Aspiring to a higher-level administrative position?

Bar Harbor, Maine.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the summer meeting of the Student Affairs Council of APLU (Association of Public and Land Grant Universities) in Bar Harbor, Maine. I have the great honor of serving on the executive committee, and have met some wonderful colleagues from across the country. During our recent meeting, two guests joined us who had been student affairs professionals for most of their careers, and now serve as Presidents of universities. Each shared thoughts on why those from a student affairs background make such great presidents, and how changes in higher education are starting to make student affairs professional more attractive for these level administrative positions.

While I know that many of us may not aspire to a Presidency, I do know that we all aspire to be better leaders, and perhaps to seek higher-level positions than where we may be serving now.  The insights that were shared by these two Presidents should provoke some thoughts about your own professional lives and career plans.  I look forward to receiving your thoughts and feedback about this and welcome your insight. 

Path to the Presidency

  • Engage with and seek advice from others
  • Be intentional about your decision to enter a search
  • Be specific about your skills, qualifications, experiences
  • Share examples and highlights of your partnerships with faculty
  • Identify successful leaders to serve as your references

Roles of Presidents/Chancellors

  • Leader, supporter, negotiator, fund-raiser, relationship-builder, story teller, connector, lobbyist, politician, learner, listener, champion, collaborator, bridge builder, decision maker, risk taker, adapter, communicator, peace maker

Balancing Work and Life

  • “I come to my job, not to my life” attitude
  • Commit to on-going professional development and network building
  • Take care of self
  • Delegate, trust
  • Schedule vacation and personal time in advance
  • Family first

Student Affairs Leaders know how to….

  • Articulate the big-picture view of the campus, its vision and many assets
  • Stretch a dollar better than anyone
  • Multi-task
  • Respond to and manage a crisis
  • Communicate with various stakeholders
  • Build a team
  • Reach out to diverse populations
  • Remain calm under pressure
  • Build and maintain positive relationships with students
  • Tell stories of student success through various means
  • Make decisions using evidence, research and data
  • Provide hope
  • Lead with a can-do attitude

Final Points and Lessons Learned

  • Know and focus on the big things (grow enrollments via a student success culture; build a high-performing senior staff team; focus on the assets or your institution; implement an integrated planning and budget process to lead to greater financial sustainability
  • Focus every day on building relationships with all stakeholders
  • Think ahead before responding, acting, reacting
  • Know that what you say, do, or do not say or do matters and is noticed
  • Remember the difference between you as a person, and you as an administrator
  • Admit when you are wrong
  • Admit vulnerability and seek help
  • Grow a “thick skin”
  • Stay as long as you are effective
  • When faced with a challenge, “sleep on it!”
  • Be an active learner
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Be yourself, and be genuine to who you are
  • Remember, you represent the University in ALL that you do!

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0 thoughts on “Aspiring to a higher-level administrative position?

  • Stephanie L. Gonzales

    Thank you for this Dr. Montoya! I have actually printed the tips and hung them up in my cubicle so that I can keep reminding myself that I want more! If I want to aspire to be more then I need to grow more!