TITLE: Department Head as Teacher AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 09, 2005 6:19 PM DESC: An academic administrator should approach the job as more than pushing paper and running meetings. A big part of the job is still about teaching. ----- BODY: Some folks have expressed concern or even dismay that my becoming department head will pull me away from teaching. Administration can't be as much fun as the buzz of teaching, with its paperwork and meetings and bureaucracy. And there's no doubt that teaching one course instead of three will create a different focus to my days and weeks. But the more I prepare for my move to the Big Office Downstairs, the more I realize that -- done well -- a head's job involves a fair amount of teaching, too, only in a different form and to broader audiences. To address the problem of declining enrollments in our majors, we as a department need to educate students, parents, and high school counselors that this is the best time ever to major in computing. To ensure that the department has access to the resources it needs to do its job effectively, we as a department must educate deans, provosts, presidents, and state legislatures about the nature of the discipline and its needs. And that's just the beginning. We need to help high schools know how to better prepare students to study computer science at the university. We need to take educate the general public on issues where computing intersects the public interest, such as privacy, computer security, and intellectual property. These opportunties to teach are all about what computing is, does, and can be. They aren't one of those narrow and somewhat artificial slices of the discipline that we carve off for our courses, such as "algorithms" or "operating systems". They are about computing itself. The "we"s in the paragraph above refer to the department as a whole, which ultimately means the faculty. But I think that an important part of the department head's job is to be the "royal we", to lead the department's efforts to educate the many constituencies that come into contact with the department's mission -- suppliers, consumers, and everyone in between. So, I'm learning more about the mindset of my new appointment, and seeing that there will be a fair bit of education involved after all. I'm under no illusion that it will be all A-ha! moments, but approaching the job with an educator's mind should prepare me to be a more effective leader for my department. The chance to educate a broader audience about computer science and its magic should be a lot of fun. And, like teaching anything else, the teaching itself should help me to learn a lot -- in this case, about my discipline and its role in the world. Whether I seek to remain in administration or not, in the long run that should make me a better computer scientist. -----