I’ve been an associate dean for about six months — just about enough time for me to ‘fess up about a few things.
- I didn’t really know what an associate dean is when I agreed to be one.
It is an understatement to say that I was completely unprepared when the dean called me about six months ago and asked me to serve as an associate dean. I was still figuring how to be a department chair.
My first instinct was to try to learn how to do the job by reading the entire back catalogue of posts from the ass_deans twitter account in order to figure what NOT to do.
In case you’re wondering, you should not try to figure out how to do your new job through a satirical social media account that mocks the job.
Before I said to the dean, yes, sure, sign me up, happy to serve, I wish I had the read Sheila Cote-Meek’s super-smart, “Four Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Move Into Senior Administration.” And also, Patricia Ann Mabrouk’s terrific “The Indispensable Associate Dean.”
Instead, I said, yes, sure, sign me up, happy to serve, and then, months later, I read these excellent pieces.
2. It’s weird to be “The Man”/ “The Administration”
Even when I was chair of my department, I was still part of my faculty union. Now, I’m definitely on the other side. I am ascribed power that I don’t usually think I have. My tendency has been to throw that power back (collegial governance means that I serve my colleagues not that I boss anyone around!). And I don’t actually have much power. But a big part of learning how to do the job has been for me to actually own up to the power that I have, and to use it in ways that line up with my values (hullo, fast feminism! hullo, equity, equity, equity!). More on this in the coming months.
3. I like the gig
I know, crazy right? What kool-aid have I been drinking? But I really, genuinely, actually like the work! I am surprised as you might be. It’s intense. I have to learn a lot and learn fast. It can be scary sometimes. And lonely (I keep track of how many meetings I am in where I am the only woman or the only person of colour; it happens more than I would have thought and I’ll be blogging about this too).
Still, it’s super-interesting to see how things happen at this level, to be at the table, and to be loudly and unrelentingly advocating for faster feminism and equity, equity, equity. I get to do a lot of different things (more support for international students, working with students who are refugee claimants, etc) and I can see the difference these things are making and that is really amazing.
4. I dream about the job every night that I’ve been doing it
This is embarrassing, kinda pathetic, and true. I’ve dreamt an associate dean dream every single night since July 1, 2019. So far, they are not anxiety dreams. They are more like sorting dreams. Does this go here? What about that? I am finding places for things. And, somehow, these dreams tell me that I am also finding a place for the things that I want — my real dreams for the academic worlds that we are in.
That’s pretty awesome.