Contemplating the Prospect
teach juniors and seniors. This is the kind of thing deans listen to.
By the way, it is important to realize that deans are intelligent. They
will laugh at you and lose respect for you if you tell them you need
research faculty because the enrollment in precalculus has increased.
Of course if you are an external candidate, it is unlikely you can
make a case for additional faculty, travel funds, operating budget with
the kind of specificity that deans (or anyone who controls a budget)
listen to. What do you really know about the department? You have
heard the complaints during your visit, but the dean has also heard
these. Did the people there give you ammunition? If so, use it. But
do you really want to go to the wall on this when what you have is
second-hand information? How important is the issue to you and the
I can be a rather good salesman, but only when I am convinced
that what I am selling is good. I think it would be very hard to sell
the dean during an interview when all I have is information gathered
over a few days or weeks preceding the interview. If you are an exter-
nal candidate, you are likely to be one of several and, therefore, not
fully briefed on the dominant issues in the department. An internal
candidate, on the other hand, has a distinct advantage here. Not only
will (s)he have all the information available, but it may be that (s)he
is the only candidate or just one of two. In this situation, selling a
plan at the outset is a possibility. At least it is much more likely that
the presentation can be carried off with credibility.
Obtaining new positions is certainly the most glamorous part of
the whole process. With reason! When you step down, the judgment
of your career as head will be based largely on how well you recruited.
There are other things that can land you in the Heads' Hall of Fame,
like 10 years of departmental tranquility or the quintessential major
program. Small colleges tend to have more stable faculty, and hiring
is probably not so dominant in determining the success of a head at
such an institution. But even here, when there is the opportunity
to recruit, it is your chance to blossom or wither. Just about every
department I know feels it is understaffed (maybe they are). Bringing
new positions into the department as your maiden act certainly sends
the message that you are effective and gives your faculty a belief that
you are going to be successful. But I have heard of very few heads
that took over with a commitment of a large number of positions. In
these days of tight budgets, it will become even more rare.
Unless there is a very unusual set of circumstances, I think it un-