8
Contemplating the Prospect
you have to confront an offer.
How to impress the interviewing dean.
There may be some cynical interpretations of the title of this
subsection. However, I am not implying that you should give any
false impressions. As I have said before, the head and the dean will
have many contacts, and any hint that you have not been sincere will
have a negative effect. So you have to be honest and open; in other
words, be yourself.
This all assumes you want the job, that nothing you have learned
about the department has discouraged or soured you on the prospect
of heading this department. What are some issues that you might
address that will convey your priorities and make it likely you will get
the appointment?
This is one place where it makes a great difference whether you
are an internal or external candidate. As an external candidate you
are unlikely to come for the interview, listen to the department's dif-
ficulties, and arrive at a remedy. If you do have ideas, express them.
But try to avoid being too dramatic. Whatever solutions you think
you have found are unlikely to stand very close scrutiny. In any case,
the realities will be more vivid when you actually take over the job,
and whatever preconceived plans you concoct are likely to be altered
in the day-to-day operations.
One good approach might be to ask questions. (Always a good
thing to do when you don't know the answers.) What is the dean's
perception of the Mathematics Department? Does (s)he understand
that mathematics has a life of its own, or does (s)he believe the de-
partment's main focus should be to service the rest of the university?
What is the dean's greatest gripe about the Mathematics Depart-
ment? Does (s)he feel that the university has struck a good balance
between research and teaching?
How is the quality of teaching in the Mathematics Department?
You'll undoubtedly get some negative comments here, so be prepared.
Mathematics departments teach a large number of students who have
been coerced into taking its courses. With few exceptions this results
in a campus-wide feeling that the mathematics department is not a
good teaching department. In fact, every mathematics department at
a large state university that I am acquainted with has this reputation.
This would be a good place to get in some of your personal philosophy
about teaching, some experience with innovative teaching methods,
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