Book Reviews

Book by Jeffrey L. Buller
Review by Judy R. Albakry
Academic Advisor, College of Liberal Arts
Middle Tennessee State University


Buller’s The Essential Academic Dean is a comprehensive reference book covering the vast responsibilities of an academic dean. Buller focuses not on theories of academic leadership but rather the day-to-day responsibilities most academic deans encounter. He covers the Dean’s role, constituents, staff issues, administrative responsibilities, and opportunities for growth. The book will be especially helpful to advisors who need to learn more about what an academic dean does and for those who hope to pursue higher levels of administrative responsibility.

Advisors may occasionally wonder why their Dean is not as eager as they are to make changes to policies and procedures. The Essential Dean shows how the structure of the university makes change difficult and slow in becoming reality. Buller gives practical advice on how to work in an environment that declares a desire for change yet opposes the change process. He also provides analysis of several scenarios to “help deans develop and critique their skills as administrators, consider other alternatives to difficult problems, and prepare for challenging situations” (p. 50).

Some of the situations covered by Buller in The Essential Dean are not unique to the deanship. For example, advisors and advising administrators also deal with issues involving students, parental involvement, faculty development, budgets, interaction between academic colleges, working with upper administration, balancing student and employee priorities, and learning or building upon their leadership qualities. Interested readers can use The Essential Dean as a guide to approaching these issues and for gaining insights into how their Deans may view these concerns. Buller provides a wealth of additional resources at the end of each chapter that further assist the reader.

A key component to creating change within an academic environment is the development of an awareness of how upper administration works. Even advisors with no inclination to rise within the ranks of administration will find that The Essential Academic Dean gives them a powerful insight into how to best work with upper administration to create needed changes within their programs. While advisors may not read the book from cover to cover, this is a useful book to keep as a reference for the inevitable issues that will arise.


The Essential Academic Dean: A Practical Guide to College Leadership. (2007). Book by Jeffrey L. Buller. Review by Judy R. Albakry. San Francisco, CA: Wiley Periodicals (Jossey-Bass). 438 pp. Price $38. ISBN # 978-0-470-18086-0
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