All posts by Gene C. Fant Jr.


You’re Hired! Now Finish That Dissertation

When I was A.B.D., I asked a family friend for advice on finishing my degree, and he told me a story that provided me with much motivation. This happened back in the days of paper applications, but the image still stands.

He used to work in an academic-administration post that processed applications for tenure-track positions. Somehow they had started a two-file system for the positions: In one file went the applicants with completed terminal degrees; in the other went the applicants who were st…


Hedging Your Bets

A senior administrator confided to me a few years ago that he was worried for the future of his institution. He wasn’t worried about finances, nor was he anxious about enrollment. It was leadership transitions that had him nothing short of terrified. He indicated to me that half of the senior staff could retire at a given moment and that none had mentored anyone on their teams to prepare to step into the lead role. On the faculty side, younger professors had little interest in administration bec…


The Big ‘R’

Academe was headed for a huge wave of retirements before the economic downturn of a few years ago. As retirement accounts nose-dived, long-planned transitions were deferred, but now many people are considering making the coming year the end of their full-time service.

For faculty members who are contemplating retirement in another year, now is the time to start asking questions and having informal conversations about a possible transition. Such conversations can be held in confidence, if that is…


The Salary Dilemma

“Sue” was on the administrative ladder and was growing impatient. When she was urged to apply for a position at the next level, she jumped at the opportunity. A month or so later, she was called in for an interview. The institution was growing, and the spirit on the campus was positive. The interview itself went very well, and a few days later she received an offer.

The offer was disappointing. The salary was for about 75 percent of what she was making at her current position. The cost of living…


Itchy-Feet Syndrome

“Dr. Itchy” contacted one of his references to seek advice on a last-minute administrative opportunity that had come open. The position was not a very good one: The institution was in the midst of a leadership transition, its location was not terribly attractive, and while the job itself carried a title that would be a promotion, the salary was not particularly competitive.

As the reference prodded a bit, Itchy finally admitted that he really wanted the new title as a steppingstone to a better p…


That Awkward Moment

A few years ago I was sitting at a lunch table at a conference, and a gentleman sat down next to me and introduced himself. I replied, “Oh, we’ve met! I interviewed with you for a faculty position about 10 years ago and … ha, ha … you passed me over for another candidate.” The look on the man’s face was priceless, as he ransacked his memory to retrieve my name and tried to apologize for passing me over, all at the same time.

“Oh, what a favor you did me in not hiring me, though!,” I continued wi…


The ‘Secret’ Members of Search and Tenure Committees

Anyone with common sense knows that on-campus candidates need to be on their best behavior while interviewing. Doing a great teaching demonstration and being able to talk about your research are important, but good manners are expected. The same applies to the tenure process; collegiality is often considered alongside scholarship and teaching.

All too often, however, people forget about the “secret” members of some search and tenure committees—the administrative support staff—or underestimat…


You Didn’t Get the Dream Job? Relax: You Still Have a Job!

“Jacqueline” was reasonably happy in her tenure-track position and had just passed her midtenure review with glowing evaluations and strong affirmation from her department’s leadership. She found her department’s collegiality quite encouraging and enjoyed a decent quality of life on her solid but not stellar pay.

Heading into Christmas break, she noticed an advertisement for a position in her specialty area at an institution near her family and many of her lifelong friends. The institutional cha…


The Replication Error

“Dr. Incredible” announced her retirement with plenty of notice, so the department conducted a national search for a successor throughout the academic year. Her academic specialty was not particularly hard to come by, but she had been a terrific colleague and leader on the campus, a super-professor who was a mentor for dozens of students, led significant committees, and produced serious scholarship. She even had prepared baked goods for Monday mornings and had donated financially to the departme…


The Teacher-Administrator

Recently I had a conversation with a search-committee chair who was seeking to fill the need for a strong teacher-administrator for an academic unit. The position was administrative in title, but it carried with it a 50-percent teaching load. Having consulted on such searches in the past, I asked a question I’ve learned to ask in conjunction with this kind of position: What are you doing to vet candidates’ teaching abilities?

I have found that search committees consistently interview candidates …