What to do AFTER you get that academic administrative appointment

By Brian Holland |

No matter where you are in your career, Sigma has an academy for you!

What to do AFTER you get that academic administrative appointment

Becoming an academic administrator is exciting, but the role can be challenging. Just knowing you are not alone is powerful. 

Brian HollandSo, you got that appointment. Now what?

An appointment to academic administration carries with it a sense of honor and excitement—and the ability to make an important contribution to the profession we all love. However, it’s also confusing, extremely challenging, and downright scary at times. Suddenly you are thrust into a position of incredible responsibility and accountability that requires considerable skill, patience, perseverance, self-awareness—and, at times, outright guts!

For me, the process started with trying to figure out what questions to ask and whom I should ask. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. As a new administrator, you are suddenly thinking about strategic plans, budgets, workloads, faculty and student issues, university initiatives—and the list goes on. Fortunately, help is available! The Emerging Educational Administrator Institute (EEAI), sponsored by Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma), is a great place to start.

EEAI is a mentored-leadership experience for faculty members in their first administrative role or those who aspire to become educational administrators. The 18-month institute, designed for Scholars who have three years of experience or fewer, uses the Triad Model as a framework. The model consists of the Leadership Scholar, Leadership Mentor, and Faculty Advisor. This approach to professional development allows for multiple perspectives and experience levels to ensure that Scholars achieve their professional goals along with personal growth. Major outcomes of EEAI include developing an administrative career path, gaining practical knowledge of skills needed for the role, and applying best practices to administrative duties.

My experience with EEAI was enlightening and fulfilling. The institute involved online coursework; a two-day workshop in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; and monthly group phone calls with EEAI faculty to discuss issues we were facing within our respective organizations. As stated earlier, the new administrator often doesn’t know what questions to ask or even whom to ask.

During our onsite workshop, Faculty Advisors explained the academic model and salient issues that are unique to academia—and how to identify important stakeholders in the educational model. I found this to be particularly helpful because the academic model often operates differently than a traditional business model and requires unique navigation.

In addition, EEAI helped us identify our own personality traits and work habits. This is important for administrators because we work with faculty, staff, and other administrators with unique personalities. We explored important administrative duties, such as how to promote and develop a strategic plan, how to understand academic funding and budgeting, and how to manage faculty workload. These areas were pivotal for me as a new administrator and have been important in my professional growth.

Finally, our EEAI experience culminated in the development and implementation of an academic project to address important issues within our respective institutions, using the skills we had learned. For my project, I developed a transition to practice model for newly graduated nurses by strengthening partnerships with clinical partners. The overarching goal was to identify key areas to inform curricula, with the aim of better preparing nursing students for clinical practice.

Skills I used in completing this project included developing a framework and timeline, identifying key stakeholders needed to move the project forward, and improving my communication skills to gain buy-in and support. Without the skills I learned in the institute, it’s unlikely that this project would have been implemented as smoothly as it was.

Academic administration is a journey filled with rewards, challenges, uncertainty, and lifelong learning. If you are a current or aspiring administrator, embrace those challenges, expect uncertainty, and savor the rewards! My EEAI experience was invaluable to my personal and professional growth as an administrator. Just knowing that I am not alone or unique in my role was very powerful.

I challenge you as an administrator to take the leap into your development and consider enrolling in the institute. During your journey, you may find that others share your questions, thoughts, and fears—and, at the same time, you may discover that you know a thing or two about being a leader in this profession of nursing that we all love. RNL

Brian Holland, PhD, RN, is associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Florida College of Nursing in Gainesville, Florida, USA.

No matter your career stage or focus area, Sigma has an academy for you! Our mentored experiences are designed to ensure that nurse scholars receive the support needed to help them develop as leaders and as nurses.

Find the academy that’s best for you and apply today at SigmaNursing.org/Academies.

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