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Penultimate: Going Back to Faculty

15 Jun Posted by in Administration, Faculty | Comments
Penultimate: Going Back to Faculty

My last blog as provost shows up next week (as will be noted then, I intend to keep blogging more occasionally, on my new History Department website), but I thought it would be interesting to muse briefly about going back to faculty. I have intensely enjoyed being Provost (much of the time), but it is certainly time to move on; yet I’m not ready to retire entirely – hence the return to faculty status.

Elements of the transition will be fairly easy. I really like to teach (most of the time), so stepping up the pace here will be interesting. I have several research and writing projects, so at least initially there’s no big challenge here. And – though I know some Faculty Senate colleagues will have thought I overdid this – I have never thought of myself as having left the faculty.

There will be change, and I thought it would be interesting (beyond personal transitions) to lay out what I see as the principal elements. (As always, I invite other comment.)

Four things strike me particularly in anticipation, and they are somewhat interrelated. First is staff support. I have been incredibly fortunate as Provost, and previously as Dean at Carnegie Mellon, to have really good staff, many of whom became personal friends. They arranged things, protected me from many problems, took care of a lot of nitty gritty. It will be a real change to have to fend for myself (at least, to a much greater extent). Not complaining, it’s part of fully going back to faculty, but I know I will not like some aspects.

Second – perhaps balancing – I hope there will be less tension. Most faculty work very hard – I note the recent report of a 60 hour week average – so I’m not trying to downplay workload. But I think the sense of responsibility, the level of worry, will be different. The phrase, what keeps you up at night, is not hollow for folks like deans and provosts, and I think there will be a jolting change. I hope, because this is one of the reasons it’s about time to venture a different choice. The reduction in personnel worries will be the big marker.

Third, there will be less daily variety. This is partly up to me, I know – I can move into some new topic areas and interests to keep things lively. But the array of issues a Provost gets to weigh in on every week is truly exhilarating (if sometimes a bit overwhelming), and I expect to miss this aspect.

Finally, linked to the issue of variety, there will be an adjustment in pace and assimilation style. I became known, as an administrator, for short meetings and (usually) fast action. I read a lot, but I read fast and (like most administrators) came greatly to prefer brevity in others. Returning to more of a life as a scholar, I will have to see how much I wish and need to adjust. A colleague who recently made a similar transition is reveling in the opportunity to read and ponder in a different way. Candidly, I’m not so sure about me. Being an administrator for so long may have played to some of my strengths, in hopping about, but embellished some deficiencies – also in hopping about. We’ll see how the adjustment goes.

In the meantime I’m working on a couple of new blogs for the first post-provost month, where I’ll try to insert a bit more scholarship into comments on current issues. Check out the first installment, on public grief.