Olof Einarsdottir

Olof Einarsdottir
Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UC Santa Cruz

How do you define faculty leadership?
I believe that a person in a faculty leadership position needs to care about her job and take personal satisfaction from it. She should treat those she leads with respect and be a role model for them. She must clearly articulate her goals and expectations to those she leads and show her appreciation and thank them for a job well done. She should be responsive to their concerns and provide feedback and support when challenging situations arise. A faculty leader must be willing to intervene when those she leads are not treated fairly.

A faculty leader should be fair but must be able to make difficult decisions even when they do not please everyone. She needs to understand her unit and its relationship to other units, but also have a good grasp of the global issues of the campus. It is essential for a faculty leader to consult on important issues before decisions are made. An effective faculty leader should strive to communicate well with other units on campus in order to facilitate good working relationships. She must be able to listen and help find a consensus for solutions to problems, which frequently involves a compromise. A faculty leader must be willing to learn from her experience, both her successes and mistakes, and to seek advice when appropriate.

Can you share an example of when you've been able to influence positive change as an academic leader?
When I was the chair of my department, I provided reasoned arguments to my Dean for my department’s choices for faculty hiring. At one point, I argued strongly for going out for multiple offers (six among three departments) in an effort to increase our chances of landing the most promising faculty candidates. The Dean accepted my reasoning, and I believe that this decision resulted in the hiring of three outstanding hires (one in each department), which might not have occurred otherwise.

As an Academic Senate chair, I have emphasized shared governance, and I believe the Senate has a good relationship with the administration in part as a result of my efforts. As the Vice Chair of the Academic Senate I co-chaired the Joint Senate/Administrative Task Force on Graduate Growth with the Dean of Graduate Studies. The Task Force completed a report that encouraged increased numbers of graduate students and included a set of prioritized recommendations for consideration by appropriate Senate and administrative constituencies. Many of these recommendations have been put in place.

I am now serving on the Leadership Collaborative of the Nags Heart conferences, an organization that arranges small residential conferences where women in academia meet to discuss various challenges facing them in their careers, including gender equity issues. I was an active participant in three workshops, two of them focusing on challenges of women in the STEM field, providing advice and support for women postdocs and faculty from UCSC and other universities who are coping with various discriminations. As a senior academic leader, I believe I was able to give sound advice to many of the women at these conferences, and I have maintained contact with two of the participants, helping them face challenges at their institutions.

How could the University benefit from preparing more faculty for future leadership positions?
The University of California’s dual-track system of authority and responsibility presumes that faculty members are best qualified to chart the University's educational course, while the administrators direct its finances and organization. In practice, these domains overlap and are interdependent. By training more faculty members for leadership positions, they will better understand the administrative side of the university and how it relates to the academic side. Faculty participation in the leadership of the university provides an essential quality control for instruction, research and public service. In addition, it imposes on faculty a measure of responsibility for the manner in which the University operates and ensures that the faculty voice is heard. Through leadership training, faculty members will learn about the rules and policies of the university as well as its strengths and weaknesses. Knowledgeable faculty will then be able to focus their energy on solving important problems. They will think more globally and better understand how leadership can positively affect their careers and those of their colleagues.

Tell us about your experience with leadership development programs, or if you have not participated in any, what you would hope to gain from doing so.
I have not had experience with leadership development programs, but as a former departmental chair I have provided advice to new chairs in workshops, which I believe has been helpful. I believe a leadership development program should focus on many of the best characteristics of faculty leadership I articulated in my responses to questions 1 and 3. A leadership development program should also teach a prospective faculty leader about the roles of the various divisions and units, how decisions are made and how they as a leader can affect the process.

How does strong leadership from Faculty impact the University of California?
To function successfully, faculty and administrators depend on a high level of consultation, trust, mutual respect and a tradition of collegial collaboration. Hence, strong faculty leaders who are able to articulate the challenges on their campus will also understand how these challenges fit into the global picture of the ten-campus system. It is crucial for faculty leaders to be in the loop about what is going at the system-wide level so that our campus is represented in decision making.

What would you say to Faculty hard pressed to find time to participate in leadership workshops or other programming?
Some faculty members think leadership service is a chore to be avoided, if possible, but I have found it to be a very satisfying aspect of my career. The time spent participating in workshops to become a more effective leader provides a broader perspective of the respective campus and leads to a deeper connection and commitment to the university as a whole. Many faculty in leadership service have found friends, collaborators and mentors from every division on campus, thus enriching both their professional and academic lives.

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