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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 25: Think about academic leadership positions

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

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As your career develops it is more or less inevitable that you will be offered or pressed into administrative roles that demand leadership and management skills – as well as a capacity to deal with everyday ‘administrivia’! These roles might initially be as a degree coordinator, graduate student coordinator, or seminar series coordinator, for example. Such positions are difficult to avoid – even if you want to – especially if you are a woman working in disciplines or faculties where women are under-represented. As Wolf-Wendel and Ward (2015, p. 23) observe, in the demands associated with service roles, for women in some disciplines ‘there is no place to hide’ and as part of a small cohort of female faculty members, some women also feel like they have to be on committees. Despite the negative overtones to this chapter’s introduction to academic leadership positions, it is important to note that service and management roles are an accepted and often deeply rewarding part of being an academic in a contemporary university. Participation in these activities is almost always an expectation for appointments and promotions. Service functions can extend your local professional networks and afford insights to how and why things (do not) get done (Fiske, 2010, p. 123). As one participant in research conducted by Wolf-Wendel and Ward (2015, p. 28) observed: ‘taking on service positions on key committees helps me to see what is going on … It also gives me the opportunity to participate at some very high levels’. However,...

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