Institutions like The Johns Hopkins University are often said to be in the business of education and research. In fact, it might be suitable to call some academic departments--particularly those with multimillion-dollar budgets and hundreds of personnel--businesses unto themselves.
Unlike executives of private corporations, however, the leaders of academic divisions, departments, centers and programs often come into their positions relatively unfamiliar with financial and personnel matters. Academics who have spent years in the classroom and research laboratory suddenly are asked to assume administrative responsibilities for which they may not be fully prepared.
In addition, faculty, even those not in formal leadership roles, also have an ongoing need to acquire business skills for either their career development or to perform their various functions effectively.
Understanding these needs, the Administrative Training for Academic Leadership task force was established by the Business Process Improvement Committee, which was formed in the summer of 1999 by President William R. Brody. The BPIC, chaired by Alfred Sommer, dean of the School of Public Health, is a wide-sweeping initiative charged with examining everything about the way the university and health system do business. Other task forces of the BPIC are currently examining mail services, travel, financial business practices and standardized purchasing of selected goods and services.
"The more help faculty can get in the areas of personnel and financial management, the better," said Robert Black, task force chair.
"Of course, there are university offices and human resources staff that assist in these areas; faculty are not completely on their own," said Black, professor and chair of the Department of International Health at the School of Public Health. "And so part of what we want to do is provide some accessible ways for faculty to understand what resources there are at the university, and for them to be able to utilize those easily. I am referring to financial accounting resources, budgeting resources and personnel management assistance. They don't have to learn everything, but they do have to learn some aspects so that they can do their jobs more effectively."
The six-member Academic Leadership Training task force includes Black; Paula Burger, vice provost for academic affairs and international programs; Richard Kilburg, senior director of human resources, University Administration; Linda Lewandowski, associate professor at the School of Nursing; Risa Mann, professor of pathology and oncology at the School of Medicine and director of the resident training program in pathology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital; and Daniel Weiss, professor and chair of the History of Art Department in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
Specifically, the Academic Leadership Training work group has looked at the administrative training needs of new university faculty, continuing faculty and academic leaders within the university.
To date, recommendations made by the group include the establishment of an annual universitywide orientation program for new faculty; divisional orientations; the creation of faculty handbooks prepared by all divisions; and the development of specifically designed courses, leadership programs and Internet-based resources focused on enhancing administration and management skills among faculty.
The first universitywide orientation took place on Sept. 15 under the auspices of the Provost's Office.
"This is an entirely new procedure," said Black, explaining that the intent of the program is to illustrate how the university works, both in an academic and administrative sense.
The half-day event, held at the Arellano Theater on the Homewood campus for more than 30 new faculty members, was led by Steven Knapp, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and began with remarks from President William R. Brody. On the agenda was an overview of the university and its faculty; an introduction to university resources and faculty support by James McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration; James Neal, dean of university libraries; Stephanie Reel, chief information officer and vice provost for information technology; and Audrey Smith, vice president for human resources. Estelle Fishbein, vice president and general counsel, then spoke on legal and policy context. The event concluded with a panel discussion titled "What It Means to be a Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins." A reception at Nichols House, hosted by President and Mrs. Brody, followed.
The Academic Leadership task force also has called for the establishment of divisional orientations. "Some divisions already have an orientation for new faculty, but many do not," said Black. "That is the next step in this process, for the deans themselves to say, 'Yes, that is a good idea; our division can do that too.' "
The new handbooks would be a reference guide to university- and division-specific rules and procedures that could be updated periodically. The books also would include contact numbers so faculty would know whom to call when they needed administrative help.
New training courses were seen as necessary, Black said, because the university's existing administrative and management skill development courses are not necessarily "faculty friendly."
"Although they are very good and useful courses, they require a greater amount of time, up to three days, than most faculty are willing to commit," Black said. "They are also more oriented to the nitty-gritty of what staff do."
The new courses, Black said, would take into account the time limitations and specific interests of faculty and likely would be Internet-based for convenience. The first of these courses is currently being developed for JHUniverse.
With the current emphasis from the National Institutes of Health on compliance issues for grant administrators, Black said it is anticipated that in the near future faculty members will need to become more proficient in financial administration, and courses are being designed with that in mind.
He gave the example of a person who needs to access financial information at the university level.
"It is not as simple as you click on a button and the budgets instantly come up," Black said. "He or she needs some kind of training to make use of those kinds of databases and resources, and that is something that can be put up on the Internet quite easily."
For current academic leaders, the work group has recommended a faculty executive leadership program to be offered annually. The program would be one-half to one day in duration and would cover a number of aspects of administrative and management issues. Black said the program would be modeled closely after the university's current Leadership Institute, which, although open to both faculty and staff, has served larger numbers of staff mostly due to issues of time commitment.
"I think it is quite clear that faculty coming up through the usual academic system generally do not receive training in management of their employees," Black said. "Some people here are supervising sizable numbers of faculty and staff, and there are many issues for them to consider, such as what is acceptable personnel behavior, leave issues and just how to be a good, supportive supervisor and coach."
The work group's recommendations are currently being considered or are already under development, with more specific plans to be unveiled in the coming months, according to Black.
"For instance, for the executive leadership program to become a reality, there has to be some agreement on the part of the Council of Deans that this is a good and worthwhile idea," Black said. "Most of what we are recommending still requires some additional consensus building."