By Gerson Moreno-Riano, October 25, 2010 in Pedagogy and Teaching, Professional Development
“You’ve crossed over to the dark side, my friend.” This was how one of my colleagues greeted the news that after a five-month national search I had been appointed to serve as dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at Regent University. Does academic leadership in such an administrative post mean going over to the “dark side?”
Since July 1 of this year I have had the privilege to serve in this post. And, frankly, the experience has been nothing short of amazing. I have grown and matured in ways that I could not have imagined. I have been able to collaborate on as well as lead various initiatives that are having a profound influence on countless of lives. I am serving so many others. I have learned and am learning so much about myself as a human being, an academic, an administrator, and a professional that not a day goes by in which I am not amazed about the tremendous opportunity with which I have been blessed. So what is so “dark” about all of this?
Maybe my experience thus far is unique and thus an outlier. Perhaps the current context of my institution allows me to serve in such a manner that there is no “dark side” to this opportunity. Sure there are issues, personnel problems, politics, etc. But this existed when I was purely a faculty member though not in the same magnitude. Thus, where is the “dark side” of campus leadership and administrative service?
During these past three months, I am coming closer to the conclusion that perhaps the “dark side” is a matter of perspective. I don’t mean to suggest that it is a question of relativism or subjectivity. Rather, I mean to suggest that the perspective of administration versus faculty is differentiated by a depth of vision. Both pursue an educational vision yet one has a broader, deeper, more comprehensive vision than the other. Both serve. Both lead. Yet one is charged with a more holistic – a more comprehensive – responsibility than the other. The depth of one engulfs the depth of the other.
The depth of administrative academic leadership may appear “dark” to the shallower depth of faculty responsibilities but only due to the tendency of the latter to fall prey to an isolationist mentality. The fallacy of only seeing the trees and not the forest afflicts all organizations and it is the job of leaders always to see both the trees and the forest.
Academic leadership in an administrative role is essential to develop, build, and maintain educational excellence. Faculty alone cannot do it. Administrators alone cannot do it. Both are necessary. Both are essential.
Only when faculty can rise to the calling of leadership and when leadership can rise to the calling of faculty will academic excellence be well-rooted across America. As long as “the dark side of the force” mentality pervades how faculty consider academic administrative leadership, we should not expect holistic excellence but merely pockets of excellence. Great education is built on more than just such sporadic pockets.