Faculty Handbook 2017-2018

I.1.b. Recognizing the value of being chair

When faculty members consider being a department chair, they may focus primarily on activities involved in conducting/managing the daily operational business of the department. While these activities are an integral aspect of the position, department chairs also have the opportunity to help lead the department to improve in areas that better facilitate student learning, that promote a better work environment for department faculty and staff, and that better support the College’s mission and strategic plan. These opportunities not only make the college better, but help the chair grow and develop individually as well. 

Value to the chair

  • Develop a broader perspective of both the department and the university. As chair, you gain a great deal of insight into how both the department and university at large operate and interact. This experience provides a perspective that makes you a more knowledgeable (and better) departmental and university colleague, especially with regard to department and university priorities.
  • Become familiar with faculty and staff in departments and offices across the university. Being chair allows you to develop personal working relationships with faculty and staff in other departments and offices. While these interactions certainly can happen without being chair, they are particularly effective when developed as a chair working with these various groups in the context of supporting the university mission/strategic plan/initiatives. Not surprisingly, you also develop better interpersonal skills after working with such a diverse group of individuals.
  • Experience personal accomplishment. There is something inherently satisfying and rewarding when you are able to make positive improvements to the department and/or university as a chair (no matter the scope or scale of the accomplishment).
  • Find a new calling. Some chairs discover that they have the skill set that works well in administration and decide that this is the next step in their academic journey.

Value to the institution

  • Improve the student experience. As chair, you have numerous opportunities to promote enhanced student learning/engagement (e.g., helping the department provide more student research opportunities, mentoring faculty to develop more student-centered courses, advising student clubs for the major, etc.).
  • Adjust curriculum to address department needs. The chair can help guide modifications to the departmental curriculum that promote enhanced student learning/engagement, that address changes happening within the discipline (and higher education in general), and/or that support university initiatives.
  • Act as mentor to departmental colleagues (faculty and staff). Being chair provides opportunities for you to work with department colleagues on a wide range of subjects (including day-to-day activities and wider university initiatives/topics in higher education). This mentoring/collaborative learning helps continue faculty/staff development for colleagues through all stages of their careers.
  • Serve as a department liaison. The chair often acts as the point person for the department (including interactions with the administration, other departments, alumni, parents, prospective students, general public, etc.); an essential role which provides a single source of contact for groups outside the department.