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The Shifting Frontiers of Academic Decision Making

Responding to New Priorities, Following New Pathways

Peter D. Eckel

The ability of colleges and universities to implement strategic academic decisions is constantly challenged by a variable external environment, mounting public expectations, and evolving academic priorities. Although academic decision making is often dismissed by critics both inside and outside higher education as slow, parochial, and ineffective, institutions can and have developed processes to effectively address today's complex challenges. With the proper attention by administrative, faculty, and trustee leaders, academic decision making can comprise a robust set of processes essential to defining the mission, priorities, and activities of colleges and universities.

This book explores the intersection of academic decision making with contemporary, cutting-edge challenges for which no simple solution exists. It moves the issue of decision making outside the contested arena of stakeholder responsibilities, and presents a series of distinct and unique chapters that illustrate how colleges and universities are creating and sustaining dynamic and effective decision-making processes. Issues such as entrepreneurial and commercial strategies, changing research infrastructure, inter-institutional cooperation, evolving expectations for student involvement and campus community, and technology and its required investments create ongoing challenges that colleges and universities must address. To respond to these challenges, campus leaders often cannot draw upon their wealth of experience or time-tested processes. Instead, they must find new ways to create and use decision-making structures and processes. Furthermore, as the issues change, the people, their roles, and their interactions will be different. In some cases, new people will enter the decision-making arena: For instance, students may play stronger roles, as may trustees or outside stakeholders including faculty from other institutions involved in joint academic degree programs. Faculty roles may also change as institutions become more entrepreneurial, wi
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / Amer Council Ed Ac1 (Pre Acq)
Pages: 168Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/4
978-0-275-98792-3 • Hardback • June 2006 • $53.00 • (£37.95)
978-1-4617-0552-9 • eBook • June 2006 • $52.99 • (£37.95)
PETER D. ECKEL, Ph. D., is the Director for Institutional Initiatives at the American Council on Education's (ACE) Center for Effective Leadership, where he works primarily with initiatives related to institutional change, leadership, and governance. His papers appear in The Review of Higher Education, Planning for Higher Education, The Journal of Higher Education, Metropolitan Universities Journal, To Improve the Academy, Research in Higher Education, and Higher Education Policy. He has been a fellow at the Salzburg Seminar Universities Project in Austria and at the Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) in South Africa. He received his Ph.D. in Education Policy, Planning, and Administration from the University of Maryland, College Park (1998).
This book serves as a very useful introduction to newcomers to university administration, and a fresh reminder to seasoned administrators that while some issues persist, others are continuously shifting. Recommended. Faculty and practitioners.
CHOICE, February 2007

Peter Eckel and his colleague have confronted, boldly, serious issues facing the modern American university. Unfortunately, in many universities, academic decision making continues to follow a well-worn path. If truth be told, because of the changing environment in which American higher education now operates, a new approach to decision making must be developed, and the underpinnings ca using those new approaches must be understood. In Shifting Frontiers , the authors have clearly, unequivocally, and thoughtfully outlined the challenges surrounding academic decision making in our colleges and universities, as well as approaches that should be used to develop new ways of thinking and partnerships to ensure a constructive, modern decision making process for the times in our academic enterprise. This is a book about these times and for the time in which we presently live and work.
Gordon Gee, Chancellor, Vanderbilt University

Higher Education in the United States and around the world is changing. The very premises on which decisions are being made are shifting. This book explores the new Frontier of academic decision making that is being forged. Twenty years ago the shift might have been defined as an impatience with shared governance and a yearning for a more efficient corporate approach to decision making. Today the sweep is broader and more fundamental. One wonders: are we seeing a not-so-gradual shift from traditional academic values toward a more entrepreneurial, market driven form of academic capitalism? The implications for faculty members, boards of trustees, academic leaders and society are material. Shifting Frontiers deserves attention.
Stanley O. Ikenberry, past president, American Council on Education; interim president, University of Illinois

This collection of eight essays focuses on changing ideas about academic decision making. Topics encompass challenges created by organizational structure, the changing environment of academe, the influence of research institutes and centers on an institution's decision making, the pursuit of revenue, using partnerships and alliances to create joint programs, and ad-hoc campus wide task forces. The roles of students, technology, and trustees are examined.
Reference and Research Book News, November 2006

From different angles of vision focused on different aspects of academe, the authors illuminate a core challenge for every college and university: Who decides what to decide and how to decide? Because the answers to those questions fundamentally shape the course of action that follows, anyone eager to influence what happens on campus would be well-advised to read this book.
Richard Chait, Professor of Higher Education, Harvard University

Academic administrators from department chairs to presidents quickly learn that the higher you go up the administrative ladder, the more people you work for. In that context, Peter Eckel's collection of essays on the changing boundary conditions and new administrative structures affecting academic decision makers should be required reading for any administrator wishing to navigate these changing waters and achieve positive change.
William W. Destler, Senior Vice President for Academic Affai, University of Maryland, College Park

Higher Education is undergoing unprecedented changes on several levels. Eckel and his colleagues provide a cornucopia of suggestions about how to manage those changes and at the same time hold on to particular academic values. The chapters cover various conundrums that are of central concern to administrators and explicate how the problems have arisen and what might be done to solve them. An easy read on hard solutions.
William G. Tierney, University Professor & Wilbur-Kieffer Pr, Director, Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis University of Southern California, Los Angeles

This is a very timely book. It is widely known that higher education is undergoing dramatic changes. It is less widely known just how fundamental these changes are. What is even less well understood is how we might adapt to these changes. Eckel and Kezar address the key question of how one can actually get anything done in the university setting. This is a question that often translates to a choice between 'the right thing' and 'to get things done,' given the 'various and competing motivations, understandings, preferences, and commitments of those involved in the decision process.' The issues are extremely complex, and it is no exaggeration to say that it is not an option to think about just tweaking how we've always done things. We need more of this kind of thinking.
Brian L. Foster, Provost, University of Missouri- Columbia

This is a must-read for academic leaders and change agents, especially those who hope to keep their institutions not only afloat, but moving full steam ahead in these turbulent waters. When so little about the future direction of American higher education seems clear, this book clarifies both the competing demands and powerful and pervasive cultural forces at work in our institutions. Change agents ignore these forces at their peril.
Mark Heckler, Provost, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center