AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: The Many Faces of the Associate Dean

The Many Faces of the Associate Dean: Working with Diverse Stakeholders


At the AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012, Dawn Hukai, Associate Dean at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Susan Laurenson, Associate Dean at The University of Auckland Business School and David J. Urban, Executive Associate Dean, at Virginia Commonwealth University discuss the many roles of an Associate Dean.

David J. Urban, Executive Associate Dean, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a highly focused research university but is also very involved in the community of Richmond. It has 3900 students in the business school, 112 full faculty and 50 adjunct faculty.

David J. Urban

According to David Urban, Associate Deans wear a number of ‘hats’ based on whether the job descriptions are narrow or broad.

We have to be able to be the strategist as well as the “doer.” says Mr. Urban.

This requires different skills. Many Associate Deans are also “accreditation czars” and the “academic affairs’ experts”. They may also have a marketing role. Typically the role of Associate Dean was internal but this now expanded to external affairs.

Associate Deans may also be both a “mediator” (faculty committees etc.) and a “confessors” (having to listen to many discussions about problems within the university). Many times it involves just listening rather than giving good advice.

Other roles of an Associate Dean include:

  • The coach and the talent scout
  • The memory custodian
  • The engineer
  • The approver and the denier
  • The loyal lieutenant

The skills required to do this role include:

  • Versatility
  • Being both an extrovert (for communicating with others) and an introvert (for writing reports and papers).
  • Being conceptual but also being concrete
  • Being objective in your judgment but also having warmth and empathy
  • Being able to gather information but having the ability to make decisions when necessary

Mr Urban states that within the realm of his activities the Rotary four way test has been a useful tool when communicating with others. This consists of 4 questions:


Susan Laurenson (University of Auckland) and the different roles of an Associate Deans in New Zealand

For an Associate Dean in New Zealand, the international focus of the business school is an important part of the job.

Susan Laurenson: “One of the main roles is trying to understand the different systems around the world.”

“New Zealand is a small and geographically isolated country; to stay connected faculty need to travel” says Susan Laurenson.

“A key role as an Associate Dean is understanding the equivalency of education credentials across the world in order to develop policies and guidelines for admissions and credit transfer systems around the world.” When they travel, many academics are keen to set up more exchange agreements. New Zealand students are however not very mobile, due in part to the expense, so as an Associate Dean your  role is to arbitrate ..

Like in other parts of the world Associate Deans in New Zealand have a role in influencing the allocation of resources. They need to be able to work with departments to develop programs and then shepherd any changes through the university approval processes.

It is important to identify opportunities to work collaboratively within the university to enhance program design and service-delivery outcomes. All of this requires the ability to negotiate with internal and external groups to further objectives of the business school while maintaining constructive, positive and effective relationships. It is also important as an Associate Dean to be able to quickly analyse data and forecast trends in order to influence and negotiate change .

As Business schools can often play a big part in influencing change within a University it is a huge benefit to have an Associate Dean with a depth of experience.

Student services are also a critical part of the Associate Dean’s role at the University of Auckland. it is necessary to influence the level of student service that is being provided. Key Performance Indicators are useful for measuring outcomes. An Associate Dean also needs to maintain oversight of the quality of the advising services as students have critical choices to make in program planning.  At the University of Auckland Business School around half of the undergraduate students are involved in clubs and societies.

Finally, Associate Deans have a role in obtaining national and international accreditations for the business school. In New Zealand there is one national committee approving the introduction of new qualifications. One of the peculiarities of the country is that before you introduce a new program you have to consult with your competitors before going to market.

                                                                                                                                                    Dawn Hukai (University of Wisconsin-River Falls) and managing a crisis

Drawing from a recent experience Dawn Hukai set out the role of an associate dean during a crisis. The role of an associate dean is to develop communication and trust with the different stakeholders (students, deans, community, support staff etc.) of the business school. To ensure this, it is necessary to focus on the students and use multiple sources of media. It is vital to address concerns quickly.

“In a crisis it is important to bring everyone in to discuss why changes have been implemented. Gratitude initiates positive thoughts.” says Dawn Hukai

Students, staff, faculty and the community have understood that there is a need for change. In a crisis it is important to bring everyone in to discuss why changes have been implemented. Gratitude initiates positive thoughts. You need to communicate constantly during the time of crisis.

The panel of experts agreed that on a day to day basis, most of their time evolved around HR issues, planning, signing off on curriculum and dealing with international and academic programs. A good Associate Dean will learn to expect the unexpected all the time and try to deal with things as quickly as possible. Training others within your team is also a vital skill.

For Associate Deans of AACSB Member schools you can join the AACSB Affinity Group by Clicking Here


See also:

How Google TV Is Setting The Expectations Of Future Students

Education Stormfront: “I’m sure you are asking how can a TV you can talk to affect education? Well, children will become conditioned to just asking for information and getting it instantly.”

Conference Paper- Pass the Books. Hold the Oil: Is There a Link Between Natural Resources and Educational Attainment?- A Conceptual Framework

Higheredmaven: “The relationship between natural resource dependency and education is revealed within a broader body of literature examining the relationship between natural resource dependency and economic growth.”

Moving Higher Education forward. Is merging institutions the answer?

Sema Mambo: “Merging the schools into one might be the way forward for Rwanda and it might set an example to other African countries when it comes to the education system.

Peter Lorange’s Blog

“Blog of Professor Dr. Peter Lorange , one of the world’s foremost business school academics.”

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy and Higher Education

Higher Education Management: “I think universities can move in new directions; they can identify new opportunities and shift resources accordingly. But they don’t have much practice. For last several decades, universities have had the luxury of not needing to make especially tough decisions.”

Alfred Essa: The State of Analytics in Higher Education

Higher Education Management: “I’ve known Alfred Essa for a couple of years. From the start, Al struck me as one of those people that is truly focussed on improving higher education. After a career at various organizations in the US, including MIT and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Essa now serves as the Director of Innovation and Analytics Strategy at Desire2Learn.”

AACSB    Grenoble  Studying in Grenoble  Business School  Grenoble EM  International Affairs   Higher Education   ESC Grenoble   Strategy  Blog  Global Ed   Graduate Business School    Mark Thomas

AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leading in Challenging Economic Times by Karyl B. Leggio

New York after Sandy and Barack: Beware of what you see and what you hear Building Enduring Business


Excellent advice taken from Lorange’s business and academic career. An excellent outline of some of the fundamental issues in strategic management. The book is short and generally to the point. Why are some companies having problems keeping good staff? How do you manage to keep them?


Filed under Business, Business Schools, Education, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Higher Education, Innovation, Leadership, Management, MBA, Strategy

8 responses to “AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: The Many Faces of the Associate Dean

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