Now that I’ve been dean for a couple of months, I thought that I would check in and write a little about what it’s been like so far. In sum, I love it!  I’m pretty sure I have the best job on campus. Our students are great, as one would expect of honors students. So it’s not difficult to love that aspect of my job. But I’m also enjoying all of the other aspects too. 

That said, being a dean is even more unlike being a faculty member than I had thought. It was only 6 months ago that I sent in my application for this position; I look back at what I thought then and can’t help but think how naive and unprepared I was to assume this role. The past two months have already taught me more about being an administrator and about myself than I could ever have imagined possible in so short a time. 

The months of July and August were fairly quiet. All but a few of our students were out of town, so I had plenty of time to read files that were left by my predecessors. It was a great time to learn about the history of our college and to find out how the previous dean had dealt with (or tried to deal with) various issues. Many of her efforts were unsuccessful, and it was probably important to learn up front just how difficult it can be to change the way things are. 

Then the fall quarter hit.

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been running almost non-stop. Part of this is my own fault. I retained my usual teaching load for the English Department this quarter, since my appointment as dean occurred too late for them to find a replacement for my class, a tutorial with 7 students, which would usually translate into 9 contact hours a week for me. (Starting this week, however, I’ll be reducing that to 6, which is the minimum I can do and not feel that I’m cheating the students.) Nine hours a week during the first two weeks of the quarter have been a huge chunk of time that I simply can’t afford to give away.

I’ve also been meeting individually with each of the directors of our programs of studies (which is what we call our majors). Fortunately, I started these meetings in August before the quarter started. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have gotten through them this quarter. We have 27 programs of studies; some directors supervise more than one program, so that translates to about 25 one-on-one, hour-long meetings with directors. These meetings have been really helpful and educational so far, so I’m glad I’m doing them. 

The rest of the work is typical for this position: deans meetings, teaching our freshman seminar, lunch meetings with various people, grade meetings with students who have fallen below the required 3.5 GPA, meetings with the Directors of Studies as a group, all-college potlucks, etc. It’s a lot of work. 

That workload translates into a 9-to-5 job most days and sometimes longer. Tuesdays, for example, are 12-hour days due to our seminar in the evening. It also means occasional weekend events. 

The biggest change is not seeing PJ as much during the day as I’d like. When we were both faculty, we saw each other all the time practically. Now I’m gone most of the time. I try to get home for lunch as often as possible. And we spend as much time together as we can on the weekends. But it is definitely a big life change. I guess the positive side is that it makes me even more grateful for the time we have together. 

Another big effect is on my sleeping habits. I’m tired almost all the time, but I have trouble sleeping. My mind just doesn’t want to shut off. Even when I fall asleep ok, I wake up and can’t get back to sleep because I’m thinking about the next day’s meetings, the next week’s commitments, etc. 

I’m trying to workout regularly, though that’s also difficult to fit in. We’re eating out a lot more now, since I don’t feel like cooking on my nights. So, I’m fighting an uphill battle with my waistline. 

But none of that makes me love my job any less. The more I learn it, the more I think I love it. We’re a good fit, I think. It’s the right combination of all the things I want to do professionally, and I’m the right person for the job, I think. I hope so. I certainly want to do well for my career’s sake, but even more importantly I want to do well for our students’ sake. They deserve the best, my best. And I definitely want to give that to them. 

So, to repeat: in sum, I love my job as dean. I think this is going to be incredibly rewarding. Various people have noted my passion for the Honors Tutorial College. I’m glad to say that I am passionate about it and am excited to have this opportunity to work on our students’ behalf. Six months ago, I wrote the following in my application letter: 

I would welcome the opportunity to advocate for the Honors Tutorial College to those inside and outside our university, as it is a case in which I passionately believe. Our students are among the best and brightest OU has the opportunity to serve; it would be an honor to represent and lead those students as we address the challenges ahead. 

I’m happy to report that I still feel that way two months in. I was naive to assume six months ago that I was the best person for the job — surely there were other, better qualified, more knowledgeable people who could have applied for and gotten this position. But I’m glad they didn’t!