Finding Your Ideal Work Style as a University Trustee


So you’re making the switch, or thinking about it, from academic scholar to university trustee. The first thing to put on your to-do list is to get deeply knowledgeable about what it is that your new role entails.

The job of a university trustee is an important one with significant responsibilities; you want to ensure you do them all well.

Know Your Role: What Does a University Trustee Do?

Trustees in a university or college work in a group called a “board of trustees.” So, you’ll be collaborating with anywhere from 30 to 45 other members of your committee to complete anything that relates to the academic institution as a whole. This can involve reviewing potential programs and whether to keep them, shut them down, add new ones, or come up with methods to raise funds.

As a trustee, you have a strong fiduciary responsibility. In your role, you’ll be working with the top administration and offering suggestions or completing tasks regarding important policies, long-range plans, and budgeting. All of this must be done in a way that coincides with the reputation of the university and its mission.

Observe Others and Find a Mentor 

These roles come with the potential to do amazing things on your campus. They also come with challenges and obstacles that make it crucial that you observe what’s going on with the board before you jump in and become active.

As you can imagine, with that many people working together on important agendas, it can be difficult to get everyone to agree or approach ideas from the same perspective. Discussions and disagreements can become heated, and if you try to upset the status quo as a new “unknown,” it may not go well. To ensure you’re able to make the best decisions, and long-term change, you should take your time and listen and watch what’s going on around you.

When you do, you’ll likely find people who you might not have originally thought much of, but who could make beneficial mentors. Having someone on your team is vital in a landscape that evolves as often as academics.

Think about your view on controversial issues, and look for someone who shares your views, or offers well-thought-out challenges to your perspective. These often include topics such as:

●      Diversity on campus and how to move forward to become more inclusive. Some campuses want to keep the traditional homogeneous study and faculty body, while others thrive on inclusivity.

●      The tenure system, faculty “grading” systems, and changes in hiring processes. Many institutions are moving toward using adjunct professors rather than full-time faculty. What’s your view on this as a money-saver, and what are the possible ramifications?

●      What’s coming down the pipeline for the various programs your university offers? What might be necessary for the next few years, or over the long term? Do you agree with the foresight of the other trustees, or do you have other opinions that could be beneficial if voiced?

●      Many schools are partnering with other businesses and campuses to outsource jobs. This can work well for budgeting, and community collaboration, but there are potential consequences to consider, particularly in the legal realm.

As you observe, keep in mind factors like inter-and intra-campus communication, how outsourcing can help or hurt investments, and whether the university is keeping up with government regulations and mandates. You may be aware of things other trustees are not. You have to be willing and ready to debate potential changes if they’re not for the best of the university and the students.

Add Your Trustee Role to Your Impactio Profile

Importantly, you can use your role as a trustee to increase your scholarly reputation. While you may not be able to further your research due to a conflict of interest, you can update your profile on Impactio to include your new position, and keep others abreast of what’s going on in your career.

Impactio’s analytic tools will be helpful in your trustee role when others question your authority. Use the report features to show off your impact in your field when necessary, and impress the rest of the committee with the detailed information you gain from Impactio’s tracking services.


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