Core Functions of Higher Education Administration

Finally, I began my first class of the doctoral program on October 8, 2013. This first 8-week course ended December 2, 2013. The instructor for EDU/711 was Jason Bewley, Ph.D.

Course Description

This course examined the major features of the three core functional areas of modern higher education. It focused on the administration of higher education institutions and included 1) the student experience, including student development and learning; 2) faculty and staff issues, including RPT (retention, promotion, and tenure), faculty and staff development, curriculum; and 3) infrastructure concerns, including planning, technology, and facilities.

Course Competencies

  • Synthesize the diversity of postsecondary institutions including their mission, organizational structure, governance, clientele, and leadership practices.
  • Summarize the roles that faculty, administrators, students and external constituencies play in the operation of postsecondary institutions.
  • Analyze postsecondary institutions according to their organizational structure, administrative functions, governance model, leadership practices, and student support.

The first two weeks of most doctoral programs are devoted to reading (or so I am told). After that, each week has a topic and the assignments reflect the topic as well as relate to parts of the reading. The reading list for this course is listed at the bottom under references. Note that in addition to the required texts, there were a number of journal articles that were also required reading for each week.

  1. Reading Week
  2. Reading Week
  3. The Diversification of Higher Eduction
  4. Student Experience
  5. Issues Confronting Higher Education Faculty
  6. Functional Support Operations on Campus
  7. Peripheral Campus Functions
  8. Synthesis and Review


The papers were as follows:

  • Week 3: Write a 1,400 to 1,700 word-paper on an individual campus system. The paper had to address items like institutional organization, administrative model of campus governance; institutional and organizational constraints, mission, governance, leadership, decision-making process, and type of system. We needed to identify successful areas and areas of improvement while proposing strategies to improve campus functioning. I earned 9/10 on this paper.
  • Week 4: Write a 1,750 to 2,100-word paper exploring campus climate and its effects on students. This paper had a number of items to include in the discussion and included a plan of action from one stakeholder’s perspective, for enhancing the campus climate and the student experience at the chosen institution. I earned 9.4/10 on this paper.
  • Week 5: We did not have a paper due in week 5. At this point it was very important to read ahead and see why there was no paper due in week 5. In week 6 we would need to conduct an investigation into a postsecondary institution by conducting research and then interviewing at least three academic affairs leaders. There was an Informed Consent Form that had to be shared and signed in advance. We were provided with 7 initial questions and were to add 3 more that the instructor approved at the end of week 3.
  • Week 6: Write a 1,750 to 2,100-word analysis of the chosen institution using research and data from the interviews. Again there were a number of items that students were required to cover including a description of challenges facing the institution as they relate to academic affairs and recommendations to improve academic affairs. I earned 13.8/15.
  • Week 7: In week 7 we were provided with a scenario, and were told to write a paper answering a number of questions. The scenario was this: A local university known for its established counseling program wishes to initiate an undergraduate program in art therapy. The university, however, does not have an art department. An accredited art college that does not have a counseling department is located in the same area. The two institutions wish to collaborate to offer a joint art therapy program, an offering that has been targeted as a need area in the state. The 2,800 to 3,500-word analysis due in week 7 was to identify the roles and functions campus constituencies have in developing the program proposal. After the discussion on campus units from both institutions, we were to develop a plan to implement the program, and conclude with an analysis of the benefits and challenges to campus collaboration in new program development. I earned 16.2/20.
  • Week 8: The paper in week was to design an ideal postsecondary institution. The first 1,400 to 1,750-words were to be used to describe the institution including items like the mission, faculty, facilities, student services, finances, and more. The next 1,050 to 1,400-words were to be the strategic plan of implementation of the organizational structure. I earned 18.2/20


This particular course was challenging primarily because it was the first 8-week course of the program. The unknown can frequently be challenging. To continue in the program, doctoral students must pass ALL courses with an 80% (B-) or better. For the first six weeks of this course I had little trouble, which is not to say that it was not challenging. The workload along with my regular paid employment was a definite challenge. My greatest challenge came in week 7. I was unsure of where to begin with such a request. I attempted to inquire in the chat room online, but found little help there. (That is a big eye opener I will discuss in later entries). Having completed the course I can now see that perhaps my attention to detail got in the way. I wanted to focus on the art and counseling programs and because I know very little of either, I panicked. Instead, I needed to be able to step back and see the big picture of collaboration among institutes of higher education. At some point during this week, I began to worry about successful completion of this class in particular, and the program generally. I eventually wrote something, but did not feel good about it at all. It was way short of the word count and I really felt unsure of myself. I prayed for at least 10 of the 20 points possible knowing that that would mean a failure on the paper, but perhaps I could still successfully complete the course.

Then came the final week–week 8. Here I really panicked. To my way of thinking the instructor was essentially asking us to build a rocket ship to fly to the moon and back. Knowing nothing about rockets, I would naturally be lost. As adjunct faculty, I know small bits and pieces about the postsecondary institution where I am employed part-time. I could not envision how I was going to be able to write about, let alone design, an ideal postsecondary institution. I was still in panic mode when halfway through the week I received my week 7 paper back. I was astonished to see, that what I believed to be an inadequate paper, turned out to be a not-so-bad paper. I earned 16.2 out of the 20 points possible. This gave me hope and I continued to fumble my way through the week 8 paper.

Another challenge I encountered, had to do with the discussions. Each week students are responsible for answering two discussion questions (no problem so far). Successful completion of this task was 2 points per week. Then students also had to reply to two responses in the discussion, on three different days. That means a total of 6 replies over a 3-day timespan. These replies were involved because they must include some research to back up your reply with  proper citations. It was not so much the task that I found challenging as the time involved and point allocation. For all of this work you would receive 1 point for the week. After about the fourth week I realized that my time would be better spent working on the week’s paper and taking a 1 point loss for the week. The downside to this is that I missed out on what was no doubt, a great opportunity to learn from my peers. Additionally, I was short of an A by 2 points which could have been made up in these weekly discussions.


My successes are not just in the work that I accomplished but in what I learned about being a doctoral student. Having completed this first course I have learned how to study in a program as demanding as the PHD/HEA program. I am thinking that during the first two weeks when we are to be reading, perhaps I will review the syllabus and get a jump start on discussion questions or papers that are due later in the class. I have learned that it is important to look ahead and plan rather than take the class week-by-week. I need more time and it is up to me to find the time.

I successfully completed the course with 88.98/101. I earned a B+ and missed an A- by 2 points. I earned my 3 credits.

Required Reading

American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Birnbaum, R. (1988). How colleges work: The cybernetics of academic organization and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Johnstone, S. M. (2007). Advancing campus efficiencies: A companion for campus leaders in the digital era. Bolton, MA: Anker Pub.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J. (2005). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kuh, G. D., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., Andreas, R. E., Lyons, J. W., Strange, C. C., et al. (1991). Involving colleges: Successful approaches to fostering student learning and development outside the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McClure, P. A. (Ed.). (2003). Organizing and managing information resources on your campus. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ruben, B. D. (2004). Pursuing excellence in higher education: Eight fundamental challenges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.