A year ago I took a (theoretically) half-time position on the main campus at UNC-Chapel Hill as Director of our Center for Faculty Excellence, the campus's pan-university faculty development center. We have a staff of twelve, a budget of over half a million bucks, and the mission of supporting faculty from across the whole university, across their entire careers, in their efforts to become better teachers and researchers and to step into departmental or campus-wide leadership positions.
It has been quite a year -- alternatingly exciting, exhausting, heartwarming, heartbreaking, fascinating, boring, energizing, draining, and many, many other words that end in "-ing."
I thought it might be at least a little interesting for folks to hear a few impressions from a year in academic administration. I have a few thoughts I will blog over the next few weeks, but would be happy to share my thoughts about anything you might be wondering about (assuming I have anything interesting to say and any relevant experience from which to say it). So do let me know in the comments if there's something you're curious about.
I'll start with something mundane: there is no such thing as a half-time position in academic administration. A friend told me that "half-time" translates to "every other minute," and that has certain been my experience! I haven't worked this hard since my first year of teaching 18 years ago. Teaching, and to some extent research, can be allocated distinct blocks of time; administration doesn't work that way. It defies predictability and control. It also demands a different kind of mental (and physical) energy from the life we know as faculty members. (Or to be more specific, as non-clinical faculty members.) You have to be "on" all the time - attentive, responsive, shifting rapidly from thing to thing, picking yourself up and moving from place to place. I am (all-too) rarely in the law school and very often on my bike pedaling from one campus building to another. My daily calendar, which used to have little more on it in the way of firm commitments than my teaching schedule, now has only sporadic little one-hour blocks of "free" time.
This is not a complaint I'm offering: the year has been the most fulfilling one I have had in a long while. I feel like a citizen of my whole campus (rather than just the law school), and that is a wonderful feeling. But "half-time?" No way.