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On Being a Department Head, a Personal View
John B. Conway, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

1997; 107 pp; softcover
Reprint/Revision History:
third printing 2000
ISBN-10: 0-8218-0615-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-8218-0615-9
List Price: US$30
Member Price: US$24
Order Code: AHEAD
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This unique book presents a witty, well-written personal view about the experience of being a department head. Those in academia will profit from the author's inside view, and other department heads and chairs--new and old--will benefit from the experiences of this keenly observant colleague.


General audience, particularly those interested in exploring how a university department is run.


"Provokes the reader to think through some of the difficult issues ... There are few books that deal so directly with running a University department and therefore this book should be read by anyone with an interest in that endeavour. Its easy style and treatment of universal management issues make it worthy of a wider audience."

-- The Mathematical Gazette

"An interesting and often humorous look at academic leadership ... reads like a work written by someone who truly has found his calling."

-- Academic Leader

"A clear and well-written personal view about the experience of being a department head. University people have a unique opportunity to profit from the author's inside view, from his experiences communicated in a witty readable style ... strongly recommended not only to heads of departments but also to every faculty member."

-- European Mathematical Society Newsletter

"Conway's book is a worthwhile read and, if you are an administrator, a place to go for a soul mate wrestling with similar problems, for advice if not consolation, or just as a resource for new ideas and discussion."

-- SIAM Review

"This book provides an excellent overview of the various issues involved in governing a department and is recommended reading for all those who aspire to do that. Overall, this book provides plenty of good advice on almost all areas of departmental administration from someone who seems to relish the role."

-- Journal of the American Statistical Association

"This is a very interesting small book. The most interesting aspect of the book ... is the insight into the "American psyche" that the book offers. There are quite a few of those pearls in this thin book, as well as many quotables ..."

-- Journal of Geodesy

"The author has written a frank, thorough and readable account of the experiences and responsibilities of his office. Evidently, written by a man with strong professional values and sense of direction, this memoir is imbued with practicality, empathy with colleagues and sound advice, so that it serves as an astute and useful guide for prospective chairs (not necessarily of mathematics) as well as a source of insight for ordinary departmental citizens."

-- Zentralblatt MATH

Table of Contents

  • Contemplating the prospect of being a head
  • Setting the stage
  • Personnel matters
  • Day-to-day business
  • When should you quit
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