not for everyone.
But when candidates thoroughly understand
the requirements of the role and
determine it is a position they would like
to pursue, they will fare much better—
both in the search process, and when
they take up their new responsibilities.
Lynne Richardson is the inaugural dean
of the College of Business at the University
of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg,
Virginia. Previously she led the business
schools at Ball State University and Mississippi
State University. Michiel Bosman
is a physician-entrepreneur and aspiring
dean. After recently selling a majority
stake of his outpatient mental health
organization to a group of investors, he
is preparing to transition into academia.