The art and science of leadership

College of Arts & Sciences

By Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
Kevin M. Guskiewicz (photo by Kevin Seifert)
People at UNC-Chapel Hill tend to know two things about me: They know me as the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, and they know me as a concussion researcher.
I’m proud of the fact that I elected not to put my research on hold, as is custom, when I assumed the deanship in January 2016. I continue to spend a couple of mornings each week in my lab at the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, I am a principal investigator on several grants and I still present at concussion conferences three to four times a year.
Being a scientist, I approach my research by asking timely and relevant research questions, forming hypotheses and testing those hypotheses. As dean, I’ve been able to adapt this approach to a wide range of issues. To make decisions about allocating resources, hiring faculty, building a new facility—even an initiative as sweeping as redesigning our general education curriculum—the approach is the same: I and my senior leadership team gather the information to answer the relevant questions. We test, then measure the potential impact—on our students, on our faculty, on the university as a whole.
This evidence-based approach gives me confidence that I am not making decisions in a vacuum. One of the best pieces of leadership advice I’ve received is to make informed, timely decisions. People appreciate knowing where you stand on an issue or a request, even if it’s not the answer they had hoped for. As dean, I learned quickly that I can’t make everyone happy, but if I can show that the decision was made with sound rationale and data, I can feel good knowing—and assure others—that it was not made impulsively.

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