Rethink the route of higher education leadership

Guest Column

Coco Chanel once said “It’s amazing how many cares disappear when you decided not to be something, but to be someone.”

Have you ever thought of that while being a student or working in higher education as a faculty, staff or administrator?

When it comes to leadership, I have.

In a business industry, For example, you want a CEO who is experienced in the same or similar industry to be in control.

When you are working or being a student in higher education, you continuously hear how university presidents and chancellors should work their way up the ranks.

I agree, but I believe it should be done in the student affairs division rather than the academic division.

Dr. Paul Portney, an economics professor who also served as a dean for six years at the University of Arizona, said “One reason is that virtually every university president started his or her career as an assistant professor focused almost exclusively on getting tenure.”

A professor can contain those characteristics that I mentioned earlier, but I sense they cannot operate in the same capacity as a student affairs professional.

An instructor who wants a full professor ranking has vision, inspiration and organization. They are also focused on their research in order to attain that ranking.

A student affairs professional is focused on student life and the components that make that up as well as their professional peers.

Another thought that came to mind is that student affairs professionals tend to work with most, if not the whole university.

Professors, department chairs and deans tend to work with only their colleges as if they were in   silos.  Once they become a provost or president/chancellor, they struggle with communicating and understanding other colleges’ structures.

Would you not want people who study and specialize in a certain area to lead that area?  If so, what does a university or college fall under?

The direction of the leadership has been failing in recent years with the firings of presidents such as at the University of Illinois   Urbana-Champaign, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana State.

The characteristics each university or college need and want are qualified better in student affairs professionals, rather than our academia professionals.

We ask for a different type of leadership and a transformation in higher education repeatedly, but we fail to make the change.

James Thomas put it this way:

“To be a great leader and so always master of the situation, one must of necessity have been a great thinker in action. An eagle was never yet hatched from a goose’s egg.”

Priciliano Fabian

Graduate student

Carbondale, IL

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