About NCAD

The National Conference of Academic Deans

Established in 1941 by Drs. Schiller Scroggs and Henry Bennett at Oklahoma State University, the National Conference of Academic Deans (NCAD) is one of the nation’s oldest organizations focused on the deanship. The conference is a self-perpetuating event, held annually in July at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway, Arkansas. Conference participants include chief academic officers, deans, and associate deans, representing colleges and universities from across the nation. The individual who chairs the conference alternates between deans representing public and private institutions, and is elected annually by the participants in attendance. A major strength of the conference is that programs are planned by the deans to address problems relevant to them. The small size of the conference is also a plus. Typically there are 60 to 70 participants which provides an ideal setting for informal discussions and the development of friendships with fellow deans. The fact that so many participants return to the conference (some for more than 20 years) offers testimony to the value of NCAD. Each year there are special sessions for new deans that feature a panel of experienced deans who offer advice and respond to questions. There are also case study sessions where deans work in small groups to explore solutions to complex administrative problems.

Preliminary program planning for the next year occurs during the conference in a session that includes former program chairs, the chair-elect, and the conference host. The first order of business is to identify a conference theme that forms the basis for decisions about the types of sessions to be organized for the next conference. To facilitate decision-making, conference participants complete a questionnaire to offer suggestions for a theme and specific programs. Planning group members use the results of this survey to inform their decisions. Once consensus is achieved on the theme, keynote speakers who can address topics related to it are identified. The selected theme is generally a reflection of new developments or challenges that deans face in a given year. The theme for the 2006 conference, for example, was “Instructional Technology for Today’s Students”. The keynote speaker was Dr. Steven W. Gilbert, President of the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group, of Tacoma Park, Maryland. The selection of this theme was driven by the rapid growth of electronically enhanced instruction and online courses and degree programs. Sessions for that conference focused on questions related to the selection of technology, faculty development, administrative support, and emerging legal issues related to electronic learning.

Higher education historians who study administrative trends would be interested in reviewing conference themes over the past seven decades. This list of themes may be found on the conference Website at www.uca.edu/ncad The theme for the first annual meeting in 1941, “Problems of the Dean”, is significant because it defined the purpose of the conference, which was to give deans a forum where they could discuss the challenges of the day in an informal and intimate setting. Throughout the history of the National Conference, the format and limited size of this event clearly reflects consistent adherence to the intentions of the founders of NCAD.

At the close of the conference, participants submit a written evaluation, which serves as an excellent source of information for the conference host and the chair as programs are planned for the following year. This information also offers insight into why so many participants continue to return each summer. Many of the participants new to the deanship, for example, report that they appreciate the opportunity to learn from experienced administrators. Others state that learning how deans from different parts of the country address problems gives them a new perspective on the challenges they face. Experienced and new deans alike see the development of friendships with colleagues, and the opportunity to call each other for advice on perplexing issues as a major benefit of their participation in the conference.

The conference was held on the campus of Oklahoma State University until 1995, when it was relocated to the University of Memphis. It then moved to Texas Women’s University in 1999, and came to the University of Central Arkansas in 2001. Participants appreciate the convenience of the conference in Conway, which is an easy 30 minute drive from Little Rock National Airport. They also praise the inexpensive cost of the conference and hotels, and the exceptional quality of conference facilities at the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. Information about the next conference is posted on the conference Website at www.uca.edu/ncad. Specific questions about the conference may be directed to the UCA Division of Outreach and Community Engagement at 501.450.5266

Click here for a complete listing of all NCAD Conferences.