- Chair Roles and Responsibilities
The department Chair wears many hats; some days it feels as though we have to constantly change hats and shift our focus and attention to a new matter or task; that said, it is important to remember that during our tenure as Chair, we cannot take off that primary hat: all interactions with colleagues, staff, administrators, and students are colored by the lens of being the department Chair.
First and foremost, the Chair is the leader of the department – with a responsibility to ensure the highest level of excellence in terms of teaching, research, and service by the department. Second, the Chair is expected to guide the process of determining departmental goals, to articulate and advocate for the department in pursuit of these aims, and to maintain a climate that is hospitable to creativity and innovation. Third, the Chair serves as the key liaison between the department and the Dean and other administrators, other units, and external entities.
A representative list of the possible leadership and administrative responsibilities of the Chair are:
- Act as the representative of the department to USD’s administration and external constituencies.
- Articulate the goals of the department and act as an advocate of the department (faculty, staff and students) to the administration and external constituencies.
- Act as mentor and facilitator for the faculty to fulfill the teaching, research, and service missions of the department.
- Supervise, mentor and facilitate the work of the staff to fulfill the teaching, research, and service missions of the department.
- Encourage and facilitate faculty professional development; hold annual "development dialogues" with individuals to establish plans for teaching, research/creative work, and service.
- Lead faculty in important processes that shape the curriculum and have an impact on student learning, engagement and success.
- Foster and maintain a climate that is hospitable and encourages faculty engagement, participation, collegiality, and innovation.
- Oversee and manage the departmental processes for hiring, tenure, promotion, retention.
- Guide the department’s strategic planning processes and their implementation.
- Work with the Dean/College Development Officer to establish a plan for fundraising and engaging with external constituencies.
- Conduct searches for faculty (full-time, adjunct and part-time).
- Establish departmental budget priorities and allocations; monitor and reconcile the departmental budget.
- Evaluate tenure-line faculty and staff on an annual basis.
- Oversee the annual evaluation of adjunct faculty (e.g. organize adjunct faculty review teams; collect reviews; provide feedback to adjunct faculty).
- Manage faculty sabbatical leaves.
- Manage the departmental assessment process, ensuring that departmental learning goals are met, and lead department efforts in Academic Program Review.
- Manage all department facilities (in coordination with staff).
- Organize and preside over department meetings and retreats.
- Organize and preside over staff meetings (where applicable); meet regularly (weekly, bi-weekly) with the departmental Executive Assistant.
- Establish class schedules for fall, spring and summer sessions. Predict, monitor, manage, and optimize enrollment in all department courses.
- Provide departmental liaison, information and evaluations to administrative offices, as needed.
- Provide liaisons and information to faculty committees, ad hoc committees, accrediting organizations and other groups, as needed.
- Provide liaisons to related departments and the College.
- Represent the department at department Chair meetings and report the information back to the department.
- Process paperwork for various committees and offices (course proposals, declaration of major, etc.)
- Prepare proposals to request resources needed by the department (capital equipment, minor capital outlay, labor/non-labor/budget-addition, etc.)
- Manage and maintain all departmental records, and assume responsibility for preparation of reports (for various internal/College/University purposes).
- Provide oversight of first year student enrollments in department courses and make adjustments as necessary; identify and hire adjunct faculty to cover courses, if necessary.
- Anticipate departmental needs in terms of space/renovation projects, staff/faculty/personnel in the coming year(s), equipment or other budget items, and begin outlining the narrative(s) for requests to be made in the coming academic year.
- Review department assessment plan, make sure data collection and analysis from previous academic year is complete and thorough to prepare and submit the report due at the beginning of the fall semester.
- Advise incoming transfer students and help them register for classes.
- Invite faculty colleagues to coffee or lunch (individually) to talk about career progress and goals (if applicable), plans in teaching, research, service over the next three years (for example); also use these opportunities to “take the pulse” of the department on a number of topics you might be considering (curricular initiatives, future directions, funding opportunities, next hires, attracting majors, etc.).
Since you have a little breathing room and time to think, summer is a good time to let new ideas percolate and reveal themselves. Do a little “visioning” and strategizing on behalf of the department.
- Associate Chair and/or Director Roles and Responsibilities
In large or more complex departments, an administrative structure including an associate Chair or area directors may be implemented. A faculty member may also serve in an associate Chair position during a transitional year, before becoming department Chair. It is important that the responsibilities for these positions are clearly defined in relation to the Chair’s functions. The degree of specificity and distribution of responsibilities will necessarily vary among the different departments that have these positions. A representative list of the possible leadership and administrative responsibilities of the associate Chair follows:
- Assist the Chair (as necessary and appropriate) in department leadership aspects listed above. This also serves as a learning and experiential opportunity.
- Along with the Chair, facilitate and provide oversight for the academic programs of the department.
- Work closely with the Chair to establish class schedules for fall, spring and summer sessions, and predict, monitor, manage, and optimize enrollment in all department courses.
- Work closely with the Chair to establish teaching assignments in consultation with the faculty, communicate this information to the Dean, and regulate faculty workloads to meet the needs of the curriculum.
- Review and sign all student petitions for transfer of credit for department courses.
- Review and approve major declaration forms; maintain up-to-date list of majors and minors in the department.
- Assign academic advisors (when applicable) and balance advising assignments.
- Review and approve online graduation petitions.
- Coordinate important department events including 1) information sessions for prospective majors; 2) alumni reunion activities; 3) department social events and awards ceremonies.
- Attend staff meetings.
- Field requests and provide oversight for the use of facilities.
- Assume responsibility for updating department information in the Undergraduate Bulletin by established deadlines. Communicate updated information to the Associate Dean and Registrar.
- Leadership and Fostering a Collaborative Department Culture
It's important for the Chair to keep in mind the big picture of the well-being of the department as a whole, of the department's place in the College, and of the needs of students. It goes without saying that one hopes all faculty would have such a perspective, but it's very important for the Chair to weigh, consistently and deliberately, the needs and desires of individual faculty with the larger good, and to model this perspective for the rest of the department. Examples of how the Chair can balance and lead with the big picture in mind:
- Work to establish and maintain a collegial environment, one in which individual and collective goals are clear, respected and in sync because all members feel that they are valued, that they have a stake in the endeavor, that they are part of the team, and that they have ownership in the department's work;
- Take time for the department to consider what its goals are, and if those goals are being met (via assessment and Academic Program Review);
- Help departmental members get along with each other (personnel and personality issues within a department are some of the more challenging issues a Chair will face);
- To the degree possible, learn and use effective powers of persuasion to share the load of service tasks within the department;
- Seek and find ways to balance the wide variety of factors that go into what courses are taught when and by whom, including course offerings for majors and Core courses for non-majors;
- Establish a department culture of fairness to balance faculty's ability to teach in their areas of strength with the needs of the curriculum;
- Establish a department culture of fairness to balance faculty’s expectations to teach in the blocks they prefer while also sharing the burden of teaching in unpopular blocks;
- Establish a department culture of fairness to balance faculty’s expectations to teach both introductory courses and upper-level courses.
The Chair has the important role of helping faculty in the department be realistic about how much of what they do can be chosen entirely individually and how much should be done in consultation with others, and with attention to the needs of others. How much latitude is available can also depend on the nature of one's department, particularly with regard to curriculum. Some departments have standard introductory courses, but almost everything above that is flexible whereas other departments may have a more rigid structure throughout the curriculum. Taking the time to explain and discuss with faculty—clearly and frequently—a department’s culture and philosophy with regard to assigning course loads goes a long way towards helping morale in the long run.
It is the Chair's responsibility to ensure deadlines are met for a variety of deliverables, including those for which you require input, written work, letters, and/or signatures of colleagues. In order to ensure that the entire department completes its work and meets deadlines punctually, consider the following suggestions:
Well in advance of the deadline(s), communicate publicly and via email the dates that materials are needed. Set up automatic or manually send out reminders as the deadline approaches.
- Use a DropBox or Blackboard secure site for colleagues to submit materials. You can also have a "track sheet" that indicates publicly (within the department) who has and has not submitted the required item. Missing a deadline affects not only the work of the Chair, but of the entire department, and departmental members should assume their part of this collective responsibility.
- If you have to confront a colleague about frequently missing deadlines, remind the person of the "whys" involved: Why is it important that they have input in a colleague's review? Why is it important to vote on a departmental matter? It is disrespectful to continually miss deadlines, and procrastination by even a single person can affect the whole department. If a colleague misses deadlines regularly, address the situation; do not ignore it, as such behavior will likely continue in the future. Similarly, do not take on the additional work of that colleague in order to meet the deadline; after providing them a reasonable time to participate, advance the department’s business without their input.
The Chair is a crucial source of all sorts of information to department members. Depending on the information to be communicated, you may use email, phone, one-on-one personal visits, hallway conversations, weekly department meetings, or small group/office discussions. Regardless of the mode, short, simple and direct communication works well - actively try not to waste someone's time. In some cases (especially with a less responsive colleague), it works well to ask what mode of communication is preferred, and make an effort to accommodate that.
When communicating via email, avoid long, detailed narratives and go for bulleted points that can be read easily. It takes practice to write a concise yet informative email message. Be sensitive to inundating colleagues with emails.
More and more, email serves as a critical record of conversations. Get yourself organized by creating folders for various categories of emails: e.g. a folder for each department faculty member; a folder for communication to/from Dean's office; a folder to/from students/majors/minors; a folder to/from various campus administrators/offices, etc.
Ideas for Leading a Department Retreat
Some departments find it useful to hold a half-day or full-day retreat (extended department meeting) to allow for discussion of pressing issues, new initiatives, program review, action plan, and curricular items, among other topics. Here are some suggestions for thinking about how to organize a retreat:
- Save the date: It is recommendable to set the date and have faculty save it on their calendars many months in advance. By doing so, your chances of achieving full attendance are much greater.
- Location: A retreat may be held on campus or off campus. One suggestion for off campus is The Dana on Mission Bay (funds are needed to cover room rental and food, if desired – cost is approximately $1600 for room 8am-5pm, breakfast, snacks, lunch, all day coffee/water for 15 people). If the retreat is organized as part of or recommended by your Academic Program Review, you may be able to obtain funds to cover some of the expenses from the Dean’s or Provost’s office. If you plan the retreat on campus, consider using a space away from the department’s typical meeting place and faculty offices in order to create a setting outside the normal routine and to encourage attendees to be completely “present.”
- Timing: Semester breaks are often a good time to hold a retreat; if faculty are willing, schedule the retreat in January, before spring classes begin or August, before fall classes begin. Of course, any time your faculty are willing to meet for 3-4 hours is a good time for a retreat!
- Agenda: It works well to put together the agenda well in advance of the retreat (especially if materials/data needs to be gathered/reviewed for discussion). One idea is for the Chair to do a little brainstorming and come up with some ideas for agenda items, email the list to the faculty and ask for input/comments/ideas (depending on how far in advance, this can be a 2-4 week process). Gather all of the ideas and see what themes emerge (for example, curriculum topics, faculty-centric topics, student-centric topics, research/scholarship-centric topics, etc.), determine a logical order/flow to the discussions, while trying to anticipate how much time to give each topic (hard!). Gather data and statistics to share with the department (e.g. number of majors, number of minors, grade distributions, percentage of D/W/Fs in classes, student data, etc.)
Leadership and Changing Department Culture
A presentation given by Tammy Dwyer (Chemistry and Biochemistry) to new department Chairs in August 2016 is a thoughtful guide to helping chairs navigate department culture.
- Chair Review (Process and Timing)
Performing the role of department Chair is a service to the department that holds unique responsibilities. After their first year and a half in the position, Chairs go through an evaluation process to get feedback from the Department and the Dean on their performance as Chairs through an evaluation process that consists of the following:
- Self-Evaluation: The Chair writes a brief self-evaluation letter (1-3 pages) generally addressing attention to the following responsibilities expected from an effective and conscientious department Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences:
- Faculty development: Develops effective mentorship structures; provides timely and clear merit/performance evaluations; suggests and encourages faculty development opportunities both on and off campus; supports faculty in accomplishing teaching and research interests; and manages adjunct faculty recruitment, mentorship and evaluation.
- Leadership/decision making: Communicates University and College-wide policy to department members; appropriately includes department members in departmental decisions; assigns duties equitably and appropriately; performs duties with integrity, credibility and fairness.
- Representation of the department: Effectively represents the department interests and individual faculty interests to the administration; attends College department Chair meetings and reports on College policy updates; represents the department at university-wide events or identifies alternates.
- Initiative: Seeks department improvements and innovations.
- Management: Completes scheduling and budget oversight duties in a timely manner; supervises departmental assessment; manages student concerns; facilitates department meetings; and manages departmental staff.
The Chair submits this letter to the faculty and Dean by April 1st.
- Faculty Chair Review Meeting and Letters: Faculty meet, without the Chair present, to discuss the Chair’s performance. After the meeting faculty write individual letters (one-page limit) to the Dean evaluating the department Chair’s performance. Sealed letters from each department member are sent in one packet to the College Dean’s Office by April 30th. Adjunct faculty should also have the opportunity to write letters. As part of the letter, each faculty member should include Chair’s strengths and areas for improvement.
- Dean’s Meeting with Chair: The Dean meets with the Chair and reviews responses from the departmental evaluation before May 15th. The Dean and department Chair discuss Chair’s strengths, areas of improvement, development options, and future tenure of the Chair.
- Timeline: A call for evaluations is sent out by the Dean on March 1st of a department Chair’s second year of service.
March 1 This request for Chair’s evaluation sent from Dean’s Office to departments
April 1 Chair’s self-evaluation letter sent to the Dean and faculty members
By April 20 Each department meets without the Chair
April 30 Individual faculty letters due in the Dean’s Office in a package
May 15 Meetings between Chairs and Dean completed
- Subsequent Chair Reviews: After a Chair has had a full review, an expedited review process is conducted each of the next four years. Chairs submit to the Dean, by April 1, a self-evaluation letter as described above. The Dean’s office attaches this letter to a ballot that is sent to all tenured/tenure track faculty members in the department by April 5. The faculty members vote either to have a full review of the Chair or not by April 12. A full review is initiated when voted for by one-third or more of the tenured/tenure track faculty (not counting the Chair or faculty on sabbatical). Every fifth year after that there is another full review.
- Chair Selection, Rotation, and Replacement
The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences appoints department Chairs. In most cases, the Dean invites input and recommendations from department faculty. In general, the appointment of department Chairs should be based upon: 1) the ability to provide intellectual leadership in the development of departmental faculty and programs; 2) the ability to provide administrative leadership in the effective functioning of the department; and 3) possessing personal skills to deal effectively with students, faculty, administrators, and support staff within the department, College, and University.
The term of a Chair is approximately 3-5 years, subject to change based on the result of the Chair review process and other factors. The process of replacing a department Chair should begin with a discussion with the Dean of the College prior to any internal department conversations.
- Chair Reassigned Time and Compensation
Resulting from the work of several CAS Chairs Compensation Committees since 2006, a recommendation was made in 2014 to base reassigned time given to a department Chair according to a workload formula. Currently, this formula considers the # of full-time faculty; # of benefits-based and non-benefits based adjunct faculty; # of majors; # of students taught; # of sections of courses offered; total # of staff members; # of minors. The workload measure includes differently weighted factors in the order listed above. Based on this workload model, Chairs may receive from 6-9 units of reassigned time per academic year.
The College allocates a stipend to each Chair: $2,000 for each semester and $2000 for summer, for a total of $6000 per year. In the event the summer responsibilities of the Chair are shared with one or more colleagues, the summer stipend is distributed accordingly.
Other Administrative Compensation
- Graduate Program Directors: compensation for graduate program directors is one course per year and a $2000 stipend ($700 each semester and $600 in the summer).
- Other Program Directors and Coordinators: Other program directors and coordinators will receive compensation in recognition of the time and attention required to do an effective job. This compensation is determined on a case-by-case basis by the Dean. To be considered for compensation for directors and coordinators, the department must submit a "Stipend and Reassigned-Time Award Application" to determine the compensation that is commensurate with the amount of work. The recommended compensation for program directors and coordinators is a stipend (the amount equivalent to one-course reassignment - approximately 150 hours of work) or 1/2-course reassignment (approximately 75 hours of work, for example). A new application must be submitted for reconsideration every year. This application must include a clear job description with an itemized list of duties of the program director or coordinator, the number of students served, the number of hours of expected work, etc.
- Chair transition: A department may apply for a stipend for the incoming Chair to begin training for the new position the year before the Chair transition. Additionally, the department may select to grant one of its allocated course reassignments to the transition Chair, depending on the amount of Chair duties he/she will perform during the transition year.
- Work Life Balance, Research Productivity and Time Management
The demands on the department Chair can be, in a word, enormous. The ability of the Chair to stay organized, create efficiencies, and maintain a productive career as teacher-scholar contributes to the sense of one’s satisfaction in the role. Here are some experiences and tips (and, where possible, best practices) for you to consider:
Tip 1: It is exceedingly difficult to achieve "balance" of work and family/life over the course of any particular day (with exception, perhaps, of weekends). Rather, try to achieve whatever "balance" you can over a slightly longer period of time, that is, for an entire week or a month. This highlights the importance of an effective schedule.
Tip 2: Learn to set a schedule for each week, using blocks of time for particular activities/tasks and then, most importantly, protect that time. Just as your teaching schedule and office hours are set each week, schedule time for research, writing, handling paperwork/Chair duties behind a closed door, lunch, meetings (especially recurring), etc. It is also possible to schedule in time to dream/vision, strategize, read, and simply think about upcoming meetings/issues in the department. Think about meeting with another Chair or mentor once per week to bounce off ideas. Protecting your schedule means not scheduling other activities during these blocks of time.
Tip 3: Organize yourself by becoming a "list maker". At the beginning of a week, make a "to do" list - with "big ticket" items first, and drill down to whatever minutiae you need to remind yourself of tasks and deadlines. Commit to marking off a certain number of "to do" items each day - sometimes it is good to start with the most challenging item first to get it out of the way, and then proceed only to other items you "look forward" to!
Tip 4: Set boundaries for work life and family life. Reflect on those aspects of your life (outside of work) that give you pleasure, keep you sane and healthy, and commit to carving out time during your week (even if you have to schedule them in!) to continue these activities. As much as you (as Chair) are expected to show up for meetings, and perform the duties of the position, you should protect your "you" time/activities with similar commitment. Don't allow anyone else to schedule your life - do it yourself.
Tip 5: Enforce "email free" time - either after hours and weekends, or after 9 pm and before 6 am; or just on weekends. Unless there is a threat to someone's personal safety that you can directly affect, there is often little your immediate response can do. Avoid giving others the impression that you are "always on".
Tip 6: Where appropriate, delegate tasks to others. Remember, you are the person receiving reassigned time for serving as Chair, so you don’t want to overdo this. For time-consuming tasks such as approving petitions for transfer of credit, carve out a block of time once per week, at the same time (say, every Friday) to process these requests. Fight the temptation to constantly switch gears/tasks to stop and approve a request when it comes in - it can be more efficient to process such items en masse.
Research Productivity: There is no single method for ensuring that you will be able to maintain the same level of research productivity while serving as Chair - it is going to take a hit. What you can control however, is your attitude towards a (real or perceived) decline in research productivity. Certainly, carving out and protecting time each week for research is a key step towards advancing your scholarship.
Time Management Strategies: There is no single method for managing one's time that works for everyone. In addition to the suggestions/tips above, consider reading some excellent articles on the subject such as:
Make sure your space is ergonomically appropriate for your body.