Susan Henry, a successful geneticist and administrator, is stepping down from a deanship at Cornell to return to the teaching faculty. She reflected to The-Scientist.com about juggling university service with science. Some of her recommendations apply to all faculty in an academic medical center juggling competing demands.
- Schedule time for your own work and defend it. The administrative tasks tend to expand and often seem urgent because someone else is relying on you to finish your part of a project. It’s crucial to block off a half day each week or a couple of hours each day to devote to your own intellectual work.
- Ask for advice. Few academics receive any training to be managers or administrators. Nor do we have the luxury of learning on the job over time. Fortunately, universities are full of chairs, deans, and leaders who have experience in service. Talking to them is a way to accelerate the learning curve.
- Make yourself visible. It’s easy to allow your time to be consumed by meetings with other campus leaders. But, as an administrator, your job is to support everyone’s professional development. You have to attend seminars, receptions, and even drop in on colleagues’ offices to stay connected.
Administration is often seen as antithetical to science, but I’m realizing in my role that researchers depend on a healthy infrastructure to accomplish their goals. To work together, it helps if administrators come from the faculty and retain their connections to scholarship.