Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
1026 Veterinary Medicine Administration Building
College Station, TX 77843-4461
What made you decide to become an administrator?
For me, administration was a calling not a specific goal. Administration afforded the opportunity to effect positive change at a broader level and implement improvements for the greater good. When I was recruited into my first administrative position, I concluded that if I did not assume this formal leadership opportunity, I had very little platform for expressing what I thought could be done better.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an administrator?
The single most rewarding aspect of administration is helping others. The range of “others” is wide and includes faculty, staff, students, clients, constituents, and more, both collectively and individually. Administration provides the opportunity to help create a culture of inclusion, an environment in which people are valued and feel valued, a place where people are supported and encouraged to achieve their highest goals. Administrators can help advance excellence, such that people are proud of the high standards set, not only for themselves but for the programs. There is nothing more rewarding to see faculty, staff, and students flourish. It is also enormously rewarding to contribute meaningfully to Texas A&M University, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the veterinary profession, the State of Texas, higher education, and even society in general.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an administrator?
There are many challenges to being an administrator (but many more rewards). There is an enormous sense of responsibility for programs and people. While I always try to seek and value faculty input, developing consensus in an academic setting is sometimes evasive. The time commitment of administration exceeds by a considerable amount the time demands I had experienced as a faculty member at any rank and there seems to be little to no flexibility of time. The demands associated with administration are high and getting higher, along with increasing accountability and scrutiny. Another challenge is the absolute requirement for confidentiality, with which one must become comfortable. This can be particularly hard when rumors implicating individuals and potentially damaging to them cannot be corrected because of the confidentiality of the situation. Finally, I am not sure how many truly understand the personal sacrifices made for the whole and while that is really okay, it is occasionally disheartening to hear “administration” used in a derogatory sense regardless of whether specific administrators are being cited.
What were the choices you made (and why) related to maintaining (or not maintaining) your scholarship as you took on an administrative role?
My first formal administrative role was department head and hospital director, in which I maintained a 25% time commitment to teaching, research, and hospital service as an equine internist. While the scholarly and teaching duties kept me well-connected and fulfilled, I experienced a substantial pull between responsibilities. For example, how could I manage a critical care patient, student lectures, hard administrative deadlines (like P&T), acute conflicts needing resolution, an unexpected donor visit, and an urgent call from upper administration, all at the same time? I felt that my first responsibility was to administration and I simply could not compromise my service to and representation of the department and hospital. When I moved to a larger university as department chair and hospital chief of staff, I decided to focus on administration first and then resume scholarship and teaching, as I was able. It proved to be very difficult, so while I continued didactic teaching, consulted on cases, and facilitated research, I focused most of my time as an administrator. As dean here at Texas A&M, my activities beyond administration are limited to contributions to a couple of courses; however, I would really like to delve more into the scholarship of education and leadership.
How have you balanced your personal life with your career?
I have three children; in fact, I was expecting the first when I graduated from veterinary school in 1973, when there was no formal child care and the majority of mothers did not work. All I can say is that I wanted children and I also wanted a career in veterinary medicine, so the option of choosing one or the other was not even a remote possibility. Both have been enormously fulfilling, along the way and retrospectively. It definitely was a challenge that necessitated multitasking, patience, adapting to disruption, finding creative solutions, and, maybe most importantly, a highly developed sense of humor. My children are amazing people and I still love my job.
What advice would you give to women faculty who are considering administration?
Administration is a calling. Anyone considering administration should question deeply their motives. I believe administration should not be approached as a promotion, a salary increase, more prestige in position, or a means to power. One should ask herself if this is the job she would want to do every single day. If she believes she would find fulfillment in administration, she should intentionally embark on leadership training in every form possible, such as leadership training programs, self-study through leadership books, mentorship, and more. A nice balance can be found between the more expensive, prestigious programs, locally available quality programs, self-study, and, of course, experience in the position.