Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Area Dean" : What's That Mean

In a few weeks, I "officially" take on my new job as "Area Dean" (read, "Chair") of CS.  What will in entail?

Formally, there appear to be a number of responsibilities, most of which involve being the "interface" between the rest of the CS faculty and the rest of the administration.  These include:

1)  Managing our class schedule, and keeping an overall eye on our curriculum -- where we're aiming for continual improvement.
2)  Overseeing promotions, mentoring, etc. for our tenure-track faculty.
3)  Helping manage searches for tenure-track faculty, and managing the process for various non-ladder positions.
4)  Overseeing certain budget items.
5)  Representing CS (and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) at other university committees where needed.
6)  Helping deal with space management, for visitors and others.
7)  Various other bureaucratic stuff.

Naturally, I have my own biased view.  Obviously there's lots of basic paperwork and other background management stuff that goes with the job.  That will get done, and I should have plenty of assistance for those aspects of the job.  But in terms of priorities, the way I see it, my job should be focusing on the following:

1)  Helping our junior faculty be as prepared as they can be as they go through promotion stages -- especially the tenure stage.  And managing the processes so they goes smoothly through the bureaucracy.
2)  Pushing as much as possible for hiring, in Computer Science and, as appropriate, closely related fields (like Applied Math).

These are far and away my top two priorities, and they're obvious ones, in terms of long-term improvement of CS at Harvard.  Do right by the junior faculty we hire, and hire more.  I've long argued that we have a great, but small, department.  Our path to becoming better, in my mind, is to grow, and I believe this growth is best achieved by hiring, and tenuring, more great faculty.

As a further priority, my personal take going in is that the next priority is to make Computer Science at Harvard more visible, both internally on campus, and externally to the world.  I think we've got a great base to build on here:  our intro programming course is now one of the biggest classes at Harvard, we've got various initiatives going with other areas of the university, the Deans of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Radcliffe come from CS, we've just hosted EC/CCC (and helped largely with STOC), we're figuring out how to expand our already significant efforts in distance education, and so on.  Still, with our size, visibility is always a battle -- we can continue to improve on it.

Of course, these goals might change depending on the feedback of the faculty, who I'm sure will tell me what they're thinking.  (Actually, I plan to go ask them.  :) )  And for those who think I'm forgetting something important, I'm sure undergraduate and graduate education will also play a big role -- I just view those as shared faculty responsibilities, and not specific priority items for the chair.  Hopefully, I'll just help our activities in these areas move along.  Though again, I might be told otherwise by my peers.  We'll see soon enough.


Matt Welsh said...

Don't forget the other important aspect of your job: dealing with all of the bullshit that this Matt Welsh guy sends your way. Greg was terrible at it!!

Anonymous said...

Best of luck!!!
(Don't be mean to the students :) )