Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles of faculty and their research by Montgomery Van Wart, a professor of public administration and a CSUSB Faculty Research Fellow in Faculty Affairs and Development. In this article, he features Anna Ni, professor of public administration and associate dean of the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration, and how her research has increased since becoming associate dean.

By Montgomery Van Wart

Anna Ni, associate dean of the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration and a professor of public administration, is remarkable because she is an outstanding example of an “ambidextrous administrator.”

What is an ambidextrous administrator, you ask? It is an administrator who has maintained an active role in research. She is not the only example of an ambidextrous administrator on the CSUSB campus. For example, Shari McMahan has published a couple of peer-reviewed articles since coming to CSUSB as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. College of Education Dean Chinaka DonNwachukwu published a Rowman & Littlefield text on multiculturalism in 2019.

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We are fortunate to have numerous administrators who continue to attend professional conferences, review the work of colleagues, publish in their area of expertise as well as in academic administration sources; that is, who are ambidextrous administrators at CSUSB.

What makes Anna Ni extraordinary, however, is that her research role and productivity has increased since becoming associate dean!

Faculty in higher education are generally trained using the tripartite principles of faculty competence — teaching, research and service — as assistant and associate professors. But even at the associate professor level, many faculty start to withdraw from some of these roles. Some faculty limit themselves to two of the three classic elements, and as full professors, some really focus on just one role. Nonetheless, the “ideal” are faculty members who maintain their roles in all three, even as a full professor, chair or senior administrator.  

With over 1,000 Google citations, Ni is a prolific and successful scholar in a variety of areas. Her areas of expertise include privatization, public-private partnerships, innovation adoption, organization effectiveness/performance measurement, management information systems, cybersecurity, IT outsourcing, politics and policies of e-government, econometrics, and multivariate analysis.

Ni has 25 cited and in press articles; she is sole or lead author in half of them. She is also lead author of a textbook that she is currently revising for a second edition. Her long-term productivity rate is approximately 1.5 (cited) academic publications a year. Since becoming associate dean in 2018, she published five articles and has two additional pieces in press. She is working on three articles (with co-authors) in which the data has been collected and preliminary analysis has been done. Rather than slowing down, she has increased her research productivity of late.

Part of Ni’s productivity comes from her active role as co-principal investigator of the Online Learning Research Team at CSUSB. As co-principal investigator, she has functioned as the data designer and research methodologist for over 85 percent of the team’s research activities!

When asked how she does it all, she alternately laughs and sighs. “Well, you certainly better be organized,” she says, rolling her eyes. “And if you enjoy what you are doing, you don’t mind losing the occasional weekend or evening to focus on a research project.”

Ni likes to stay active in research not just because of the intellectual stimulation, but because it helps her do a better job as associate dean. She says that she has been helped by others in the past and she wants to help junior faculty be successful here at CSUSB. “It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction to know that I can help launch the careers of young faculty.”

She also noted that “my research in online teaching is also extremely beneficial to the college and university since online teaching is so critical to what we do. I feel really good my research helps me do my job as associate dean of the college and helps make us online leaders nationally.”

Ensuring the publication success of her research team is an ongoing process for her. She says her “top advice is to stay up-to-date with your research methods. For example, although I have gotten along with various types of multivariate analysis in the past, now I am teaching myself structural equation modeling.”

So despite being a full professor and an associate dean, Ni has found the time and energy to not only stay active, but increase her research leadership. While ambidextrous administrators “keep a hand” in research, only “Anna-dextrous” administrators actually increase their productivity.