Effective chairpersons engage in collaborative governance with the members of their faculty.
However, collaborative governance imposes the responsibility of leadership. As leaders of their departmental “teams,” the following is expected of department chairs —
Creating and maintaining an atmosphere of trust, and a departmental culture in which shared governance is valued and functions effectively
Distrust, disenfranchisement, and perceptions of inequity are the most common causes of dysfunctional departments. While maintaining an independent voice, effective chairs minimize the potential for the emergence of these destructive factors by fostering an environment in which faculty feel respected, heard, and recognized for their efforts.
Providing for faculty development
The department chair fosters the scholarly growth, research, creative activities, and teaching effectiveness of departmental members. This includes creating and/or maintaining a departmental culture supportive of faculty development and productivity, the dissemination of notices regarding development opportunities, and efforts to provide the facilities and infrastructure for successful faculty development.
- The chair encourages attendance at workshops and professional conferences.
- The chair encourages faculty to acquire externally-funded grants, and keeps faculty informed regarding both intra- and extra-mural granting opportunities.
- The chair recognizes sabbaticals as an important opportunity for faculty renewal, development, and enrichment.
- The chair encourages nomination of eligible faculty and staff for recognition honors, such as Chancellors Awards, Distinguished Professorships, the Adele Catlin Secretarial Award.
Leading the department in change
Perhaps nothing characterizes academia these days more than change. Students, faculty, disciplines, resources, administrative objectives, and political climates all change. Effective departments deal with change adaptively, and effective chairs lead their departments in the response to change.
Developing shared goals and standards
Faculty, by and large, tend to be individualistic. Indeed, the prospect of being able to function independently (academic freedom, the pursuit of one’s research interests, flexible schedules) are factors that attracted many of us to the academic environment in the first place. Departments, however, represent a group of individuals - and chairs lead departments, not the individuals who comprise them. Helping individuals to work toward shared goals and visions is one of the major challenges of departmental leadership.
Enforcing the standards by which the department has chosen to evaluate itself and its members
As with students, the performance of departments, their faculty, and their courses/programs, are routinely assessed. Chairs should ensure that the standards by which assessments are made are clear, meaningful, and uniformly applied.
Representing the department at College functions
All faculty are expected to attend various College-wide functions reflecting student, faculty, and institutional achievement (e.g., Academic Convocation, Commencement, Faculty/Staff Convocation, Honors Convocation, Scholars Day). As official departmental representatives (and faculty role models), chairs especially should attend these functions and encourage their faculty to attend.