Learning from Bill Hill — At the end of this fall semester, Bill Hill, the Senior Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will retire. Bill and I arrived at UNC Charlotte within two years of each other. Bill came in 1982, and I came in 1984. At the time, the English Department housed speech (as communication studies was then called), so we both started off as assistant professors in the same department. Over the years, our careers followed along similar paths. We both served as program directors, department chairs, and associate deans. However, Bill has always been a few steps ahead of me. The experience of serving alongside Bill has been one of the great pleasures of my career, but it has also been a learning experience. Bill’s approach to being an administrator has provided me with an example that I have long attempted to emulate. Here are three of the lessons that I have learned from Bill about good administrative practices.
Perhaps because of his background in college debate, Bill always looks at administrative issues from multiple points of view. After all, in debate tournaments, one has to be able to argue both sides of an issue. Bill is very good at building strong arguments for particular positions, but he never dismisses opposing positions. Drawing on his many years as a debate coach, he helps those of us who work with him to frame our arguments using sound logic, provide evidence to support our positions, and take a respectful attitude toward colleagues whose positions differ from our own. His belief in the value of open debate is one of the key reasons he has developed such a good rapport with administrators across our campus.
Another one of Bill’s strengths as an administrator is his patient and methodical approach to building programs. I watched from a ring-side seat as Bill built communications studies from a few courses, to a semi-autonomous program, to a free-standing academic department, and I was very impressed with the effectiveness of his step-by-step approach. He carefully followed the curricular-planning process, and he always kept the members of the English Department fully informed along the way. When the Communication Studies Department split from the English Department in 1995, it was seen as the natural evolution of a gradual and transparent process.
Bill grew up watching the Andy Griffith Show, and he often quotes the following line that Barney Fife says in this show: “Nip it in the bud.” For Bill, this line captures his desire to solve problems when they first surface rather than wait for the problems to grow into crises. This approach is one of the reasons Bill always seems so even-keeled, for when problems are addressed before they spin out of control, there is no need for crisis management.
I will miss going upstairs to talk with Bill about the various issues that I face in my role as the Chair of the English Department. However, even after Bill retires, the lessons that I have learned from him will continue to guide me. I am sure that I will often ask myself, “What would Bill do?”
I know that I speak for the entire English Department in wishing Bill a happy retirement.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here is information about an upcoming event:
Dec. 1 — The English Department holiday party will take place on Friday, December 1, from 11:30 to 1:30 in the Faculty/Staff Lounge. Please sign up on the potluck listed located on the desk outside of Monica’s office.
Quirky Quiz Question — Bill Hill is UNC Charlotte’s first tenure-track faculty member hired to teach in the area now known as communication studies, but he is not UNC Charlotte’s first full-time faculty member to teach in this area. A year before Bill arrived, a lecturer was hired to teach communication studies courses. This lecturer eventually became the director of the University Center for Academic Excellence. Does anybody know the name of this former lecturer?
Last week’s answer: Utah
“Pieces of April” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. What is the host state for this annual film festival?