June 4th, 2015
I got a gift today from a young faculty member. He came in to talk about his schedule, and after we'd worked out the problem, I asked him about his research. To be blunt, I wasn't really all that curious about his topic. But a dean should care what her faculty are working on, so I asked, so I could be a good dean.
In one-on-one meetings, especially with untenured faculty members, I always try to ask questions that will help both of us connect beyond the narrow purpose of the appointment. A dean’s office, with its dark wood furniture, can seem dehumanizing, and I want to seem like (and be) a caring dean. Questions about someone’s vacation don't tend to get us anywhere: They're too obviously small talk. The best way to connect with faculty members is by asking what they're wrestling with in their scholarship or creative work. Everyone likes to talk about their work. I also figure it's good for them to have to explain their research to a nonspecialist every now and then.