Women in Leadership – Sumana Datta



Sumana Datta
Professor, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Executive Director, LAUNCH
114 Henderson Hall
4233 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-4233


What made you decide to become an administrator?

I decided to become an administrator because I want to have a positive influence on students beyond doing research in my laboratory and teaching my courses.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an administrator?

The most rewarding aspect of being an administrator is that I enjoy seeing programs and people grow and flourish.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an administrator?

The most challenging aspect of being an administrator is managing people’s conflicting expectations, goals, and desires while trying to get the actual work done. This would include threading your way through departmental, college, and institutional level politics and policies. This was also the biggest surprise—just how hard you work at managing, convincing, and collaborating with people as an administrator. While I certainly put in long hours as a research faculty member, the autonomy I had as a tenure-track and then tenured faculty member meant I could focus much more easily on my responsibilities in that role.

What were the choices you made (and why) related to maintaining (or not maintaining) your scholarship as you took on an administrative role?

I tried balancing research and administration for about two and a half years. While that was possible as a part-time administrator, it rapidly became obvious that it would not be possible for me as a full-time administrator. In particular, the decision was made when both of my senior graduate students decided that they wanted to move on to postdoctoral positions, leaving no one with experience to run our projects while I was wearing my administrative hat.

How have you balanced your personal life with your career?

I make a point of “working hard and playing hard.” My husband and I both bring work home on evenings during the week and I frequently work remotely on my laptop on Saturday afternoon. But unless the circumstances are exceptional (University events that require my attendance and participation), Friday and Saturday evenings and all day Sunday are “sacred” times for us to connect with each other and take care of things around the house.

What advice would you give to women faculty who are considering administration?

Try the ADVANCE Administrative Fellows program—it’s an opportunity for you to dip your toes in and see how you like dealing with politics and policies and how good you are at it while working on programs, partnerships, and other issues that are close to your heart. The experience of the university as an institution beyond your department, college, or program is invaluable, as is gaining some understanding of an administrator’s point of view and how the university as an institution is organized and run.