Adapting to Associate Deanship: An Asia Pacific Perspective

Adapting to Associate Deanship: An Asia Pacific Perspective

We recently interviewed Assadaporn Sapsomboon of Chulalongkorn Business School about the challenges and rewards of serving in the associate dean role.

Recently we interviewed Assadaporn Sapsomboon, associate professor in information technology in business and associate dean at Chulalongkorn Business School (CBS) in Bangkok, about the challenges and rewards of serving in the associate dean role. Sapsomboon juggles the responsibilities of teaching with her administrative tasks of curriculum development, program quality assurance, international networking, and undergraduate student admissions. From the beginning of her associate deanship in 2009, she has led the school to receive AACSB initial accreditation. Sapsomboon is a facilitator for AACSB's Associate Deans Seminar in Singapore this May. Here she reflects on the multifaceted aspects of her associate deanship at CBS.

Do you think the business school culture is different in Asia than elsewhere in the world? If so, how does that difference impact your job as associate dean?

I don’t know much about the associate deanship elsewhere in the world. Many associate deans in business schools in Asia were appointed/recruited by deans with a term. Therefore, associate deans are temporary administrative assignments. After my associate deanship is over, I will resume a normal faculty life. While in the associate deanship, I cannot waive my teaching or research responsibilities.

What is the most challenging experience you have had as an associate dean?

There have been quite a number of challenging experiences in my six years as the associate dean for academic affairs, serving two different deans at Chulalongkorn Business School. They shared some of the same attributes, such as implementation of new processes, data collection, and faculty and staff encouragement. When we need a buy-in from faculty and staff that might impact their normal activities, communication is always the key. When and how to communicate to faculty and staff, and sometimes to the students and parents, is the most challenging experience to me because I cannot anticipate what response I will get back. Besides communication issues, I found that asking for teamwork from staff was sometimes hard. In some units in my school, there has been a strong culture of the staff who prefer working individually. They sometimes draw their lines in scope of work and do not cross them. Getting them to work together and execute an event successfully was very challenging.

What is the most rewarding experience you have had as associate dean?

When jobs are done without major complaints or serious errors or redos—to me, those are rewarding experiences.

In what ways is the associate dean job different than you expected it would be?

I had no expectation before accepting this position. The only complaint I might have is that there was no job description or scope of work for associate deans in my school. There was no manual of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for associate deans. If there had been one, I might have executed processes differently each time, as there was always room for improvement.

Another unexpected aspect of the job initially is that faculty members and staff sometimes looked up to me as if I knew everything, but I did not. This responsibility of the associate deanship was much larger than I had expected.

Additionally, I often rely on others to assist me in administrative work. Unlike doing research, which is rather independent work, asking for opinions from the dean and other associate deans helps clarify certain matters, enables me to see the issue from different angles, and leads to better solutions.

What do you wish you knew before you entered your position as associate dean?

In my early years as associate dean, I experienced quite a lot of trial and error. My judgment on the seriousness of issues was not sound enough. The previous positions I held before I became an associate dean were an assistant dean and a program director. Both positions were narrower in scope of decision-making and responsibilities. I wish I’d had more experience in a larger context before I entered this position.

How do you balance all of the responsibilities within your role?

While I have to do administrative work as an associate dean, I also have to teach without any exemption and produce intellectual contributions regularly. I admit that I have slowed down on contributing publications. I have not contributed as regularly as when I was a normal faculty member. I have also maintained the same teaching load as other faculty members. Sometimes I make appointments for myself to prepare for teaching. I also delegate some administrative responsibilities to the assistant dean and staff in the associate dean’s office.

What has helped you best achieve success in your role?

I believe that professional staff in the associate dean’s office are one of the keys to success. I was lucky that the current set of professional staff in the office have been very efficient and collaborative. Strong support from the dean and other associate deans as well as assistant deans is another key to success. Some responsibilities cannot be done without their support.