- Where You Stand is Where You Sit: An Academic Administrator’s Handbook
In his well-written and informative text Robert V. Smith demonstrates that he has learned much during his thirty year career in various administrative positions and that he is able to identify and communicate valuable lessons to his readers. This audience includes potential or current academic higher-education administrators: provosts and vice-presidents or vice- chancellors, deans and directors, department chairs and heads, and administrative support professionals and administrative assistants.
A dramatic example of Smith's prescience and writing skills is demonstrated in chapter 12, "Tragedies: Preparedness and Responses." Smith writes:
Imagine this: You are at a meeting with administrative colleagues, and a secretary interrupts to report that a student and faculty member have just been found dead of gunshots… Well, it happened to me and it happened on the first day of classes in my first year as provost at the University of Arkansas.(p. 72)
Coincidently this occurred four days after Smith attended an orientation session at the University of Arkansas Police Department. This tragic event underlined "the importance of emergency preparedness and the need for quick and decisive action following tragedies or other catastrophic events" (p.73). In this time after the Virginia Tech tragedy, preparedness has become a top priority on every campus. The basic message is to have a plan, practice drills, develop recovery and relief actions, and create clear delineation and coordination of internal and external roles.
The above is one incident in Smith's more than 30 year career at four public research universities. These positions have ranged from division head and institute director to dean to his present position as provost and vice-chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville. From the perspective of a former holder of a number of administrative positions at a teaching institution (i.e., community college), I can assure Smith that he has been successful in providing "elements of common understanding of the higher education enterprise that all academic administrators ought to possess to ensure professional success and advancement" (p. xv).
The handbook contains 26 brief chapters divided into five major sections. Each section contains a one paragraph preamble. Many of these chapters developed out of a quarterly on-line journal, All Things Academic (ATA), that Smith used to share thoughts with colleagues throughout the university. To broaden the appeal of the book, he added an introductory section, "Getting a Good Start," containing advice for the novice administrator or for the administrator who is moving from one position to another. The former is more likely than is the latter to benefit from the material in these three chapters. An experienced administrator is much more likely to be informed about the importance of the interview; or of good oral, written, and interpersonal communications.
Section II, "Offering Inspiration and Direction," comprises nine chapters on these two core functions of any administrator, especially directors/deans and above. Once again Smith recommends written communications (e.g., ATA) and oral presentations as means of conveying one's philosophy or values, plans, and messages to faculty and staff (i.e., challenges or inspirations). Smith suggests, especially in an academic environment, where [End Page 76] you stand is also influenced by where you have been, what you have said, and what you have written. Two of his most valuable discussions involve the leadership of administrators in enhancing diversity in all institutional initiatives (chapter 9), and the promotion of the concept of "The Integrated Scholar" (chapter 7). Integrated scholars possess a blend of teaching, research, and service; the advancement of this concept is particularly important at a time when these are becoming more independent at many colleges and universities (Schuster and Finkelstein, 2006).
Section III, "Guidance to Various Academic Administrators and Support Professionals," comprises six chapters concerning administrators' roles and responsibilities in the important areas of professional development, strategic planning, budgeting, and fundraising. Administrators at all levels will find that these activities account for increasingly larger components of their...