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Academic Deans in Higher Education Institutions

Historically, academic deans have been male, white, and in their mid-50s. Although some shifts have occurred in recent years with more women and people of color being hired into these positions, the deanship remains male and majority dominated. Most deans progress upward through faculty ranks and into either a department chair or associate dean’s position prior to moving into a deanship. Although some deans continue in this capacity for extended periods, on average, they remain academic deans for 5–6 years; after which, they either return to faculty ranks or advance into higher levels of institutional administration.

Most deans become deans because of a desire to contribute – to improve the college and influence faculty development. Dealing with growth, facilitating change, even confronting crisis (whether financial, academic, or staff discontent) in a way that moves the college forward can spark their resolve to serve. Deans also strive for personal growth – experimenting with and, in...

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  • The following three books and one article offer practical guidance and information about what deans do and how they can work to be effective.

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  • Behling, L.L. 2014. The resource handbook for academic deans. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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  • Buller, J.L. 2015. The essential academic dean or provost: A comprehensive desk reference. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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  • June, A. W. 2014. To change a campus, talk to the dean. The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, XLI(13), A18–A21.

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  • Krahenbuhl, G.S. 2004. Building the academic deanship: Strategies for success. Westport: ACE/Praeger Publishers.

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  • The three pieces listed below, two books and one article, report the results of the most comprehensive study of academic deans to date (over 1300 deans – education, business, liberal arts and science, and allied health – at 360, four-year USA institutions were surveyed with a 60% response rate. The study was replicated in Australia with similar results but not extensively reported.

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  • Montez, J., M. Wolverton, and W.H. Gmelch. 2003. The roles and challenges of the deanship. Review of Higher Education 26 (2): 243–268.

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  • Wolverton, M., and W.H. Gmelch. 2002. College deans: Leading from within. Phoenix: Oryx Press/Greenwood Publishing.

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  • Wolverton, M, Gmelch, W. H., Montez, J. & Nies, C. (2001). The changing nature of the academic deanship, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report 28(1). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Correspondence to Mimi Wolverton .

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© 2018 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

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Wolverton, M. (2018). Academic Deans in Higher Education Institutions. In: Shin, J., Teixeira, P. (eds) Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions. Springer, Dordrecht.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-94-017-9553-1

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