As I went through the application process for this position, I was heartened--touched, really--by a huge outpouring of support from members of the various departments that I would supervise if I actually got the job. So many people came up to me to express their sincere appreciation to me for pursuing the job--and not just, as is often the case, because they themselves wouldn't take the job if you paid them!
(Wait, I AM getting paid for this, right? OK, good.)
No, people seemed to think I would actually be good at the job. They expressed faith in my managerial abilities, as well as a sense that I am someone who is easy to work with. And I am! Easy to work with, that is. I have always taken an approach to work--whatever job I held--that there is pretty much never a reason to get too worked up about anything. At a college, for example, no matter how crazy things get, no matter how many additional requirements get dumped on people, the fundamental job remains fairly straightforward: Teach the students. Everything else really doesn't matter all that much. Anyway, this fundamentally laconic attitude, I think, was reassuring to the people I work with: They know that I'm not going to get too stressed out, nor am I going to get terribly worked up about "the small stuff."
Absent, however, from all these expressions of faith and encouragement was any clear sense of what I would do as dean. And then I realized why: Nobody exactly understands just what it is that a dean does! I mean, we all knew that a dean oversaw the creation of the class schedule and monitored budgets. And everybody knows about the best part of the dean job: canceling classes! But there are only so many classes one can cancel. (Alas!) And then what?
For the benefit of future generations of mid-level higher-education managers, then, I will attempt to document here the various things that I do in my new decanal position. First and foremost, I learn! I have learned, for example, that the adjectival form of the word "dean" is "decanal." I have learned in my first two days on the job how to fill out forms requesting new classes, changing instructors, and canceling classes--in fact, they're all the same form!!! I have filled out forms requesting that instructors be allowed to teach more than they are supposed to be teaching! I have filled out forms requesting keys! I have filled out forms ensuring that people get paid on time! It's been an exciting start, I can tell you!
At my interview, I was asked about things like my vision for the position. I didn't mention a neverending succession of forms. So I guess I got that answer wrong.