The Interim Conundrum

Dr. Carol Moore
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs
Delaware Valley University (Doylestown, Pennsylvania)

Registry Member since 2016




You’ve been asked to step in and help for a short time in a volatile leadership situation.  You are excited to share your experiences and expertise. The college you are going to has laid out the usual job description and a few too many areas of focus.  You identify prior experiences as they apply to those areas of focus and begin planning.

You move into campus quietly as a newcomer.  Yes, you’re an Interim but you have been given the authority of the office and asked to bring your expertise. And so you slowly start on their to do list, thinking there is a culture ready for some changes.  Oops, they really didn’t mean what they said…they really don’t want you to accomplish that goal…a new program, a new process for advising.  At least not unless you can do it without ruffling any feathers; and so the conundrum.  Should you try and push forward to improve the student experience, maybe improve retention/graduation rates, or should you just be an outsider, and simply keep the trains running, which for some is boring.

The conundrum: each situation is different and here is where your experience can guide you.  As the song says “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” However, it can be frustrating to know what needs to be done and not have the legitimacy or support in an interim position to move the change.  How can you address your frustration and yet respect your interim role. One thought is to collect and write a list of observations coupled with your experienced recommendations to leave a legacy of your time at the institution.

That document would look something like observations, practice at comparative institutions and recommendations, for example, the early alert system at the college is too late in the semester and too few faculty report student progress (grades). The report would then briefly identify comparative early alert procedures at other colleges, best practice, followed by the Interim’s recommendation for the institution. This type of report could be invaluable to institutions to improve their practices and policies given the Interim’s experience elsewhere; the Interim is in a unique position to make solid recommendations to improve processes at the institution.

Alternatively, the interim might choose to select one or two processes/policies at their new placement and focus on improving the student experience through the improvement of those processes, for example advising might be improved by reengineering student-based policies. Another example might be the establishment of professional development for faculty and staff around a particular student service, e.g., advising career services.

I believe the role of the interim is to leave the college or university better in some way than how you found it – especially better for students if this can be done, and I believe it can.  You can feel satisfied and rewarded by the legacy of improvement you have left behind.  The institution will recognize these contributions and it will build stronger relationships between the college and The Registry.

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