Deans juggle responsibilities, challenges

Deans juggle responsibilities, challenges

Michael Hardin, dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, said a day in the life of a dean is anything but ordinary.

“At the end of February, I went to Turkey,” Hardin said. “I left Sunday, got there Monday afternoon and spent two days there. I left Thursday and had to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to head back to Birmingham. Over the weekend, I spent time answering phone calls and emails.”

In January, Hardin hosted a meeting on campus for the SEC business school deans to discuss all the issues facing business schools.

“A lot of the trips that I make are out visiting donors, telling people what we’re doing,” Hardin said. “The key factor in rankings at business schools at the undergraduate levels is other dean’s perception of what you’re doing.”

Hardin said his upcoming plans include meeting with the governor of Alabama, attending a Board of Visitors meeting with 140 key executives around the country, traveling to the University of Cape Town in South Africa for an accreditation site visit and giving the first keynote address at Bryant University in Rhode Island.

Despite his busy schedule, Hardin said he feels like it is his duty to make sure people understand just how good the business school is at The University of Alabama.

“In several cases, we have had top companies who did not have us in their Tier 1 list and wouldn’t consider interviewing our students,” Hardin said. “I met with those executives and asked them if they would consider meeting with our students. After agreeing, executives have been overwhelmed by our students, and our students have gotten jobs on the spot.”

Hardin said one of his most privileged memories so far as dean was when he was invited to travel with the football team to this past year’s game against LSU.

“I went to shake hands with Barrett Jones, and I’ll never forget he said, ‘Dean, a handshake’s not gonna do it,’ and in full uniform, sweaty, dirty, he gave me one of the biggest bear hugs I’ve ever gotten,” Hardin said.

Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, arrives at his office around 7 a.m. and leaves at 6 p.m. Olin spends most of his time with other deans talking, listening and brainstorming the general theme of, “How can we be better?”

“My personal goal for the college is to live up to that in everything we do,” Olin said. “Nothing brings me greater joy than to see College of Arts and Sciences students excelling, especially when they have set challenging goals for themselves and achieved or, even, exceeded them.”

Olin said the college spends a great deal of time working with alumni and supporters to increase scholarship endowments.

“We have a large number of scholarships, but we never have enough funds to adequately reward the students’ hard work,” Olin said.

Peter Hlebowitsh, the newest member of the College of Education, assumed his position as dean on Jan. 1. Despite having a lot of affection for the University of Iowa and Iowa City, where Hlebowitsh worked for 20 years, he and his wife desired to start a new journey.

“We looked outward for something to engage us and found adventure in Tuscaloosa,” Hlebowitsh said.

Based on the first full week of work, Hlebowitsh said he realized his role would include significant organizational challenges.

“The reality is that I have several things coming at me at once all the time,” Hlebowitsh said. “There are meetings on top of meetings on top of a river of inquiries and issues, ever flowing. One could work all the time in this job and still fall behind.”

Hlebowitsh said one of his goals is to personally meet with every faculty and staff member in the college.

“New deans, in my view, have a responsibility to understand the ground before they begin to try to water and seed it – to know the people, the traditions and the situational knowledge well enough to negotiate through the institution,” Hlebowitsh said.

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