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Recovering from Surgery

May 18, 2015

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology


Administrators may not realize how dependent their units are on them until they have to take sick leave.

Until this month, I had always been the stand-in for administrators who became ill or had surgery. For instance, some dozen years ago, I was associate director of the E.W. Scripps School when my director took medical leave, and I had to act as interim until he recovered.

But now it was my turn to take leave for more than a week following outpatient knee surgery.

I’m still at home writing this, in fact, and will not return to the office for a few more days.

I am blessed with a wonderful staff, including Associate Director Joel Geske, who handled day-to-day activities in the Greenlee School while I was out. However, there were still any number of administrative tasks that I had to do at home via email and FAX.

Typically the executive officer of a unit has access to personnel files for trip reimbursement, grant proposals, purchases and more. That meant I had to be on email when in bed via my mobile phone and later, in my home office, using a desktop, because my Samsung lacks the requisite software to sign PDFs and download university online forms.

Speaking of forms, I also had to apply for medical leave and fill out forms in addition to sending one to my physician for verification that I had surgery and was recovering. It is important for a chair, director or dean to follow university procedures involving sick days. You can’t simply take them off, even if you are technically working at home.

During the week I missed important meetings and had to bone up via minutes. Thankfully again, my Program Coordinator Alyssa Rutt attended meetings in my stead and sent me detailed notes.

In essence, my sick leave amounted to a few hours work each day that had to be done to keep the unit on task and colleagues informed, their grant proposals approved, their trip expenses reimbursed, and their achievements acknowledged; (it’s AEJMC paper notification time as I type).

I also had to write thank-you messages for donors and correspond with alumni on email concerning Advisory Council activities.

Thankfully, my knee surgery was not severe. I didn’t need hospitalization. Had I, my tasks would have had to be postponed or relegated to Joel Geske, adding to his already busy schedule.

The lesson here is to understand what you’re getting yourself into when you become an administrator. As a professor, time is yours by and large, especially during summer break. As an administrator, your time belongs to colleagues and constituents as much as feasibly possible so that you can complete necessary tasks and can hit the ground running when you return to the office.

Given my sore knee, I won’t be running back to the office; but I’ll be there. Soon.

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