Sharing Academic Knowledge Through Everyday Administrative Discourse + How You Can Start Today!

BUT FIRST, A STORY.

Every month, when the newest issue of University Affairs magazine is delivered to my office, I excitedly tear off the plastic and immediately flip to the back to read the column From the Administrator's Chair*. I love this column because it's written by administrators, for administrators, about issues that administrators working in today's universities should be concerned about. And sometimes the author writes something that really hits home and reminds me why I got into university administration in the first place. This is how I felt when I read the September 2017 FTAC column, and read the words of the new writer, Sheila-Cote Meek:

When I reflect back on my early years in academia, I realize now that I always found myself being drawn to administrative duties, challenged by committee work and work that focused on moving the broader issues of access and equity forward. It may be in large part when led me to administration.”
— Sheila Cote-Meek, in University Affairs Magazine

Though this particular article was especially notable for Cote-Meek's observations about Indigenous issues, I couldn't agree more with this statement regarding what initially drew her to working in administration. I feel the same way, and I'm sure others, across Canada and around the world, reading this column, who practice and study educational administration, felt the same way I did.

So what do I mean by "everyday" texts?

To differentiate between the kinds of scholarly texts only available in academic journals, examples of "everyday" (non-scholarly) texts are shorter articles found in magazines, newspapers, trade publications, blogs, websites, and social media accounts. These op-ed pieces, features, blogs posts, and tweets, are often short and succinct, have a defined purpose, and contain content that is written in plain language unobscured by academic jargon. Everyday discourse appeals to the current generation of consumers who read the majority of their news online via social media, spending on an average only 15 seconds on any given webpage before deciding to move on or not. Shorter news articles are more likely to be read, and web writers are more concerned than ever about creating engaging, relevant, and helpful content in order to create a loyal readership. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF EVERYDAY ADMINISTRATIVE DISCOURSE

Columns like From the Administrator's Chair, discuss important issues in a popular forum that represents the public sphere, where academics and non-academics alike can read, understand, and have equal access to, the information and advice being offered in these opinion pieces that can then be incorporated into their own research and practice. In fact, more and more administrators seem to be intentionally engaging in the media to reach audiences beyond those in narrow academic fields. I think there are a few possible reasons for that.

While some administrators intentionally build media profiles to establish themselves as subject matter experts, others do it to popularize and bring visibility to certain fields of study, to disseminate their ideas more widely to broader audiences, and to engage with the higher education community about critical educational issues, and to cause effective change in schools. Most media channels are open access, and where so much is accessible for free on the Internet, it makes sense that these are the types of venues are where we are seeing more of an administrative presence.

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In writing this blog post, I really had to think through what made these "everyday" types of administrative discourse important, and felt motivated to share these FTAC columns in my own workplace. I picked up the stack of University Affairs magazines that I have at my workstation and left them in a common area where they could be shared and read by my colleagues. I also included my favourite FTAC columns in my Adminibrary, to spark new conversations that help us, as a community of educational administrators, to push the boundaries of what is possible in this field.

Ideas for Sharing Everyday Discourse

Nothing is more important to me than equipping my readers with actionable ideas that you can take and apply to your own study and practice of educational administration. I hope you feel inspired to action, to have the courage to start these conversations, and to speak plainly about creative ideas of your own that can improve the study and practice of educational administration + leadership. 

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Start your own mini administration library in your office or workspace
  • Share magazine articles such as the column From the Administrator's Chair in University Affairs magazine with co-workers via e-mail or by leaving them in common areas for others to read
  • Share your own administration projects at research days or showcases
  • Share podcasts about education and creative leadership 
  • Start an inter-office educational leadership book club or an online book club on Goodreads
  • Start your own micro-blog on Twitter and tweet or re-tweet education articles about administrative issues
  • Re-write an academic journal article into a magazine article and pitch it to print or online education magazines
  • Take photos of your own experience studying, researching, teaching, or practicing administration and share them on Instagram (write 100 words about each photo to give it context)
  • Incorporate content in print and online advice columns written by other administrators into strategic planning meetings and work retreats
  • Talk to each other! Begin conversations with other administrators in your workplace about your ideas.

The field of educational administration and leadership needs both good scholarship and a presence in digital and print educational media and social media networks. Many educational administrators have never been enrolled in an educational policy studies course in their lives, and may not be aware of the kinds of academic writing being done in this field. Sharing publicly-accessible administrative discourse means that everybody wins.

C. Valentine

*Note: From the Administrator's Chair is published in every second issue of the magazine and is available to read for free on the University Affairs website. 

Actionable Research & How It Can Improve the Study and Practice of Educational Administration + Leadership

Early on in grad school, I had one important realization about my future as an educational administration researcher.

Many of the foundational articles and books I read on this subject more or less pointed to one major issue, which is that the field of educational administration and leadership is over-saturated with theoretical debate and intellectual critique. Meanwhile, there are not enough concrete examples of how these theories might be applied to administrative practice. This disconnect between administrative theory and practice is one of the most persistent issues in the field today.

That is to say, as a discipline, we're all talk and no action. 

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So what is this realization I had?

I realized that the only kind of research projects worth embarking on were projects that were going to either inspire others to create, design, or think differently in the field of educational administration and leadership. This belief not only provides an additional challenge for myself as the researcher, but it's the reason I created this blog in the first place - to disseminate actionable ideas that might close the gap between theory and practice.

All that to say: I want my research to do something for people.

So how do I do that? I look at every research article, blog post, e-book, etc. that I have and will ever write as an opportunity to provide inspirational and useful information that other educational administration researchers and practitioners can take away and create tangible change in their own research and practice.

Here are a few ideas of how you might make your own research actionable:

  • List specific recommendations in the conclusion section of your research article(s) on how administrators might implement your ideas in their own research and practice
  • Design projects that spark conversation and invite participation to get others involved in your research (e.g. see my Adminibrary project as an example)
  • Share your research with a broader audience by making use of technology and social media. e.g. via a blog, YouTube, Twitter, publishing in education magazines, websites, etc.

All research in the field of educational administration and leadership is valid and relevant in some way to the ways in which we known and understand the field. But as we look to the future, I believe it's important that we share our ideas and promote creative solutions to today's educational challenges. 

Did you get any ideas for how you might make your own research actionable? Are there any steps you can take today to communicate your research to broader audiences?

C. Valentine

 

Reel Educational Leadership: Amateur Administrator Film Festivals & Why They Are Important

administration film festivals!?

I recently read an interesting article titled "Lights, camera, action: Advancing learning, research, and program evaluation through video production in educational leadership preparation" by Jennifer Friend and Matthew Militello on the importance of using film in educational admin + leadership preparation. In their article, the authors suggest that video can be used for student reflective learning, leadership research through the production of videos and documentaries, and exploring film as a means by which to share innovations within the field of ed admin + leadership. One important issue they discuss is accessibility of research to the public through administration film festivals (a completely new concept for me), and accessibility of research to the public.

lights, camera, action!

What's great about video these days is that anyone can make one with their phone and easily upload it on platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. In their article, Friend and Militello suggest that sharing admin + leadership videos through social media, incorporating them into lesson plans, screening films in community forums, and even incorporating video into professional development sessions, is a great way to make research more attainable to the public. Some conferences already even have video categories in their call for proposals.

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Perhaps the most prominent example of administrator film festivals is the annual festival hosted by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). Film submissions are to be no longer than 5 minutes in length and can touch on issues like the quality of leadership preparation, admin research and engaged scholarship, design of preparation programs and efforts to improve them, policy work, and the practice of educational leadership. There are some exceptional films available to browse on the UCEA's website, but really, anyone can make a film and either submit it for peer-review to an organization like the UCEA, or simply publish it on their own YouTube channel.

diy admin + leadership films

You don't need to be an expert to make your own admin + leadership film. What's important is what you learn about the experience and reflective practice. I love the idea of departments of Educational Policy Studies organizing their own film festivals, which by no means need to be formal and expensive events. They can happen right in our classrooms, with a film component built right into the syllabi in admin preparation programs. Since the creation of a film requires an application of a higher form of knowledge on the subject of ed admin + leadership, these projects would also help students to reach higher levels of Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy. The best part? Films can easily be made right from a student's phone or borrowed video equipment from the school library, and they provide an important opportunity for students to reflect on admin theory and on their own leadership skills and practices.

How do you think films could be used to improve admin preparation programs? How might your school start its own film festival?

C. Valentine

ADMIN-O-MATIC

A BOOK VENDING MACHINE!?

I recently learned about a one-of-a-kind book vending machine located in a Canadian bookshop after reading an article published by a local news company. The antiquarian bookshop Monkey's Paw, located in Toronto, Ontario, is home to the BIBLIO-MAT: an antique book vending machine that dispenses an old and interesting book randomly to patrons of the bookshop for only $2. The BIBLIO-MAT, installed by Canadian designer/director Craig Small, is not only creative but a useful solution allowing the bookshop a way of selling old and unusual books that may not meet the standards of the books on the shelves, but which are much too quirky and interesting to be thrown away. This is a unique way to sell books simply for the serendipitous feeling that whatever comes out of the BIBLIO-MAT is somehow meant for you.

A mechanical celebration of serendipity. It was created to help you find the book you didn’t know you were looking for.
— Craig Small on The BIBLIO-MAT

I became so fascinated by the idea of a book vending machine that I began to daydream about an admin book vending machine and what that might look like. Let's call it the ADMIN-O-MATIC.

THE ADMIN-O-MATIC

An admin book vending machine, placed on a university campus, could dispense books like Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates and Breaking into The All-Male Club: Female Professors of Educational Administration by Norma T. Mertz. For $2, patrons of the ADMIN-O-MATIC could get print copies of journals like Journal of Educational Administration, Educational Administration Quarterly, and Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy or perhaps copies of foundational papers like Organization Theory as Ideology by Thomas Greenfield or Towards a Critical Practice of Educational Administration by Richard J. Bates. Of course, $2 would be much too cheap for some of these relatively expensive ed admin books, but it would be an interesting way to share ed admin theory in such a creative way, much the way I aim to bring admin theory into the workplace through my Adminibrary Project.

What's interesting about an admin book vending machine is the way it "interrupts" the current narrative of educational administration, which is that it is something that happens behind-the-scenes and is not understood by students, faculty, and even by other administrators. A book vending machine like the ADMIN-O-MATIC makes the invisible, visible, and the unknown, a little less obscure and understandable. It's just a daydream - a world in which I could get my hands on any ed admin book for $2 must be! - but it's interesting to imagine the possibilities of sharing ed admin theory with the rest of the university community in such a  non-conventional way.

Have you tried out the BIBLIO-MAT? What are your thoughts?

C. Valentine

3 Must-Read Articles on Integrating Technology into the Study + Practice of Educational Administration

After many late nights spent reading countless articles for grad school, one thing that has become clear to me: technology plays a key role in the success of the study & practice of educational administration. There is so much written on the benefits of integrating technology into admin preparation programs and in our professional roles as administrators...but are we really using Web 2.0 technologies to their fullest potential? 

I've combed through many technology-related articles to bring you what I thought were the 3 most unique, must-read articles on integrating different Web 2.0 technologies into admin preparation programs and professional practice: Twitter, Blogs, and Film. I've also suggested some ways that you can apply the ideas proposed in these articles to your own study & practice. Is there one idea below that might work for you?

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1. Administrators' professional learning via Twitter: The dissonance between beliefs and actions by Vincent Cho

Publisher: Journal of Educational Administration
Year: 2016
Keywords: Principals, technology, social media, personal learning networks, professional community
Why I love this article: Cho's article is unique because it is one of the few studies that speak to the potential benefits of Twitter for educational administrators. This study points out an important gap in administrators' learning about technology: while Twitter enables easy communication among educational stakeholders, it cannot be assumed assumed that administrators will intuitively know how to use it for professional purposes. This article suggests that there are some advantages for administrators to connect with other like-minded professionals via social media, particularly Twitter. For example, one Twitter user started a book club with his online colleagues and another co-authored a book on leadership. While using Twitter remains a personal choice, this article points to several ways that administrators can use it to further professional aims and connect with others.
Apply these ideas: Start an administrator Twitter account and use hashtag #edadmin in your Tweets. Tag academic articles you want to read or reference later by organizing them through hashtags, e.g. #VAhighered, #VAblog, or #VAreviews (you can create your own!)

2. Web 2.0 integration into the graduate classroom: An appreciative inquiry into prospective school administrator strengths and leadership experiences by Raymond L. Calabrese

Publisher: International Journal of Educational Management
Year: 2011
Keywords: Appreciative Inquiry, Web 2.0 technology, blogs, school administrator, preparation programs, learning environment, educational administration
Why I love this article: This is the best study I've found thus far on the use of blogs into administrator preparation programs. Calabrese's article is unique because it explores the benefits of introducing students to using Web 2.0 technologies early on in a student's education, to better prepare them as leaders and to get used to the practice of reflecting and communicating with others using their blogs. His emphasis on Appreciative Inquiry as a theoretical research perspective has potential benefits to both ed admin students and practicing administrators.
Apply these ideas: Create a blog to discuss administrative issues and reflect on your own (or ask your students to reflect on their own) admin + leadership experiences. You can get started with your own blog on Wordpress, Squarespace, or Blogger for free!

3. Lights, camera, action: Advancing learning, research, and program evaluation through video production in educational leadership preparation by Jennifer Friend and Matthew Militello

Publisher: Journal of Research on Leadership Education
Year: 2015
Keywords: Video technology, instructional leadership, educational administration, Web 2.0 technologies, qualitative research, storytelling, student projects
Why I love this article: Friend and Militello's article touches on the benefits of video production technology for the preparation of educational administrators by promoting video as a "digital reflection" tool for teaching and learning, as a research method, and as a program evaluation/service. In one of the examples illustrated in this article, students were asked to participate in an assignment called "Self-as-Leader" where they reflected on their own leadership development through film. Important ethical and legal considerations are also briefly discussed. There are few articles on the benefits of video technology from both the perspective of teacher and student, and the ideas in this article can get you started on your own video technology projects!
Apply these ideas: Ask your students to make reflective videos and host an amateur administrative film night/film festival at your school. You can get some inspiration from the University Council for Educational Administration's Film Festival, found here

Have you read any of these articles? Are any of these project ideas useful?

C. Valentine

The Embelgasse School of Administration & The Administrative Aesthetic

The Embelgasse School of Administration is a vocational school located in Vienna City, Austria, constructed in 2015 by AllesWirdGut Architektur. I chose this building as an exemplar of arts-based research because the architectural provides a "stage" for the performance of administrative praxis (Samier, 2006, p. 162). Architecture is one of the few aesthetic forms of expression that is cited in the scholarly literature, which examines the intersections between aesthetics and the field of educational administration and leadership. Though this building was designed to educate public administrators, educational administrators face many of the same criticisms, and would benefit from a study of the built environment, particularly the design of administrative spaces.

A brief review of aesthetics in the field of educational administration and leadership

There are few contemporary scholars who have written extensively about how an aesthetic theoretical perspective can provide creative solutions to some of the well-documented challenges that promote dysfunction within the field of educational administration and leadership today, such as the serious disconnect between theory and practice (Bates, 1981; Foster, 1980). Perhaps one of the best known scholarly works in this niche is a collection of essays titled Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership, edited by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates (2006), which posits that an aesthetic framework is an alternative lens through which we can better know and understand the field of educational administration and leadership. In her chapter on charismatic leadership, Samier (2006) uses Weber's comprehensive Theory of Charisma to demonstrate the three forms of expression of administrative aesthetics: the architectural, the theatrical, and the literary. And while there isn't enough space here to discuss each form at length, the architectural is the most relevant in a discussion about this particular exemplar because buildings are "used as a popular stage" for the performance of administration, in this case, administering public policy (p. 169). Architecture has a close association with organizational form. A city's buildings communicate messages, whether consciously or unconsciously, with the people of the city about who holds power and authority. This is clearly expressed, for example, by inaccessible government buildings layered with cubicles of protective staff and aimless telephone directories that defend policymakers from actually ever having contact with the public.

In a study of university campuses conducted by Dutton and Grant (1991), architecture was found to reproduce the dominant ideologies and social relations of society, which undermines diversity and reinforces disciplinary divisions (cited in Samier, 2006, p. 163). The researchers found that the design of open space schools in particular represented "an attitude predisposed against bureaucratic power and authority, designed instead to overcome the conventional isolation and subjugation of teachers in separate classrooms inhibiting their politicization" (p. 163). A theoretical understanding of the field of educational administration is crucial in the examination of the construction of educational spaces, particularly administrative spaces, which tend to be more contentious. Even in a brief review of the literature, it becomes clear that buildings, including their furnishings "are never neutral, but carry social and political value, empowering some, silencing others" (p. 164). I have chosen the Embelgasse School of Administration as an exemplar of powerful and intentional structural design that re-imagines what a space for educating public administration could (and should) look like.

The Embelgasse School of Administration

AllesWirdGut Architektur, the successful firm who won the commission with the City of Vienna to build a vocational school in which to train public administrators, was asked to build a school that would "make learning part of public life" (AllesWirdGut.cc). The open concept features of the Embelgasse School of Administration levels traditional power relationships between public administrators and the public. The large, grid-like windows convey a sense of openness and transparency. The school is enclosed only by the natural perimeters of the block on which it is built; doing away with the physical (and metaphorical) walls that usually separate public administrators from the people they are supposed to serve. A shady inner courtyard and open access to terraces via the second and top floors of the school allows students to have constant contact with the outdoors, which also reinforces the connection between the students and the city. Furthermore, learning about public administration in an open and transparent environment prepares students to work under the constant gaze of the public eye. Each design decision made by the architect is intentional and the openness of the school invites a broader dialogue that renegotiates power dynamics between public servants and the public.

A Citizen-Friendly School of Administration
— AllesWirdGut Architektur

The Embelgasse School of Administration demonstrates the importance of context in the built environment. Though I could not find an example of a building dedicated to the training of educational administrators specifically, educational administration is a type of public administration that deals with many of the same criticisms, such as a lack of transparency and a lack of confidence by those of whom administrators are supposed to serve. The architectural has the potential to teach us a lot about the field of educational administration and leadership and how we can more consciously construct spaces that convey messages of openness and transparency to the public. The City of Vienna wanted to commission a building that would make learning a part of everyday life, and in my opinion, AllesWirdGut Architektur accomplished this difficult task by building a vocational school in which the building's form beautifully complements its function.

All photos © AllesWirdGut / Guilherme Silva Da Rosa and are displayed with the express written permission of AllesWirdGut Architektur.

C. Valentine

The Adminibrary Project

("administration + miniature + library")

The Adminibrary ("administration + miniature + library") is an ongoing interventionist art piece that draws on an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) theoretical research perspective to bring educational administrative theory into the university where administration is practiced. Interventionist art is defined by Kramer (2006) as "a chance encounter...art that takes place outside an expected place and time, that melds easily with activism to take on the role of communicating a message in a unique, noticeable way" (p. 122). Therefore, as a creative means to achieve this project's objectives, I decided to create a minimalist postcard that would communicate the purpose of the Adminibrary in a distinguishing way. Anyone who picks it up is encouraged to borrow any of the materials in the library and/or fill out the back of the postcard with their own book or article recommendations. Readers are also directed to this blog where they can submit recommendations online (see form below). Because of its unique name, the Adminibrary has been successful at drawing the interest of my co-workers to the bookshelf and sparking spontaneous discussions around why I started this project, the applicability of arts-based research methods to the field of educational administration and leadership, and what is working well in our practices as administrators.

It's important to note that I felt a tremendous responsibility during this process of creating the Adminibrary to make something that would be a useful contribution to the field of educational administration. This sense of responsibility comes from reviewing the literature and learning about how scholars have struggled to establish this field as a rational, legitimate, and worthwhile discipline (Bates, 1982; Foster, 1980). Hallinger and Heck (2005) note that there is little cohesion among academics in terms of theoretical approaches, concluding that the "field has been long on intellectual critique, but short on sustained action and demonstrated results" (p. 239). Theorists are divided on important issues and methodologies, and practitioners operate with no universal set of moral guiding principles that require them to exemplify the virtues of knowledge and rationality in the institutions in which they serve (Greenfield, 1979, p. 108). With so few examples of demonstrated action, new methodologies need to be explored.

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This project has three objectives:

1. To SHARE educational administration books and articles with practicing administrators to bring awareness to administrative theory in a place where administration is practiced.

2. To SPARK spontaneous conversations with other educational administrators that allow them to reflect on what they are doing right in their practice.

3. To CREATE a space in which to imagine new possibilities for the future of the field of educational administration and leadership.

The Adminibrary brings administrative theory to the site of administrative praxis. By sharing administrative books and articles in the university, administrators will be more aware of the administrative literature, from classic readings to more contemporary studies that explore creative solutions to some of the field's challenges. By sparking impromptu discussions with my co-workers, the Adminibrary allows administrators to reflect on what is currently working in their practices. Encouraging administrators to talk about what is working - rather than focusing on what challenges might exist - has been shown to strengthen administrator's potential to create positive change in schools. Carr-Stewart and Walker (2004) make a significant observation about the AI approach and suggest that it "affirms that people co-create and co-commission meaning together and that meaning and actions are co-mingled" (p. 10). This observation is particularly relevant to the Adminibrary because it is co-created with the people that interact with it, and is therefore constantly changing and being re-defined.  Lastly, the Adminibrary creates a space that imagines new possibilities for the future of this field. Only by imagining creative solutions can we move the field of educational administration and leadership in new directions.

The Adminibrary is co-created with the people that interact with it, and is therefore constantly changing and being re-defined.

In her chapter on interventionist art, Kramer (2006) acknowledges that "interventionist art projects are usually considered complete only upon the discover of, or audience interaction with, this project" (p. 129). Though I hope that administrators and other educational stakeholders interact with the books and articles in the Adminibrary so I can feel this project has "completed" its purpose, I plan on continuing the Adminibrary to see how it evolves over time.

Want to start your own mini administration library? Check out this post on how to create your own + get a free printable tip sheet!

C. Valentine

Why A Blog About Educational Administration?

One of the questions I always seem to be asked when I tell people what I blog about is: why did you choose to write a blog about educational (specifically, university) administration? It's a fair question. With the endless number of topics available to blog about (music, writing, design, lifestyle, etc.), I felt that it was important to address a significant gap that exists when it comes to any kind of administrative discourse online. Of course, I also really enjoy writing about this topic and took the opportunity to create a blog that's more intentional about discussing issues related to working in, studying, and researching educational administration + leadership.

I've had a longtime interest in blogging and reading blogs. Within the last couple years, I've become interested in how academics use blogs as an alternative form of disseminating their work & ideas, and as reflective tools to improve praxis. Though there are few examples of administrative-specific blogs, I managed to find some studies that demonstrate that the use of blogs and Web 2.0 technologies generally, is beneficial in administrator preparation programs and in administrative practice, as a way of receiving valuable feedback and connecting with like-minded peers.

The idea of starting my own administrative blog came to me when I realized that having an administrative presence on the Internet was important. It is important to me to be able to create a dialogue about contemporary administrative issues, discuss important admin books + articles, and share projects & research with an online community. The Internet allows us to communicate with people we would likely never meet, and to write for a specific audience. If you're still reading this, then chances are, you're exactly the kind of person that I hoped would read this blog. Thank you for being here.

So why a blog about university administration? Because this is the blog I had always wanted to find on the Internet and read. I'm sure there are other administrative blogs out there in the blogosphere, and I can only hope that mine finds its place among them, so that we, as a community of administrators, can discuss issues related to the administration of universities. As I've previously written, Valentine Academia was really my first academic project, but it is also a way for me to communicate any subsequent projects that I work on or creative ideas that I have. Some might work, some may not. But I feel strongly that creative ideas are what is going to move the field of educational administration & leadership forward, and we need to find practical ways to putting these ideas into practice.

C. Valentine

 

Administrivia!

Somewhere in the academic blogosphere, this blog is brought into existence by a single click of a computer mouse by a button that says PUBLISH. Valentine Academia is the blog I've always wanted to write. It's an online space where I can post reviews of books and articles, share my academic projects, and discuss contemporary educational administration issues that affect universities today. While there are many excellent academic blogs, there appear to be very few dedicated to discussing post-secondary educational administration issues, which is strange when you consider the importance of a university's administration. Though they may be considered the dark underbelly of many institutions, I would suggest that administrators are more like dark matter - unseen, trying to hold everything together, and a mystery to most people. Many administrators "joke" about having joined the dark side by becoming part of a university's administration, though it's fair to say that this reflects a certain perception that is held fervently by many university stakeholders (administrators included!). But here's the truth, as I see it.

My interest in educational administration began when I first stepped foot into the university. As an undergraduate student, I studied various subjects, all of them interesting, but none quite so interesting as trying to discover how the university worked. I would stare at the course syllabus and wonder, not about the readings or essays I was being asked to write, but about the various policies I was being asked to follow. I was distracted by quiet processes and enamoured with procedures. I imagined the university as its own world, where smaller parts moved in synchronized patterns, creating predictable rituals that have come to shape a distinct culture. These patterns and rituals became even more real to me when I was hired to work in the Dean's Office at a local university. I took minutes at committee meetings where faculty and administrators sat around a table negotiating curriculum, I crafted programs of study for degrees that aren't even being offered yet, and I learned about university policy and the politics of the institution. Perhaps most importantly, I became acutely aware that I had entered a profession that was largely disliked by the university community.

I think that much of the skepticism toward administration can be attributed to the invisibility of administrative roles. But one of the most difficult things to accept was that I too, became invisible. I was separated from those that had, only a few years before, been my professors, mentors, and friends because of some tired old narrative that portrays administrators as enemies.

There are mythologies that also portray administrators as failed academics, primarily concerned with promoting their own self-interests. Such views allow administration to become a scapegoat for larger problems within the institution. Despite mutual interests in education, there is a serious lack of trust and respect between faculty and administration, two groups of people that play very different roles.

Granted, not all administrators are good. There are those who allow their positions of authority and their generous compensation packages distract them from important educational issues that perhaps, tragically, once inspired them to their leadership roles in the first place. Such people become the faces of the university in the media. But it's important to note that there are more than 1,000 administrators that run an institution as large as the university I work for. Those in charge do not always make decisions that I, or my colleagues, agree with. They do not speak for all of us.

I think a major problem with administration is that we are indecisive toward how to best approach educational issues. As far back as the popularization of the theory movements of the 1960s, educational leaders have been divided on whether scientific methods or more humanistic approaches better address these issues. Those that research educational administration and leadership have a thousand theories and ideas about how an institution should be run, but are generally short on demonstrated action. University administration, which is supposed to manifest the virtues of truth and knowledge, should be among the noblest professions in the world. But it's not.

University administrators could do better and I believe there are some practical ways forward. One problem is that there is no universal ethic for administration, and since not all administrators are also academics, this field would benefit from an articulated mission statement that reflects ethical leadership practices that those of us who learn about educational policy are taught. An articulated purpose would hold administrators accountable for seeking truth and knowledge in all that they do and to serve the university community as stewards of our educational system.

There should also be more opportunities for administrative scholarship. The post-secondary self-study guidelines in Alberta are silent on any requirement for administrators to regularly report their scholarly activity. While many higher-level administrators have academic degrees, many do not specialize in education, and some have only received management training. Administrators are not allocated funding to travel to and attend academic conferences, they are not encouraged to publish in academic journals, and they are not permitted to participate in annual research showcases. Is it so crazy to expect administrators to also be scholars, when they work within a university?

University administration should be one of the noblest professions in the world, and it's not. 

But it can be.

C. Valentine