My attitude toward academic leadership is to stress listening, flexibility, and friendliness. A good director or administrator is able to listen well to everyone, analyze all the information, identify what works and what needs to be improved, and then follow through on the changes. One thing distinctive about my style is that I use lots of my own creative energy to think through and talk through the research interests of those whom I am leading. Knowing what people like to think about helps me figure out good ways to bring people together to collaborate and support each other.
After moving from The Ohio State University to University of St Andrews, I intentionally took on a very large leadership load. The dominant aspect of that has been as director of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre, which has ten permanent members of academic staff, four professorial fellows, twenty one PhD students, four postdoctoral students, six research seminars, two ongoing major research grants, and a legendary history going back twenty years.
As the director of the Arché Centre, I endeavoured to foster a real sense of community among its members as people who look out for one another and support one another’s interests. We have yearly holidays for the members of the Centre where family are invited and lectures are given. These “reading parties” have been an integral part of the social structure of the Centre. Another important social event was the Arché 20th Anniversary Confernce held in 2018 featuring over 90 participants including Arché alums, professorial fellows past and present, and those who served as postdocs. It was a tremendous success and reinforced the importance of a larger network throughout the world of philosophy. In addition, I worked hard to save the Arché buildings in when the university was considering selling them to pay for an expansion for the administration buildings, and I successfully lobbied against a proposed 50% cut in the budget a year later. I also led the search committee when we hired our current four Professorial Fellows.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, I led my own research seminar on Conceptual Engineering online by delivering hybrid talks. When the Centre was forced to go entirely online in Spring 2020, I assisted each of the other seminars in developing an online presence and delivering remote seminars. The transition actually increased the impact of the Centre. Some of our seminar meetings went over the limits for our Zoom account, which we remedied by setting up a special youtube livestream so that anyone could see.
I have found leading teams of people to do great things one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My leadership qualities center around three major groupings: (i) my abilities to communicate successfully with a wide range of people and offices across a university, (ii) my skill at analyzing large amount of information in fruitful and easy to understand ways, and (iii) my vision for the kinds of excellences to set as goals for a Centre, a department, a school, or other academic unit.
As director of the Arché Centre, I liaised with many offices across the university from press, to development. I proposed new initiatives on advertising, including creating a poster (below) and using it in a worldwide advertising campaign that resulted in a significant increase in the numbers and quality of students applying.
I worked with the Master and Principal’s office to hire five professorial fellows and most or all of them were people I suggested apply to the position. In addition, I worked regularly with the Director of Research in Philosophy and the Vice Principal for Research about how best to fulfill the strategic goals for the university.
While directing the Arché Centre, I advocated for it within wider university many times including when: (i) its budget was to be cut in half, (ii) the university decided to sell our buildings, and (iii) we had to switch from accommodating just Arché PhD students in our offices to housing all philosophy teaching PhDs when the university destroyed the building in which our teaching PhDs had their offices. In each of these cases, I successfully negotiated for the Arché Centre, and we retained our budget and our buildings and smoothly stepped in to help the department during a time of stress.
I started two development projects to bring in money to the centre. I founded and gave the inaugural lecture for an Arché Centre impact project on the compatibility of sciences and religions. Finally, I founded and led a funding seminar devoted to conceiving, writing, editing, and submitting proposals to funding bodies. Serving on funding boards in Finland and Norway has helped immeasurably in each of these aspects of grant capture. Our funding seminar resulted in a number of successful grant applications from members of academic staff. I was also an original member of the Centre for Exoplanet Science and the Institute for Gender Studies.
As the supervisor of the conceptual engineering seminar, I interacted with many other academics across the university to give talks and to promote the seminar. In addition to engaging with academics in other departments across the university, since the start of the CE seminar, we have had more than 100 external talks from scholars around the world. As director of the Arché Centre, I aided in establishing partnerships with groups at the University of Oslo, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Vienna, Australian Catholic University.