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It’s Not About Legacy: It’s About Trust

January 5, 2017

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


My successor has been named: Angela Powers will be the 16th director of the Greenlee School, and the first woman to serve as its director. (Retired Professor Jane Peterson served as interim chair from 1994-96.) Powers, a professor at the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kansas State University, led that school from 2004 to 2012.
You can read about her many accomplishments on our website.

As promised to ASJMC viewers, this year I will be discussing leadership during a transition. Nothing is more important for an outgoing chair, director or dean.
When I took the directorship, I had a motto: Stop loving students and start loving the colleagues who teach the students you used to love. That may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s a formula for administrative success. You can read more about that philosophy in “12 Rules for New Administrators” in The Chronicle of Higher Education. You do not micromanage your faculty. You provide teachers and researchers with the resources that they need. If you do that, students will thrive. So will careers.

More important, the motto affirms trust in your colleagues. I had that in abundance during the selection process that led to the naming of Angela as my incoming boss.

Here is how trust plays out in a climate of collegiality and transparency, which we have nurtured over the years at the Greenlee School. During the search, I asked that I not be included in any emails. Several candidates telephoned me to learn more about our program, and apart from brief non-committal discussions, I later declined to take any such calls.

When colleagues came to my office with news of the search, I reaffirmed my trust in the faculty’s and my dean’s decisions and again, politely declined to discuss candidates or my preferences. Alumni and emeriti called and got the same response. In fact, I didn’t even know who the finalists were for the position until they were announced publicly.

In faculty meetings, colleagues anticipated news of the search. For that segment, I remained in my office and asked our senior professor, Daniela Dimitrova, to update the faculty and staff.

During finalist interviews, I worked at home so as not to run into the candidates.

I finally met Angela for the first time when she contacted me for a meeting while she was on campus shortly after Iowa State made the announcement about her selection.

We had a terrific discussion, but that’s not the point of this post.

After our meeting, I informed the faculty, staff and Advisory Council that her email would be added to our lists so that she can see what I am communicating and the issues we may be dealing with in the future before she takes the reins.

I also told Angela I would not be making any major decisions without her input. For instance, we may get a grant for a professor in residence from an external funding organization, and if we are fortunate enough to secure that, she will be included in communications and deliberations at the School and College levels.

Now there is one more thing left for me to do, and a large part of that already is being done. That is what I am working on. I have put thousands of administrative files in folders on our server and we are in the process of sorting through them and creating a contents page for Angela. Once we do that, she can delve into our operations.

The goal of any leadership transition is to make the incoming leader feel a part of the program before she actually runs it, which will start on July 1, 2017.

I also am raising as much external funding as possible before Angela arrives so that she can allocate that in the best interests of the School according to our memorandum agreements and her discretion.

I have led the Greenlee School for 14 years as one of its longest serving directors. In one week, I will begin my last semester in that role before I go on sabbatical and do research for forthcoming books. Then I will return to the classroom rather than continue my administrative career. The chief reason, once again, is love of and trust in my colleagues.

It’s an exciting time at Iowa State’s Greenlee School!


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