2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


FEISS, P. Geoffrey, Office of the Provost, College of William and Mary, The Brafferton, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23185-8795, pgfeis@wm.edu

Deans are never lonely; they never lack visitors. Most visitors are supplicants, mendicants, or miscreants; deans are paid to tell them apart. So, your proposal for a new or revitalized geoscience program joins pleas for equally exciting initiatives in neuroscience, nanotechnology, global studies, conservation biology, homeland security studies, diaspora studies, or lesser taught languages -- each with enthusiastic proponents and ruthless logic that defy the dean not to consent.

Who will win?

This is neither a crap shoot nor a random walk. In a functional university, the winners share common attributes: • Deep knowledge of the rules that govern new program development • Clear and unequivocal alignment with the published mission statement, vision, and strategic goals and objectives of the home academic unit(s) • A cadre of enthusiastic and respected supporters, especially in other academic units, known to have the best interests of the institution and students at heart • A business plan – yes, a business plan (for $100 you can buy software that will help you do this) – that identifies space, personnel (don't forget technicians and administrative staff), equipment, and funding requirements; sets clearly achievable goals and objectives in areas like course enrollments, numbers of graduates, external funding, research or service expectations with timelines and clear decision points; and outlines your assessment plan • External validation of the importance of your program whether from alumni, local community leaders, consultants, or the national agenda (e.g. NSF or NAS) and preferably all of the above • Strong leaders who will, either as a consequence of proven competence at the institution or with written commitments to new staff in hand, work cooperatively and collaboratively with the academic leadership, faculty governance committees, fund-raisers, and the rest of the faculty who, inevitably, see you as one more hungry mouth to feed

Then, avoid the temptation to go around key committees or administrators; take on your opponents. Do the hard work; demonstrate that you are a team-player. Persist; don't make it personal; and make friends, not enemies. Deans like successes; they have failures enough.

And, be sure your administrative champion is going to be there long enough to get your roots deep into the academic subsoil.