Job Title: Manager, University Administration
Type of Company: My employer is a large private university with nearly 10,000 employees across teaching, administration, financial operations and other service areas. We have approximately 30,000 full and part-time students.
Education: BA in French and English, Trinity College, Dublin Master of Philosophy in International Relations, Cambridge University
Previous Experience: I worked in the Irish foreign service for four years before beginning at my current employer; both are major administrative operations.
Job Tasks: My main responsibility is to handle a specific set of personnel issues for approximately 600 full-time faculty and several hundred part-time faculty. I deal with the hiring of faculty, the salary increase process, and more unusual academic issues such as requests for research leave and the process of getting academic tenure.
Some projects, like tenure, have a very specific calendar each year, but most days I deal with queries from academic departments and faculty members about how our processes work. I advise individuals about their specific career histories and their eligibility for research leaves. We assess the financial implications of each request, as well as the impact on our teaching mission.
Frequently, these queries are complex, particularly when they involve funding issues, and I will discuss the issue with my supervisors, and my counterparts on the teaching and financial sides of the university. We also may need to do detective work to understand a faculty member's career history or to document any unusual claims they may have. Sometimes faculty members tell me they have a deal or commitment from someone else and I need to verify whether this is accurate. I may also need to deal with very complicated issues of visa law if they are not US citizens. This sometimes limits our options for resolving a problem.
I am also responsible for communicating deadlines and policies to our 26 academic departments, and providing training for new staff members so that they know what my office does and how we can help them. Sometimes this means sitting down and working through a particular form with them, and sometimes it means explaining an unfamiliar policy. I also check all of the submissions that come from departments to remove errors before they go on for final approval.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is that there is never any way to tell what will happen next. We have a very diverse group of faculty, with unique circumstances, and we have to be very adaptable to ensure we give them accurate and personalized advice. It's very satisfying to resolve an unusual situation, which may involve a combination of detective work, diplomacy, and specialized knowledge.
The downside is that a lot of the work I do is repetitive and routine: trying to keep up with the volume of routine work can mean it is difficult to make time for the more unique cases.
1. It's essential to think of this as a potential career, not just a way to get some experience. You need to be invested in the work.
2. You need to prepare yourself for the fact that there is often a divide at a university between faculty and staff, and you should think early on about ways to break down that divide.
3. Be flexible in your thinking, and remember you are dealing with other people, not numbers.
Additional Thoughts: The key qualities for success in this kind of career are good judgment/common sense and an appreciation of the diversity of other people. It's simply not possible to enjoy a job like this if you become frustrated when people don't fit into simple categories, or if people don't follow the rules exactly as you would like them to. It's also essential to embrace what they are doing, at least to some extent: if you have no interest in what academics do, then you will perpetuate the faculty/staff divide, not help to combat it. And it's worth reminding faculty every now and then that they need to be as interested in you as you are in them.
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