Almost any administrative position in higher education today — department chair, dean of admissions, facilities manager — comes with a heavy workload and a lot of stress. Yet the average docent at your local children’s museum has received far more training than those of us in campus administration. It’s sink or swim: We learn by doing (or not doing) and surviving (or drowning).
A case in point: A professor I know in the social sciences stepped into a chair’s job after 15 years on the faculty. She described the experience as "the worst time of my life" as she collided with a torrent of paperwork and email, budget woes, assessment reports, risk-management demands, and centrifugal forces tugging her away from her own research, teaching, and family.
Most of all, though, it was all the people problems that drove her downward and ultimately out of administration — the constant pressure from faculty colleagues (who turned on her in ways she had never experienced or foreseen) as well as from senior administrators, students, staﬀ members, alumni, donors, and, yes, parents. She quit within a year.
What struck her most about her brief reign was how unprepared she was for the types, scale, and severity of the
administrative challenges she faced.