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Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Vanderbilt University
Tennessee, United States
Salary Commensurate with experience
Posted date
Oct 13, 2021

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Position Type
Administrative, Academic Affairs, Chief Academic Officers & Vice Presidents, Deans
Employment Level
Employment Type
Full Time
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Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Home Department: Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Position Summary:
The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs provides leadership, management, and oversight of academic affairs in the Graduate School at Vanderbilt University, and is a key member of the Graduate School leadership team. Reporting to the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and the Dean of the Graduate School, the Associate Dean is responsible for all activities related to the curricula for graduate degree programs, including ensuring the integrity of the course catalog, monitoring academic regulations and degree requirements, reviewing and analyzing data pertaining to the Graduate School, facilitating academic program reviews, upholding accreditation standards and assisting with reaffirmation, and working closely with departmental leadership to promote the exceptional academic training of all graduate students and the maintenance of the highest academic standards.

About the Work Unit:
The Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and the Dean of the Graduate School operates as the chief administrator for all graduate programs within the university’s schools and colleges, and fosters a collaborative support system across multiple departments, programs, and central provost resources such as the Career Center or the Student Care Network. The office also includes oversight of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. The Graduate School promotes excellence in research and scholarship with the goal of training the next generation of leaders within and outside of the academy. We do so by promoting the most promising pre- and post-doctoral scholars from a diverse set of backgrounds and by creating an inclusive and stimulating environment that fosters intellectual growth and development. 

Key Functions and Expected Performance:

  • Assists in the development of the Graduate School’s strategic initiatives.
  • Review and resolve curricular and programmatic issues across graduate degree programs by working closely with departmental leadership.
  • Coordinate, review, and evaluate departmental program reviews.
  • Oversee the graduate student lifecycle by serving as the final authority for all graduate student academic requests, as well as requests for leaves, extensions, or accommodations.
  • Closely monitor compliance with the Graduate School catalog, and oversee all efforts to revise the catalog to clearly articulate degree requirements.
  • Collect data through various means, analyze data, and develop reports and recommendations.
  • Partner with the Office of Data and Strategic Analytics to analyze and manage all data pertaining to the Graduate School.
  • Help resolve academic challenges between students, faculty, and advisors, and prepare cases for arbitration.
  • Support the Director of Admissions for the Graduate School to recruit a diverse and exceptional incoming cohort of graduate students.
  • Create and oversee committees for the awarding of merit scholarships, including the Provost’s Graduate Fellowship, University Graduate Fellowship, and the Russell G. Hamilton Scholarships.
  • Ensure broad compliance with accreditation standards and assist with the reaffirmation of accreditation process.
  • Build relationships among faculty and staff to develop and sustain a culture of assessment and evidence-based decision making.
  • Work closely with the University Registrar to ensure integrity of graduate education records, understand classroom space allocation, and maintain graduate compliance.
  • Work closely with the Office of Data & Strategic Analytics (DSA) to review graduate student outcomes, monitor the appointment of graduate faculty status, and facilitate data analysis and reporting.
  • In partnership with the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School, convene regular meetings with the Graduate Faculty Council, school-affiliated graduate associate deans, and directors of graduate studies to relay critical information and establish a culture of collaboration throughout graduate education.
  • Participate and attend events, programs, colloquia, and panels in support of the graduate student experience.
  • In partnership with the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and the Dean of the Graduate school, meet regularly with the Graduate Student Council, the recognized governing body for graduate students.
  • Serve on institutional committees as requested to represent the Graduate School.

Supervisory Relationships:
The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs serves on the Graduate School Leadership Team and the Academic Affairs Program Coordinator will have a dotted-line reporting relationship to the Associate Dean.

Education and Certifications:

  • A PhD or equivalent degree from an accredited institution of higher education is necessary.

Experience and Skills:

  • The ideal candidate will possess strong academic and teaching qualifications with graduate students, a record of successful training of graduate students, and will have a substantial record of published scholarship.
  • Candidates must have attained the academic rank of tenured associate professor or professor with five to ten years of experience working in higher education and evidence of increasing leadership.
  • A deep appreciation for the training of academic scholars both inside and beyond the academy.
  • Excellent judgement, interpersonal, and communication skills and the ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituencies in a diverse community.
  • Experience with developing, interpreting, and applying academic policies.
  • Experience with academic program assessment and accreditation.
  • Experience working collaboratively in a shared governance environment.
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Ability to work collaboratively with all levels of leadership or management.
  • Ability to manage curriculum development that involves faculty reviewers.
  • Demonstrated success in taking initiative, meeting deadlines, adapting to changing priorities, and managing multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Ability to function effectively in a complex organizational environment demanding high energy, discretion, patience, enthusiasm, and humor. 

Application Instructions:

Please apply online at

  • Please submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and the names of six references.

General Characteristics of a Successful Vanderbilt University Staff Member:
Owns decisions, outcomes, work products, etc. that are within the scope of one’s role.

  • Works through Issues – Recognizes that the work is about successful outcomes, if things aren’t going well, outcomes suffer; is willing to have crucial conversations if things aren’t going well; doesn’t just complain to management… does everything possible to remedy the situation directly first
  • Reliable – Does what they say they will do, when they say they will do it; shows up for work when expected; doesn’t push the burden of work volume or deadlines to others
  • Integrity – Holds oneself accountable; takes responsibility for failures as well as successes, recognizes that trust is required to hold a team together
  • Acceptance of Feedback – Takes constructive criticism with grace, and makes improvements without taking it personally or holding grudges; when wrong, owns it – freely admits mistakes 

COLLABORATION: Works inclusively to build trust and accomplish tasks, goals, and initiatives. Understands, anticipates, and appropriately responds to internal and/or external customers’ needs.

  • Optimism – Is friendly, tirelessly cordial, polite, and genial; comes in to work with a good attitude and doesn’t bring their own personal “little black clouds” into the work environment
  • Teamwork – Genuinely values teamwork and co-workers, makes them feel valuable and important by acknowledging what they do well; doesn’t expect from others effort that one is unwilling to do themselves, finds ways to acknowledge other’s strong suits
  • Honest and Transparent – Doesn’t have hidden agendas, doesn’t play people against each other; is authentic and forthright
  • Helpful Nature – Offers to help lighten the load for others in times of need; volunteers rather than waiting to be asked; understands that almost no one works in a silo and needs the help of others to do their job well; recognizes that by helping others first, others will likely reciprocate

COMMUNICATION: Provides information clearly and accurately in various settings, ensuring understanding and participation. Understands how best to present information to different audiences and understands how information may be perceived.

  • Shares – Shares information. Communicates proactively. Transmits knowledge; recognizes that “knowledge is power” is less effective than “sharing knowledge is power.” Asks for advice, and considers it thoughtfully
  • Is Nice – Asks caring, interested questions and is a good listener -- smiles and is grateful; sends appropriate notes of thanks to others who have helped; avoids gossip or saying negative things about co-workers; patient and generous; makes suggestions rather than stating hard and fast opinions. Avoids being negative, sarcastic, and cynical
  • Praises Publicly; Criticizes Privately – When dealing with a difficult co-workers or customers, “pretend your children are watching” how the situation is handled; good manners help keep a cool head; gives credit where credit is due
  • Responds Promptly – Recognizes that when emails and phone messages aren’t returned in a timely way, it sends the message that the other party is not important; responds even if just to acknowledge receipt and provide a timeframe by which the requester can expect a full response

DRIVE & GRIT: Is focused on professional excellence and strives to facilitate and support the same for colleagues in and outside their team, effectively manages through challenges and opportunities while seeking to understand and learn from professional experiences.

  • Perspective – Maintains a sense of humor and perspective; can laugh first and foremost at oneself
  • Raises the Bar – Expects and delivers excellence; is a creative problem solver; is proactive; welcomes input on making things better -- places a high value on learning and getting better
  • Resilience – Is resilient in the face of daunting challenges and setbacks; bounces back readily.
  • Adaptability – Reads cues and adapt accordingly; adjusts style and approach to accommodate the styles and needs of others; can anticipate and effectively de-escalate potential conflicts

ENGAGED: Appreciates the values and mission of the organization, works to contribute to the university, and understands how their work affects the university and university community.

  • Eager – Enthusiastic, wanting to learn, wanting to continue one’s personal and professional development and expertise
  • Hard-Working – Is industrious as well as efficient (busy isn’t the same as productive); can juggle multiple competing priorities simultaneously without becoming overwhelmed
  • Believes – Believes in the work being done and in the importance of the organization’s mission
  • Creative Thinking – Goes beyond the boundaries of the job description, willingly takes on new challenges, and finds creative solutions rather than always awaiting direct instructions

JUDGMENT & PROFESSIONAL ACUMEN: Makes appropriate decisions and evaluates risk and uncertainty to create ideal outcomes, exhibits an eye for the macro and the micro, and works to ensure others are able to do the same.

  • Autonomous – Self-managing; self-motivated; manages time, activities and outcomes well so that progress stays on track; cleans up after themselves
  • Maturity -- Exhibits professional maturity; doesn’t pass the buck to dodge accountability; doesn’t engage in petty office politics or inappropriate social conduct
  • Detail-Oriented – Even small mistakes can create big issues; attention to detail work indicates care about the outcomes
  • Assumes the Best – Assumes that others are working as hard as you are on things that are as important as what you are working on; just because you don’t know what someone does, it doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything

Additional Characteristics of a Successful Vanderbilt University Leader:

ACCOUNTABILITY & EXECUTION: Owns decisions, outcomes, work products, etc. that are within the scope of one’s role.

  • Holds everyone in the workgroup accountable for accomplishing the outcomes of the unit.
  • Lets the buck stop with them; owns the outcomes for the work unit and doesn’t throw subordinates under the bus if things go wrong
  • Practices what they preach; doesn’t set expectations of others that they don’t live up to themselves
  • Pitches in to help the team when it really needs help
  • Communicates early and often, even as information is evolving
  • Is willing to learn from their direct reports.
  • Welcomes inquiry and recognizes mistakes as learning opportunities
  • Thinks creatively when tackling a challenge; questions the status quo in search of better ways. Looks for insights, assesses risks 

COACHING, DEVELOPMENT & TEAM FOCUS: Leads by example, works to ensure that members of the team have the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful.

  • Ensures that team members have the tools and resources to do the job
  • Praises publicly; is genuinely appreciative of the accomplishments of members of the team
  • Criticizes privately; focuses more on how to do it better next time than how it went wrong this time
  • Willingly shares expertise with team members; actively coaches
  • Is clear with the deliverables and outcomes needed, but allows members of the team to tackle the problems in the way they see fit, without micromanaging every process; understands that the destination – rather than the exact route – is what’s important
  • Cares about their employees as people, not just as “resources”
  • Makes this a fun place to work; Enhances comradery, builds trust, and invites members of the work group to be their authentic selves
  • Addresses problems among the workgroup when they arise, rather than letting them fester 

DECISION MAKING & DIRECTION SETTING: Takes responsibility for and make effective decisions through understanding the needs of the institution, collaborating and communicating, and identifying the strategic and operational imperatives of the university.

  • Makes decisions, even in the face of incomplete information, rather than avoiding making decisions.
  • Seeks first to understand before making decisions; doesn’t act first and ask questions later; solicits input from a diverse group of others including members of the work group, others stakeholders, and naysayers/critics, when faced with complex challenges, before making a decision. Identifies options and homes in on pros and cons of each option; Lets others know where they are in their decision-making process
  • Shares a clear vision for the work of the unit, and is clear about what outcomes are expected.
  • Provides clear guidance and direction, doesn’t change direction with the wind; communicates in ways that are clear and succinct, rather than confusing or ambiguous
  • Communicates early and often, even as information is evolving
  • Champions the work unit’s cause, and makes compelling business cases for its needs
  • Is willing to course-correct if things aren’t going as planned, even after decisions have been made and communicated
  • Is willing to learn from their direct reports

Vanderbilt University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. Women, minorities, people with disabilities, and protected veterans are encouraged to apply.


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