Financing education the biggest challenge for deans


National Report - More than hald of the veterinary deans surveyed believe that budget and finances in a time of fiscal restraint remain their biggest challenges, according to a new joint study.

National report — More than half of the veterinary deans surveyed believe that budget and finances in a time of fiscal constraint remain their greatest challenges, according to a new joint study from the Association of American Veterinary Colleges (AAVMC) and the Academy for Academic Leadership (AAL).

The study was conducted during December 2009 and polled 42 veterinary college deans. Published recently in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, the report concludes that students and faculty were the greatest contributors to job satisfaction for veterinary deans. Fifty-five percent of the deans surveyed ranked their job satisfaction at the highest level and 45 percent at the next highest level. Not surprisingly, research, budget and financial management were not high contributors to job satisfaction.

Communication remains the single most important skill for the job, while an understanding of new technology ranked at the bottom.

Survey respondents spent an average of 4.8 years in their current positions, with 19 percent serving as dean at least once previously and two of the 42 deans surveyed serving twice. All of the respondents possessed a veterinary degree, and 86 percent had obtained additional degrees. The most common areas of specialty included internal medicine, followed by surgery, pathology, pharmacology and theriogenology. Practice areas were most frequently listed as all species, followed by canine/feline and, lastly, equine.

Ages of the serving deans ranged from 40 to 74, with 53 being the average, and most were white males. Only 20 percent of those surveyed were women and 95 percent were white. The remaining 5 percent were African-American, with no Hispanics or other ethnic groups represented among the deans.

The study concluded that ethnic and racial diversity among the deans surveyed was "notably lacking," and women were underrepresented compared with the proportion of female faculty in colleges of veterinary medicine, suggesting the need for professional development and career pathways to foster equity and diversity. AAVMC, the study notes, already is working on a plan for increasing the number of racially and ethnically underrepresented people throughout academic veterinary medicine.

Deans work on average of 63 hours per week, and more than half of those surveyed reported that they found time to do some teaching. Only one dean reported time spent doing clinical care, and less than half participated in research activities or in a classroom teaching hospital administration.

Although deans have little time to contribute to educating students at their institutions, most of them felt the training they received along the course of their veterinary education was sufficient in preparing them for their current positions, especially in the areas of curriculum and student relations.

Some areas that more training would have been helpful included fundraising and interactions with other schools and organizations, as well as with technology applications. Overall, the deans indicated they felt most prepared for their positions in areas where they had gained experience as faculty, and 86 percent said they had taken part in additional formal courses or programs to help them grow their leadership skills. In an open-ended question, 34 of the 42 deans surveyed indicated favorite resources that have helped them get to where they are, with the most popular appearing multiple times. Those included Jim Collins' Good to Great, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Spencer Johnson's One Minute Manager and Who Moved My Cheese?

Looking to the future, financing veterinary education was viewed as the biggest challenge of the next decade by all deans, with faculty recruitment and retention as well as sustaining research missions ranking as the next major concerns.

Despite the difficulty institutions are facing in luring new faculty members, deans were only moderately interested in the idea of forming a multi-phase leadership program to entice new people to seek leadership roles in veterinary education. According to the survey, a program could be conducted in 10 to 15 days over the course of a year, but 19 percent doubted that the cost of such a program, estimated by respondents at between $5,000 and $11,000, is justifiable given the current financial challenges facing veterinary education. Thirty percent of deans said newcomers should come into the role of dean already prepared to take on the position, with specific goals and an executable plan in place. Most offered that support for new deans is best found through fostering a mentoring network with other deans, with only 22 percent suggesting a formal training program for aspiring deans.

According to AAVMC, the findings of the survey indicate that it should work on creating a comprehensive plan to address the greatest needs to current and future leaders, including advice on how to tailor existing meetings and address specific areas of leadership development.

Authors of the study included N. Karl Haden, PhD, president of the AAL; Michael Chaddock, DVM, EML, deputy director of AAVMC; Glen Hoffsis, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, dean of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine; James Lloyd, DVM, PhD, professor and associate dean for budget, planning and institutional research at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine; William Reed, DVM, PhD, dean of Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine; Richard Ranney, DDS, MS, senior consultant for AAL and professor emeritus at the University of Baltimore College of Dental Surgery; and George Weinstein, MBS, managing director of AAL.

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