This novel is a work of fiction. Although it was born out of my slightly over one-year experience as the dean of a proprietary, for-profit business school in my first academic posting early in my career in a manner and circumstances similar to the protagonist, the characters, locations, and situations are not based on nor intended to represent any actual persons or places. Alas the issues raised directly and indirectly about the failings of both for-profit education and traditional higher education are far from fictional. Indeed, for-profit education has grown exponentially since the 1980s and is no longer limited to small, closely held corporate entities. And some segments of traditional higher education today—both public and private— mirror the same bottom-line-driven ethos of the proprietary, for-profit market with its primary emphasis on maximizing tuition revenue, minimizing cost, and imposing ever-increasing burdens on faculty with a constant call to “do more with less” until they are expected to do practically everything with nothing and forced to work in an environment where academic standards take a back seat to student retention and provide students with certificates and degrees of questionable worth. But that is a matter for another novel—one I also hope to write.
I should clarify that all proprietary, for-profit education is not necessarily bad. There are and have always been good and bad players in this arena, just as in any other. The one I served in my first posting was not as good as some and much better than others. I will always be grateful for lessons learned there—and for some of the wonderful people I got to work with. It was there, not in any classroom, that I first learned to lead by example, to manage professionals effectively through honest, open communication and consensus building, and to use entrepreneurial leadership to attain goals I was told were unreachable. These skills served me well throughout my life as both an administrator and as a twice-tenured full professor in the colleges and universities I had the privilege to serve. They serve me well still, for which I am grateful beyond words.
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