My last week as Administrative Fellow

So this is my last week as the Administrative Fellow at Penn State Hershey.  As I contemplate my last few hours sitting in my cubicle, I feel a sense of accomplishment.  I did it; I survived a year as an Administrative Fellow.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I have observed and learned from the top administrators at my University.  I have learned some of the aspects of administration.  I have experienced the day to day, and meeting to meeting, that many times administrators go through as part of their working week.  I have attended early meetings, and stayed at work later to complete a task.  At times, it felt like there was too much to do and not enough time to do it all.  But I completed everything, or almost everything, I needed to do as part of this opportunity.

Now after this week, there are no more meetings scheduled in my calendar.  I am finally free to do others things; yet, I feel like I will miss my daily routine.  Most important, I will miss working with some of the people I have the pleasure to work this past year.

As I mentioned in one of my first blogs, I will “carry on.”  This experience has prepared me to face whatever happens in the near future.  As I write this, I remember the choir of that song by Fun (pop band).

“If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on”

Those words helped me prepare for the interview that let to this opportunity, and those words will help me to persevere as I move forward.  I am ready.  I have the skills and I am confident that when I get the chance I can do the job of an academic administrator.  Sooner or later, it will happen.  In the meantime, I will continue to be the best program coordinator I can be, and carry on.  For those of you who took the time to read the blogs, thanks.  I appreciate your feedback and comments.  While my administrative fellow blog will end, the next chapter of my career is just beginning.

 

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The Beginning of the End

 

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I can’t believe that in a month or so, I will be ending my daily trips to the College of Medicine as the Administrative Fellow, and returning to my regular job as Associate Professor. It will be a bittersweet experience. Although I have gotten used to my surrounding and somewhat solitude environment, I am looking forward to my office with a hallway full of colleagues and noise.

As part of my experiences, I have met and talked with the President, Executive Vice-President and Provost, most of the other Vice-Presidents and Vice-Provost, and senior top administrators. I have attended the meetings of the top administrators (i.e. Leadership Team) at the Medical Center/College of Medicine and other meetings at the University. These individuals are just like other men or women we cross in the hallways of any academic institution. They have a role to play and many responsibilities to fulfill. They [administrators] do their job because they enjoy what they do and want what is best for the institution.  A year ago, I would not have talked directly with the President of the University; yesterday, I thanked him for his services and wished him well as he ends his term next week.

I have enjoyed and learned a lot from all the meetings I attended; yet, I am looking forward to the summer to do some reflection on what is ahead on my career. I take with me many experiences and lessons that would guide me in my future endeavors. I am thankful for having this opportunity and all I have learned. As I end this year as an Administrative Fellow, I am not closing the book, but rather I am just turning the page into a new chapter.

bestyetcome

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Child Abuse Prevention Month

When it comes to health promotion and prevention, the month of April is a busy month if you want to learn about prevention. April is Child Abuse Prevention, Sexual Abuse Prevention, and Minority Health month. This month also include Public Health week, Breastfeeding promotion day, and Healthy school day, among other topics. Thus, you can easily get overwhelm if you try to follow every single commemoration.

Given my association with the PA Family Support Alliance, which mission is to protect children by teaching citizens to recognize and report child abuse and neglect, I wanted to take some time to mention few things you can do this month regarding Child Abuse Prevention:

  • Take some time to learn about the local, state, and national statistics on child abuse and neglect – you will be surprise.
  • Take some time to learn about child abuse and neglect – it is more than physical abuse.
  • Give some time and money to support local organizations and programs that support families and children.
  • Learn about mandated reporting and how to recognize and report child abuse.
  • Talk to your co-workers and family about child abuse prevention.
  • Listen to children.
  • Spent time together with your children.

Child abuse is something that happens behind closed doors, it is in every community. Learn more about it, so you can help eliminate child abuse and neglect. For more information, go to: http://www.pa-fsa.org/

Penn State Hershey Hershey Center for the Protection of Children offers some advice on ways to prevent child maltreatment.

The tragedy of child maltreatment is that it is preventable. If you take care of a child:

  • Know what is reasonable to expect of  children at different ages.
  • Avoid becoming frustrated when children cry or act out.
  • Ask for help if you get overly frustrated.
  • When you need a break, be sure to choose a mature, responsible person to watch your child.

Help children recognize their own importance:

  • Offer a kind word, cheer them on.
  • Encourage their curiosity.

Help parents; their job is hard work:

  • Listen to their concerns and be supportive.
  • Offer to watch their child so they can have a break.
  • Lend a hand with chores.
  • Reinforce parents when they’re doing a good job.

Be a good role model for the children you encounter:

  • Children imitate the behaviors of adults around them.
  • Stay involved in your community.
  • Be an advocate, volunteer for school programs to keep children safe.
  • Help out at a local child abuse prevention program.

Speak up for all kids. Report suspected abuse or neglect in PA by calling ChildLine, toll free, 24 hours/day at: 1-800-932-0313

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Diversity at the Top

As many of you know by now, a month ago PSU named its next President to lead us into the future. As I read about the new President, something is clear to me – we just hired another White male. While I think that he is a great choice for PSU, as he is someone who knows our culture and brings an extensive experience, I still wonder – was there any diversity on the pool of candidates for this position? While I will never get an answer to that question – the answer may be “no”

This is not unique to our University. According to the article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, results of the American Council on Education’s latest survey – “The American College President 2012”,  showed that White males continue to dominated the profession of college/university presidents (http://chronicle.com/article/Who-Are-College-Presidents-/131138/). In fact, the survey showed that these White men are older (average age of 61 yrs.) than their counterparts were in the late eighties. Moreover, the survey showed that there was a declined in the number of racial and ethnic minorities who served as President. In 2012, racial and ethnic minorities represented 13% of all presidents surveyed. Most importantly for someone like me, since 2006 the largest decline occurred among those who were Hispanic presidents, who represented less than 4%. The American Council on Education study implied that a “possible reason for the continued lack of diversity in the presidency, it’s a lack of racial diversity among the positions that are typically recruiting grounds for college presidencies, senior campus officials,” where a smaller percentage were people from ethnic and racial minority backgrounds (http://www.acenet.edu/the-presidency/columns-and-features/Pages/The-American-College-President-Study.aspx). On a positive note, the results of the survey pointed out that there has been some progress in gender diversity, with women representing 26% of all presidents.

Thus, as I begin to contemplate my future in administration, I begin to wonder what would be my path in academe administration. Would I ever get a chance to be a top-level administrator, and possibly a College/University President? The odds are against me, but I just have to set a path and stay hopeful about it. Time will tell!

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My Visit to the PA Senate and House Budget Appropriation Committees

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On February 25, 2014, the leaders of Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University (the four State related Universities) addressed the appropriation committees for both chambers of the PA General Assembly.   The other Administrative Fellows and I got invited to attend the meetings. While I knew that the Governor’s budget proposal contains level funding for each of the institutions, as in the past three years, and there was no much room for change, I expected a more dynamic discussion during these meetings.

Before the meeting, I thought that we would spend two hours listening to the legislators in each committee addressing the specific numbers in the budget allocation and its impact on the institution.   Some of the legislators in each respective chamber asked questions about the impact of level funding on the students’ tuitions, enrollment, etc. Yet, most of the legislators had other agenda or items to discuss, which in my mind seemed unrelated to the budget appropriation.  For example, some of the Senators and House Representatives were more interested in the graduation rate of students’ athletes, collaboration and/or competition across universities, strategies to address alcohol and drug use and sexual assault among college students, the percentage of students who get jobs upon graduation, and the number of members in the respective Board of Trustees.

While these topics were related to the functions of the Universities, none of them addressed the elephant in the room. Why has the state support for college and universities continued to decline? Why is the state allocating less funding when more students need to get a college education to get ahead in a limited job market?

Just this week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published several articles addressing this issue (https://chronicle.com/article/An-Era-of-Neglect/145045/).  According Fischer and Stripling (the authors), over the past 30 years or so, the support for public higher education has deteriorated and tuition has escalated.  Students and parents who just a decade ago paid for one-third of the cost of tuition are now paying most of it.  In fact, Pennsylvania is one of 26 states in which students pay more (double or more) of what they paid a decade ago (https://chronicle.com/article/Who-Pays-More/145063/).

According to the article, one of the fundamental shifts is the view that college and universities are delivering personal benefit to students rather than a collective investment; hence, students ought to pay the bill themselves.   Still, there are multiple factors that have contributed to the declined on state and federal support for college/universities.  The factors include “lobbyists and activists, antitax conservatives and big-government liberals, conflicted idealists and self-preservationists…Even college leaders themselves.”  I urge you to read the full article as it provides a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

By the time the budget is finally approved, the Universities will be faced with another year of limited state support, which would translate to budget cuts in key areas and tuition increase. As a parent, it makes me wonder that by the time my small kids are ready to go to college, I would have to get a second job just to pay for it.

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The Leadership Meeting

meetingOver the past few months, I have attended meetings of two key groups of top-level administrators: the President Council and the Dean/CEO Leadership Team.  During these meetings, the administrators discuss current issues, initiative, concerns, etc. with the President and Dean/CEO, respectively.  In both cases, these groups include the top leader from the following offices Vice-Provost or Exec Director, Finance, Research, Human Resources, Academic Unit, Development, Government Relationship, Marketing and Legal Counsel among others.    

During these meetings, these individual candidly discusses some of the key issues at hand concerning the University and College of Medicine/Medical Center, respectively.  Here are some of the things I have observed that makes this group/meeting works well, and from my point of view an interesting experience.

  • The President or Dean/CEO listens and seeks advice from this group and they provide it.
  • Everyone is prepared to address the issues on the agenda.
  • Everyone respects every person’s opinion on the issue and look for best solution, as needed.
  • There is a friendly and collegial interaction among the members of the team.
  • They are willing to seek and listen to report/advice to outside members, as needed

This is a perfect setting to begin to appreciate the decision-making process at the top-level.  While some issues are complex and may take more than one meeting to resolve, most issues presented are tackled in one meeting.  Nonetheless, I am sure that in some situation, the administrator have addressed and resolved the particular issue before this meeting, and he or she is just reporting the outcome of the matter at hand. 

Most importantly, I have had the opportunity to see the relaxed human side of top-level administrators, rather than the somewhat tense faces I have observed at other meetings. As I continue my journey through the Administrator Fellow program, I will continue to learn all I can, as I might never get the opportunity to be part of these types of meetings.

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Managing your time, stress, and conflict…a forum

meetingI recently attended the Academic Leadership Forum entitled “Managing your time, stress, and conflict: Taking care of yourself and your colleagues” presented by Dr. Walt Gmelch from University of San Francisco. Before attending the forum, I was intrigued by the titled as I really wonder if most administrators know how to manage their time, stress and conflict with others. As Walt began his presentation, he stated that he recently decided to step-down from his position as Dean of his college to spend his last few years before retiring as a faculty member– he decided that it was time to step-down before he became “doom.” He also explained that when he became an administrator (Chair of his department) many years ago, there was hardly any information about leadership and issues concerning administrators – so he decided to spend his career doing research in this area. Thus, thanks to him and other scholars, there is a body of literature dedicated to issues of academic leader and administrator. We spend approximately three hours discussing some of his research, implications, and applications for academia. Thus, here are few things I learned that day:

  • Many leaders (aka administrators) are called to serve in these positions without leadership training, administrative experience, understanding of ambiguity, or recognition of the metamorphic changes in their careers.
  • Many faculty members become Chair of Department (first level of administration) for personal development. Still, many times the Dean or colleagues draft them to this position.
  • The three components of academic leadership include building a community of colleagues, setting directions, and empowering others.
  • Academic leaders trade-offs are time, stress, and conflict.
  • As an administrator you must manage your time and find balance between professional and personal life – otherwise you are doom.
  • If you have a research agenda – you must schedule it as part of your weekly calendar, or you will not get it done.
  • As administrator, you must establish a good working relationship with your immediate superior (e.g., Chair – Dean, Dean – Vice-President/Provost, etc.), which will include frequent meetings and good communication.
  • You must manage your stress and block time for reflection – after all administrative professors are second, right after physicians, on the list of stressful professions.
  • In order to manage conflict, sometimes you must separate the individual from the problem. You also must learn how to manage difficult people – this is a hard one to do.
  • Finally, you must ask – how do you want to be remembered as an academic leader? The answer to this question will determine how good you would be as an administrator.

While Dr. Gmelch provided a lot of good information, we ran out of time before we could finish all the material he intended to discuss. Still, I am glad I had the opportunity to attend, as it was a good seminar and learning experience.

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