Faculty Handbook 2017-2018

I.1.g. Organizing and transferring information to the next chair

At Hendrix, the role of department chair changes on a routine basis between faculty members (typically chairs have a maximum of two consecutive terms of three years each). In order to maintain continuity and to facilitate a smooth transition to the new incoming chair, the outgoing chair should strive to develop an organizational file system early in their term that can serve as a library of examples/reference for the new incoming chair. In addition to physical files (digital and/or paper), new chairs also would likely benefit from mentoring sessions with the previous chair (either formally on a bi-weekly/ monthly basis during the first few semesters or informally as the need arises). 


  • Organize early, organize often. As you assume the role of chair, make a regular practice of keeping copies of memos, reports, department meeting minutes, emails, budgets, curriculum changes, etc. (basically any paperwork/files related to your role as chair. These materials not only serve as a record of departmental business, but also provide examples for future reports, proposals, etc.
  • Dedicate a file cabinet space and a computer folder that you can share for chair business. When you retain all of the materials described above related to your work as chair, it becomes easy to “drown” in the clutter and the sheer number of items. The simplest approach to keeping materials associated with your business as chair organized is to dedicate a file cabinet for paperwork and a folder on your one drive for digital files. Create labeled (heading & date) sub-folders, so that you can readily file (and retrieve) the materials quickly and efficiently.
  • Correspond and/or follow-up by email and cc yourself. It is easy to respond orally to questions at meetings or in the hallway. However, it is important to establish a paper trail that serves as a record of any important aspects of the conversations (e.g., decisions, follow-ups, timelines, etc.). As described above, create a labeled (heading & date) folder system for emails, so that they can be easily filed and retrieved.
  • Handle confidential material carefully. Because the role of department chair changes on a routine basis, some materials (e.g., records regarding hiring decisions, minutes from departmental personnel committees, correspondence regarding disciplinary actions for a departmental faculty member, etc. ) may be inappropriate for a new chair to see. Such files should be retained by the chair at that time, and not passed on to a permanent repository for future chairs. 

Mentoring the new chair

  • Offer to set up formal mentoring/discussion sessions with the new chair during the transitional period. For a few months after the incoming chair has assumed the position, it may be helpful to organize bi-weekly/monthly mentoring sessions to discuss current issues and upcoming tasks. These sessions might be timed to occur as the new chair is preparing to work on a particular task (e.g., setting up the schedule of classes, writing a major report/proposal, etc.). The idea is to give the new chair an idea of what you did in that situation and why you did it.
  • Plan to be available for Q&A sessions on an informal basis. The new chair is going to have questions. At first, you may think that you still are chair...but the questions will get fewer and farther between. Your receptiveness to questions will help the new chair feel comfortable seeking your advice during their first semester or two as chair.
  • Know when to “let go”. Don’t be too overbearing or intrusive in the work of your successor.