I am not an administrator.
OK–technically I am one.
As a department chair I manage to get by with my work of assessing student learning, recruiting history majors and faculty, assigning courses, and making sure the members of my department are relatively happy. But I would much rather be teaching, writing, and promoting American history. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.
In the last month I have been approached three times about considering an administrative post in higher education. I did not give any serious consideration to the queries before answering “no.” One of the high-level administrators who approached me said that I would one day change my mind about academic administration. At this point, I do not see that happening. While I am sure I will always be involved in some sort of leadership role in this or that academic or history-related program, I do not see administration as my full-time vocation.
Having said that, I do have much respect for the work that academic administrators do. This respect for administrators has grown deeper since I became a department chair and have had a chance to get a closer look at the daily work life of Peter Powers, my boss and the Dean of the School of Humanities at Messiah College.
Today, at his blog Read,Write, Now, Pete offers a powerful reflection on the spiritual dimensions of academic administration. Here is a taste:
…In the busy context of the day to day its very easy to imagine that spirituality is something I need, but it’s something that I get mostly after work, gassing up, so to speak, in the morning or the evening for the long road ahead where there aren’t many gas stations on the horizon.
I’ve come to doubt this. And I’m a bit bemused that I’ve come to doubt this even more seriously since my experience at the Harvard Institute for Management and Leadership in Education, Harvard having some time since lost its reputation as a bastion of the faith or faiths.
But as I discussed in my last post, I was surprised at how much of the MLE experience focused on how leaders needed to practice forms of self-care and seek to be more fully human and humane in what can easily become an inhumane job. Beyond this, some of that attention was on what could only be called spiritual care, spiritual care of the self to be sure, but also the spiritual care of others. Lee Bolman, in his concluding sentences of what I found to be three outstanding two hour sessions, declared that “administrative work is God’s work.” My caps . This could only mean, to my ears, that administrative work necessarily entailed spiritual attention and spiritual work and that, whether they wanted to be or not, administrative leaders are spiritual leaders and ought to recognize and embrace and take that role seriously in thinking out who they want to be and how they imagine the work of their department, school, or institution.
I strongly encourage you to read the entire piece, whether you are an administrator or not.