A 20-Year Perspective on Preparation Strategies and Career Planning of Pharmacy Deans

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The first inquiry into pharmacy dean career paths was published in 1992. (1) Longitudinal follow-up studies were conducted in 1997 and 2002. (2,3) These studies sought to assess the educational, personal, and professional backgrounds of sitting pharmacy deans, in addition to identifying trends and changes in the pharmacy deanship. The 2002 study also explored administrative mentoring in the pharmacy deanship. (4) Determining the career pathway for pharmacy deans has implications for administrative career planning, by providing information on potential activities and opportunities for leadership development for aspiring deans. Elucidation of the variety of career trajectories and preparation strategies of current deans also provides insight for search committees filling vacant deanships. The previous 3 studies found 5 possible career paths leading to the pharmacy deanship as shown in Figure 1.1-3 The traditional path begins with a faculty position, moving to a department chair/head, then to assistant or associate dean, and finally into the deanship. (1-3,5) The other possible career paths are variations of the hierarchical model skipping 1 or more steps, or assuming a deanship after working completely outside of academia. The 1997 and 2002 studies found that the assistant/associate dean position was bypassed more often than the department chair/head position in the career path towards the pharmacy deanship. (2,3)

The National Survey of Academic Deans (NSAD) found that the typical dean across all higher education disciplines was a married Caucasian male between 53 and 54 years of age. (6) The NSAD found that administrative positions held prior to the deanship provide the primary training and preparation for serving as dean. (6) The deanship of this century has been described as in transition from head scholar to that of chief executive officer of the college or school. (7,8) Owing to the lack of a set career trajectory, there is no career path that can be described as the norm throughout academia. (9)

Due to the personnel and budgetary responsibilities associated with the position, the department chair position has been viewed as the most direct route to the deanship across academia as a whole. (10) Having served as a department chair is important especially for aspiring deans at research universities. (6) The importance of serving as a department chair is lessened when the position is rotated among faculty members in a particular department, or is more of a figurehead position without budgetary control. (10) Serving as a department head alone may not provide sufficient preparation for the deanship. (9) Assistant and associate deanships usually do not require the personnel and budgetary responsibilities typical of department chair positions, yet they do provide an opportunity to observe the deanship from an insider's perspective, and in some cases allow the administrator to step in for the dean in his or her absence. (10) Bright and Richards cited the importance of working in one's respective field in practice-based disciplines such as nursing, education, and social work, but less so in other fields, given the responsibilities of the deanship. (10) In examining the desired qualities of medical school deans, Rich and colleagues cited the importance of medical school deans having a deep knowledge of clinical medicine, research, and the ability to appreciate the variety of practice settings. (11)


Preparation for the deanship and the many roles required can vary by discipline, and how a dean understands the role is influenced by the collective experiences from time spent as a faculty member. (12) Del Favero examined learning approaches used in preparation for the academic dean's role and found that academic deans ranked (in descending order) past administrative appointments, relationships with faculty leaders, previous committee service, mentoring, trial and error, and formal leadership training as contributing most to their learning. …