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How does a faculty member seek administrative responsibilities in a Department? Do such positions come in a cycle only? Or should the faculty member make his/her willingness known in advance to the Chair? Are there any politics/wrangling involved?

Moreover, for an assistant professor, is there anything that could be done during PhD so that the profile comes out as someone willing to take admin responsibilities?

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    As a general rule, assistant professors should stay as far as possible from administrative responsibilities. Get tenure first. – JeffE Jul 15 '12 at 16:32
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Don't worry, administrative responsibilities will find you unless you flee them, and even then you probably won't avoid them. At most universities, young faculty are expressly spared administrative responsibilities so that they can focus on research and get tenure.

If you're really looking for them, generally all you need to do is vocally speak your mind on every issue that comes up. Most of your colleagues will feign apathy in order to avoid being assigned to a committee.

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    +1 for "vocally speak your mind on every issue that comes up", from direct personal experience. – JeffE Jul 15 '12 at 18:27
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Administrative duties are considered "service": that is, something that everybody is expected to do. However, that also means that, if you're a junior faculty member under consideration for tenure, having extensive administrative duties won't help advance your case. In many ways, it can, as David says, get in the way of productivity.

That said, you can probably get a sense from your colleagues about the amount of administrative duties you are required to take on. And there is one potential advantage to making your preferences known to the chair (provided he or she is friendly with you, and is working in your best interests): if you have a particular preference for committee duty, then announcing that may make it easier to actually get it!

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Contrary to JeffE's comment and David's answer, at four-year institutions, opportunities to engage in administrative duties within and outside your department will usually come up long before tenure. And, at four-year institutions, not engaging in governance activities will usually hurt your tenure application.

The particulars, of course, vary by disciple, department, and institution, but aeismail's advice about following your colleagues' leads is a good way to gauge what you should be doing. If you feel like your department is not the best example, look at others on campus.

Also, as is likely true everywhere in academia, if you voice your "good idea," said idea and the committee developed to implement it will be your for some time.

  • Generally, though, tenure decisions will begin with an intra-department review, so going well outside the norms of what your department does may be counterproductive as well! – aeismail Jul 16 '12 at 20:11
  • Very true! Though, the norm of my department is active. My department includes the chair of our faculty senate and chairs and members of high level governance committees. To get tenure where I am, you need to have above average ratings in teaching and scholarship and service. – Ben Norris Jul 17 '12 at 12:10

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