Name and credentials:
Brian Harfe, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Assistant Provost, Office of Teaching and Technology
University of Florida
Your preferred contact information:
1) What does a typical day look like in your job?
There is no typical day in my world! There is a typical structure to the day, which is lots and lots of meetings. I start the day at 5:15 am and am in work by 7:45 am after dropping the kids off at school. Since most people don’t like to get in early, I usually have around an hour to catch up on email that people sent me during the night. I have standing meetings with the dean, all the associate deans in the college and the CLAS Research Office, which I oversee. I also meet monthly with the chairs of the seven science departments that I have oversight for and have regular meetings with the team in the Provost Office in my role as Assistant Provost. A normal day would have between 4-8 meetings with faculty, staff, and/or various outside people. I try to fit in a workout in the late afternoon or early evening before spending additional time answering emails before dinner. I do not – or least try not – to do work at night.
2) What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Allocating resources for projects that will improve student learning and research is my favorite aspect of my job. It is exciting to be able to approve projects that will affect the lives of thousands of students and/or advance a field of research.
3) What is the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging aspect of my job is understanding why people do some of the things they do. At the beginning of my administrative career, the provost sent me to a week-long training conference. When I got back, he asked what I had learned and I replied that administration seems to be about having “common sense”. Some of the challenging parts of my job over the past four years has been trying to understand, from the perspective of the employee, why they choose to pursue a certain action that was not in the best interest of the university or the employee.
4) What led you to this career choice?
I came to UF as a new assistant professor in the College of Medicine fourteen years ago, but I always wanted to do administration. During a job interview at a different institution, the chairperson asked me where I saw myself in 10 years… I told him, “in your job.” I really enjoy running large complex projects and found that my lab, even when firing on all cylinders (two R01 grants and a March of Dimes grant) was not a large enough group to be very satisfying. Seven years ago, I cornered the provost on campus and gave him my elevator pitch on what I wanted to do with my career. The next day, he called my chairperson (who was in the loop) and I ended up working for the provost for two and a half years on various projects. I then became Associate Dean in CLAS four and a half years ago.
I often get asked why I decided to not pursue administration in the College of Medicine, where my tenure home still is. I knew from the very beginning that my research program would greatly benefit from a medical school setting but that a “glass ceiling” would be reached in College of Medicine administration due to having a PhD and not a MD degree. I also love working with non-science faculty as well as scientists, which made CLAS a much better fit for me.
5) What do you know now that you wish you knew as an early-stage investigator?
During my early career, I tended not to listen to the opinions of my fellow faculty before making decisions. I am very good at assimilating information from a wide variety of sources and then making decisions but early in my career I would rely too much on my own viewpoints.