Respond to interview question: Select a new Dean of Science

Here is a sample interview prompt provided by Astroff on multipleminiinterview.com:

Prompt:  You are on the committee for selecting a new Dean of Science. What characteristics and/or qualities would you look for when selecting an effective dean?

How would you begin to respond to this prompt?

Ideally, you should attempt to answer this question orally. Take 5-8 minutes to do this exercise first before reading further.

Now, let's provide some insight to this prompt, and tips for answering the question.

At first glance, this question can seem quite difficult to tackle. It’s not scenario-based, nor does it ask you to reflect on your experiences. It’s putting you in a situation which you may have never thought about, and it may be even more daunting if you are coming from a non-science background. Selecting a Dean of Science? Shouldn’t that be the job of faculty?

Such abstract questions are something you should be prepared for for your upcoming Multiple Mini Interview. Think back to the two major focuses of the MMI: assessing critical thinking and communication skills. Is this question testing both?

In approaching such a question, it can be helpful to take a moment to reflect on your past experiences, even though this isn’t directly being asked, to help you clarify what you want to say. Perhaps you dealt with a dean or administrative figure during your academic career. Maybe you’ve had involvement in the hiring/selection process in the workplace or through a volunteer organization. Or, maybe you’ve had a negative experience with your boss where you wish they had behaved differently. Thinking of these experiences can help you to formulate what qualities you would want in an authoritive or administrative figure. Relating your experiences can also help to lend an air of authenticity to your answer and help make you more memorable to the interviewer.

Let’s also consider what makes a good faculty dean. A dean is someone who needs to lead the faculty, help it realize its long-term mission, and serve as a resource and support for students, staff, and faculty.  Consider these roles in the context of the program you are aspiring to gain admission. 

Let's say you are preparing for an MMI for medical school or healthcare program.  When thinking of these roles, we can see that there are many parallels between a dean and a health care provider. Physicians and health care practitioners must lead patient care teams, they must serve as a resource to the public, patients, and their families, and they must support the learning of residents, medical students, and individuals interested in medicine. Considering these parallels makes it easier to think of what you might say if you were on a committee to select a dean.

Some qualities you may choose to bring up include being approachable, personable, and understanding. As well, you may wish to discuss the importance of having a vision for the faculty, and for having demonstrated excellence in scholarship either through research productivity or teaching evaluations.

By finding parallels between an unfamiliar scenario and actual past experiences, you can apply your knowledge to provide a sound response and be prepared for the difficulties of the MMI.

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