Leadership : Up Close and Personal

Vol. 12, No. 1
ISSN: 1546-2676

Guest Editors: 
Virginia L. Clark & Frances E. Andrews

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Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM,
Vol. 12, No. 1. 
1546-2676. Editor: Dorothy I. Mitstifer. Official publication of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Member, Association of College Honor Societies. Copyright © 2000. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM is a refereed, semi-annual publication serving the profession of family and consumer sciences. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the society. Further information: Kappa Omicron Nu, PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798. Telephone: (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003

Interested in submitting an article to KON FORUM? Papers are now being accepted for review.


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Kappa Omicron Nu


Climbing the Higher Education Career Ladder

Kay Clayton

Dr. Clayton is Senior Vice President & Provost, Texas A & M University—Kingsville.

Throughout my career, I have had many wonderful opportunities to learn and grow professionally. As I reflect on my career, there are several major turning points. I was fortunate to have the chance to earn my Ph.D. at a relatively young age. During my doctoral studies, I acquired skills in grant writing; and those skills have served me very well, although at the time, I did not fully appreciate how valuable those skills would be to my career.

After finishing my Ph.D., I intended to go into public school administration. But a different opportunity presented itself, and I was offered a faculty position at a large research institution—the University of Texas at Austin. There I had a wonderful mentor, Dr. Wilma P. Griffin, who “socialized” me into higher education. The demands of UT-Austin enabled me to acquire a strong record of teaching, research, and service. This experience prepared me for my next position—that of associate professor and department chair of Family Life Studies and Home Economics at the University of Southern Mississippi. I was promoted to full professor in my last year at USM.

On returning to Texas, I took another chair position—this time in a comprehensive department but at a smaller institution in the Texas A & M University System. At the beginning of my third year at A & M - Kingsville, I was appointed by the university president to be the Faculty Athletic Representative to the NCAA and the Lone Star Conference. What a valuable learning experience that was!

In 1993, I was selected to be an intern in the Office of the Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs, with the title of Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs. After two years in this position, the president asked me to serve as Interim Vice President for Student Affairs. I was stunned by this request because never in my wildest dreams had I aspired to a position in student services! After much deliberation with my mentor, the provost, and my husband, I decided to take the position. After all, it was only until the university could hire a new vice president; and it would be a great learning experience. The president suggested that I might want to apply for the position. My first response was “I don’t think so.” But then I decided to take a “wait and see” attitude.

Two months into this new position, I decided that I really liked the challenges of student affairs; and I felt that I was making a significant contribution to student life on our campus—plus I was learning another aspect of higher education. Eight months later, I applied and was selected by the search committee as a finalist—and ultimately I was offered the position. Apparently I have been effective; the TAMUK faculty and staff recognized me with the 1997 Leadership Award through a program sponsored by the Faculty Senate. Another surprising turn of events occurred in the spring of 1999, when our new president appointed me Senior Vice President and Provost. I can say without hesitation that this position has been at once the most challenging and the most rewarding of my career thus far.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I have been. I have had some excellent mentors, and I have learned so much from each of them. By learning from setbacks, focusing on continuous professional development, and taking advantage of opportunities as they came along, I have gained a broad perspective of higher education. My actions and decisions are undergirded by the philosophy of our profession, and every day I use the management skills I learned in home economics/family and consumer sciences. These skills are indeed transferable, and they have enabled me to move up the higher education “career ladder.”