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The Interim

A Guide to Transition Leadership in Higher Education

Daniel J. Bernardo


Written for those in or considering a temporary academic leadership role, a past Washington State University interim president uses real-life examples from more than forty current and former acting administrators to provide a thoughtful step-by-step guide for navigating the interim experience and deriving maximum benefit.

Illustrations / bibliography / index / 192 pages (2022)

Read Daniel J. Bernardo’s interview with Inside Higher Ed


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Shortly after the charismatic leader of his institution suddenly passed away, Daniel J. Bernardo stepped into a tumultuous first month as interim president of Washington State University (WSU). WSU had just received approval to start a medical school—the university’s most ambitious initiative in thirty years. Then FBI staff advised him—in person—that an unnamed Eastern European country was using the campus network to spear phish federal agencies. Intense Pacific Northwest forest fires created an air quality problem that posed a public health threat, and a conservative watchdog group found online syllabi for three “Comparative Ethnic Studies” classes and contacted FOX News. The station aired a report (correctly) alleging that statements in the syllabi infringed on students’ free speech. The story initiated a firestorm of complaints.

Transitions are inevitable in every organization. Like Bernardo, deans, vice presidents, provosts, and other executives are often thrust into positions for which they have little direct experience or preparation, at the most inopportune times. Bernardo interviewed more than forty former and current acting administrators. Using real-life examples, he provides a step-by-step guide for navigating various transition stages and deriving the most benefit from the experience. He addresses key administrative functions within the context of interim leadership—time, fiscal, and change management; working with a new team; and external relations. Finally, he discusses building a functional support network and self care. Written for those in or considering a temporary leadership role, The Interim will also be useful for those who influence their success—the executives who manage them and the personnel who support them.

Daniel J. Bernardo is currently a professor and provost emeritus for Washington State University. Prior to WSU, he was the head of Kansas State University’s Agricultural Economics department. He has held academic administrative positions at WSU since 2005, initially as the dean for the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, and then as provost. He served as interim president from 2015 to 2016, and continued as a senior advisor to the president from 2018 to 2020. He received his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University.

Read Daniel J. Bernardo’s interview about transitional leadership with Inside Higher Ed

Illustrations / bibliography / index / 192 pages (2022)

ISBN 978-0-87422-413-9 Paperback


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eBook, Paperback