APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

~ T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

If my life as a college administrator in the past month is any indication, Eliot knew what he was talking about! April has been the most exhausting month of my deanship thus far. Every time I think that things can’t possibly get any busier, my job proves me wrong!

But I should say up front that much of the headache involved in my job is the direct result of the fact that I love it so much. If I didn’t really care, then it wouldn’t be as much work and worry as it is. I definitely want to do right by my students and staff (and the university). I also want to succeed for my own sake. And being dean of the honors college combines all of the things that I most enjoy doing. So, a huge part of my exhaustion comes from my commitment to do excel as dean (or try as hard as I can to excel).

Now feels as good a time as any to think a little bit about how things are going. I’m exhausted all the time, but I love it! Some part of my job are going extremely well; other parts are more challenging. I think we’re headed in a good direction, but only time will tell if we can end up where we want to be.

Like the opening lines of The Waste Land, my college has also been (metaphorically) a dead land of sorts. The past couple of years have seen a decline in enrollment and in financial support, mostly (I think) because there just wasn’t somebody in a strong leadership role. I am struck by how important it is just to have a leader, regardless of what that leader is actually doing. Maybe time will prove me wrong, but I’m starting to think that doing something — anything — is half the battle.

But memory and desire are stirring as the college’s roots absorb these April showers. On the one hand, my alumni board met last weekend for the first time since 2006. It’s incredibly exciting to have them active in the college again. The meetings went really well, and I think we’ve established the beginning of a good relationship. I also think it’s very valuable to learn about our alumni’s memories and experiences. The college has changed dramatically since many of them were here, so it’s fascinating to hear what it used to be like, to listen to them talk about how important the college was to them socially, professionally, and intellectually. It’s a very fulfilling part of my job, and I delight to think that someday some of our current students might speak about me like these alumni speak about previous deans.

I also think the college’s desire to grow, and become more than it currently is, is also stirring. As long as the university’s budget cuts don’t kill us off in the next year or so, I think the college can expand it’s impact on campus, becoming the center of undergraduate research and creative activity on campus. Perhaps despite the budget cuts, this is an exciting time, and I feel privileged to be at the helm at a time in which the college can potentially grow and become even more prominent on campus.

Getting ready for the alumni board meeting was a lot of work, especially since it felt a bit like we were starting from scratch again. In addition to re-establishing that connection, though, another bit of success can be measured in the fact that I was able to meet the college’s first dean last week. I think I could learn a lot from my predecessors, so I’m glad that she was able to come to dinner with the board and that I could chat with  her a bit.

I also went to Akron one Saturday to meet with some of our donors, which was a lot of fun. It was a good lesson in how connecting with them could be interesting and enjoyable. Driving up there and back in one day was a little tiring, but it was good to do.

The hardest part of the month was starting my graduate class. I’m enjoying it, and I think the students are getting something out of it, but it was a mistake to keep it. I don’t really have the time I should to devote to it. I feel that I’m just muddling along with it, but there’s not a whole lot more that I can do. I’ll know better in the future than to teach in the spring.

All-in-all, I’m loving my job more than I thought possible, but it is wearing me out. I can’t wait for summer, when things will calm down a bit and when we’ll be going to England for a week or so. I’m ready for a break!

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