Research on Deans’ Beliefs Wins AAUA Award

Congratulations to four AACTE members on winning an award from the American Association of University Administrators (AAUA)! Research supported by AACTE through its annual Deans Academy has led to this national award for its coauthors, William Henk, Shelley B. Wepner, Sharon Lovell, and Steven Melnick. Their paper “Education Deans’ Beliefs About Essential Ways of Thinking, Being, and Acting: A National Survey” has been named to receive the 2018 AAUA Neuner Award for Excellence in Professional Scholarly Publication.

The Neuner Award is given annually to the authors judged to have written the overall finest manuscript published during the preceding year in the Journal of Higher Education Management. Criteria for the award include overall quality; advancing higher education; sharing insights into leadership, policy analysis and development, and institutional management; and developing principles and standards for college and university administration.

The article, which appeared in Volume 32 of the journal in January 2017, explored the factors that education deans reported were most important to their work. Specifically, the study aimed to contribute to the limited existing literature on how education deans orient themselves toward a range of leadership beliefs, demeanors, and behaviors. The national survey built upon 7 years of previous qualitative work, including a self-study by three of the authors that identified 14 major categories of presumed importance. The resulting survey instrument was used to engage a broad sample of education deans in determining a possible continuum of essentiality for thinking, being, and acting in the deanship. On behalf of the authors, AACTE helped to identify education deans and directors and distribute the survey to them through Ed Prep Matters, and the researchers shared updates on their work at the AACTE Deans Academy (and will again this year!).

The results of the survey revealed that the education deans found all 14 of the categories to be at least reasonably important to their work. The categories fell roughly into three clusters, with the highest scores occurring for Follow Through, Vigilance, Calmness, and Relationships. The next highest cluster included the categories of Trusting Yourself, Being Strategic, Planning Ahead, Problem Solving, Persistence, Consequences, Making Assumptions, and Seeking Help. The bottom cluster included Providing Guidance and Setting Personal Limits.  

Some overall conclusions could be drawn from the findings. Getting the job done is the first priority for an education dean, and it must be done in a way that works both for deans and their stakeholders. Deans must also be prepared for repercussions, to acknowledge what they can’t affect given the nature of their roles, and in general, to think and act in strategic terms.

The award will be presented to the authors at an awards luncheon on June 8 at Widener University in Pennsylvania.

The researchers represent four AACTE member institutions: Henk is at Marquette University (WI); Wepner is at Manhattanville College (NY); Lovell is at James Madison University (VA); and Melnick is at Pennsylvania State University–Harrisburg.

To learn about the researchers’ ongoing study, which may include adding virtual focus groups and other qualitative components, please join us at the AACTE Deans Academy during the Association’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore next week!

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Rodrick Lucero

Vice President for Member Engagement and Support