Texas Tech University

Resources for Department Chairs

The TLPDC and friends have put together several resources for Department Chairs. We hope these resources can aid during your time as a Department Chair and our plan is to add more resources.

Bartlett, Kenneth R., et al. “Faculty Engagement and Well-Being: A Vital Leadership Role for Chairs.” The Department Chair, vol. 26, no. 4, 2016, pp. 14–16. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30077.

The role of leadership is increasingly complex with an expanded list of job tasks, greater spans of responsibility, and progressive pressure for improved performance. It is now assumed that leaders should have well‐developed skill sets in areas that include open communication, cross‐generational collaborative decision making, and high levels of technological savvy (often even extending to maintaining an individual public social media presence). In addition, there is heightened awareness of the role of leaders to foster and maintain positive employee attitudes and the need to direct attention to how the workplace influences employee well‐being. These new leadership realities are not restricted to corporate positions, as many in academic leadership note the same trends. Perhaps no academic leadership position is more important for influencing faculty attitudes and well‐being than the department chair. This article will discuss the vital role of the chair in fostering high levels of faculty engagement and how this influences well‐being.

Buller, Jeffrey L. “Authentic Leadership for Department Chairs.” The Department Chair, vol. 25, no. 3, 2015, pp. 14–16. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30007.

Your prioritized list of values is your entrée into authentic leadership. Place it somewhere prominent where you'll encounter it several times a day. When you look at the list, ask yourself, “What have I done today that results from my commitment to [one of the values on the list]?” You can't expect each of your core values to guide you in a decision every single day, but if you find weeks going by without being able to think of a clear example when one of the items on the list informed how you made a particular decision or acted under a particular set of circumstances, you'll need to consider whether that value really does reflect a principle that's important to you. Moreover, the mere act of regularly reflecting on these values will prompt you to incorporate more authentic leadership into your work as department chair.

Chun, Edna, et al. The Department Chair as Transformative Diversity Leader: Building Inclusive Learning Environments in Higher Education. Illustrated, Stylus Publishing, 2015.

Edna Chun and Alvin Evans' work on the department chair and diversity fills a gap in the literature on academic leadership. They argue that the academic chair is the pivot for diversity in higher education, particularly as increasing numbers of minoritized students enter the academy. Student diversity contrasts with the overwhelming white maleness of academic administrators, including 90 percent of chairs. Nevertheless, chairs are poised to enhance both the student experience of diversity and diverse faculty diversity development. The authors used an online survey and interviewed chairs across the nation to assess the current level of progress in diversity, to address barriers to diversity, to understand environmental factors that can promote or impede diversity, and to articulate strategies for developing diversity. They were particularly interested in talking with minoritized chairs and in the impact of diversity on student learning.

Domenick, Pinto. “The Evolving Role of Department Chair: Leading Faculty Through Times of Change.” School of Computer Science & Engineering Faculty Publications at Sacred Heart University, 2013, digitalcommons.sacredheart.edu/computersci_fac/1.

How does one manage conflict and change in a very volatile economic climate where academia is experiencing greater accountability, increased emphasis on outcome assessment, declining enrollment and great uncertainty for the future? The role of department chair has, in many cases, become one entrenched in conflict between the role of faculty and administrator and has experienced a tremendous evolution over the last 25 years. The role of department chair has changed as economic, social and student climates have changed. This paper will summarize collected data from chairs of departments of various sizes and types in order to discuss and understand better our ever changing role as we see responsibilities of delegating, leading change, creative budgeting and fundraising, grant writing and managing conflict become vital to our positions.

Griffith, John. “Department Chair Leadership: From Theory to Best Practice.” The Department Chair, vol. 31, no. 3, 2020, pp. 15–16. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30365.

If you ask any leader what their most valuable asset is, they will answer: “Our people.” In an academic setting, you will often hear “our faculty” to that same question. We can learn from experts how to best take care of our faculty and staff.

Lloyd‐Jones, Brenda. “Department Chair Leadership Skills20122Walter H. Gmelch and Val D. Miskin. Department Chair Leadership Skills. Atwood Publishers, 2011. 176 Pp., ISBN: 978‐1‐891859‐79‐3 $27.95.” Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 50, no. 2, 2012, pp. 245–48. Crossref, doi:10.1108/09578231211210585.

Although academic chairpersons have a vital role in the success of their departments, only 3 percent of them receive effective training in leadership (Gmelch and Miskin, 2011). In their book, Department Chair Leadership Skills, Gmelch and Miskin (2011, p. 5) emphasize that “the time of “amateur administration” – where professors play musical chairs, stepping occasionally into the role of department chair – is over”. To their credit, the authors offer academicians practical ways in which to develop leadership skills. Drawing from their own combined extensive scholarship, research findings, and higher education leadership experiences, Gmelch and Miskin have written a comprehensive resource manual replete with self‐assessment activities, planning forms, and leadership inventories and instruments, thus demonstrating their commitment to leadership training and the development of the “next generation of department chairs” (Gmelch and Miskin, 2011, p. 18).</em

Wilson, Randal H., and Teresa Clark. “From the Boardroom to the Classroom: Transitioning from Administrator to Professor Using Existing Skills and Leadership Traits.” The Department Chair, vol. 28, no. 4, 2018, pp. 21–22. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30191.

An emerging trajectory in education, the path from administrator to faculty member may occur for varied reasons, from professional to personal. Although the literature is rife with research on the faculty member transitioning to leadership, little is found on transitioning leaders to the faculty. What does exist primarily provides tips and suggestions for a successful transition. This study did not seek to add to this knowledge but rather sought to identify skills, traits, and leadership styles already possessed by the transitioning administrator that could be useful, or not, in the classroom. In addition, by identifying areas where more information could have been useful, this study could help future transitioning administrators know what to ask when they assume their new roles. Going into the new role with the knowledge that some of what you know still works could be reassuring and help to smooth the process.

Youngquist, Jeff. “Adaptability: A Universal Constant of Effective Academic Leadership.” The Department Chair, vol. 30, no. 2, 2019, pp. 9–10. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30282.

Be Attentive to Your Environment, Assess Your Behaviors, Identify Alternative Behaviors, and Enact Change to Adapt to Change Youngquist, Jeffrey, et al. “Academic Leadership and Creativity.” The Department Chair, vol. 29, no. 4, 2019, pp. 20–22. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30256. Inspiring faculty to conduct robust research, teach at higher levels, and find new solutions to operational issues challenges the best creative abilities of academic leadership. Unfortunately, the organizational structure and management practices ubiquitous in higher education function to reduce or eliminate creative leaders. In addition, the minimal leadership training available to academic chairs tends to prioritize established procedures and to emphasize the learning of best practices promoting the status quo. Concurrently, innovation and creativity are not embraced. Creativity is traditionally defined as a dynamic process that requires both originality and effectiveness, with effectiveness being a value judgment about the appropriateness of the product (Corazza 2016).

Zhang, Xiaoni. “Emotional Discipline Leadership: An Interim Chair's Experience.” The Department Chair, vol. 30, no. 3, 2020, pp. 16–17. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30300.

Being in a technology department that is historically chaired by males has provided a wide range of challenges. I have been perceived to be a productive researcher and hard worker; that's the stereotype I've earned. I did not show any interest in administrative duties and my focus was my job and my family. In the spring of 2018, when the opportunity arose for the interim chair position, I thought for a while and eventually decided to take the job. Frankly, I did not know what I was about to get into. I am cognizant of my strengths as a faculty member, but I wanted to know more about myself. In a character strength assessment conducted two years ago, I learned that my top character strengths are honesty, kindness, curiosity, perception, perseverance, teamwork, and self‐regulation. My colleagues say that I always have a smile on my face and have a positive attitude toward everything. With these characteristics, I believed I would be an effective chair.

Davis, Corrie L., and Neporcha Cone. “Transitioning from Interim to Permanent Department Chair.” The Department Chair, vol. 28, no. 4, 2018, pp. 24–25. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30192.

The work of a department chair is demanding and time consuming yet rewarding. When stepping into this role on an interim basis, one is faced with the same responsibilities and challenges that a permanent chair endures. Instant decisions need to be made, and faculty, staff, and students need you to lead immediately. Although this can be a daunting task, this process can become more stressful if the interim chair also aspires to be the permanent chair. This article represents the experiences of two interim chairs, who, after a national search, became the permanent chairs of their respective departments. We first offer a discussion on lessons learned from being an interim chair and then provide tips for successfully transitioning from interim to the permanent chair.

Hope, Joan. “21st‐Century Skills Don't Exist in a Vacuum.” The Department Chair, vol. 29, no. 4, 2019, p. 13. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30252.

At the annual meeting for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Matthew Hora, assistant professor for adult and higher education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, shared how teaching and measuring so‐called soft skills, or 21st‐century skills, is inherently problematic. “Some of the problems we're raising [at UW Madison] with these lists in general is that they either imply or explicitly state that these skills are generic and decontextualized competencies,” Hora said, adding that that simply isn't true. Concepts like creativity, teamwork, collaboration, communication, and problem‐solving are deeply embedded in issues of race, gender, and class.

Shoenthal, David. “The Dynamics of Communication: Department Chair Responsibilities.” PRIMUS, vol. 30, no. 6, 2020, pp. 711–19. Crossref, doi:10.1080/10511970.2020.1737604.

In this paper, the author highlights several facets of personnel issues that can arise during one's time as a mathematics department chair and recommend communication strategies to address them. The strategies involve situations with individual faculty members, general communication with faculty, and communication with the administration.

Weaver, Lisa D., et al. “The Changing Role of the Department Chair in the Shifting Landscape of Higher Education.” International Journal of Higher Education, vol. 8, no. 4, 2019, p. 175. Crossref, doi:10.5430/ijhe.v8n4p175.

Historically, empirical research exploring the roles, responsibilities, and challenges of department chairs has been limited and narrow in scope. In addition, these studies have not kept pace with the rapidly changing nature of higher education. The current study consists of data collected from a survey of current and former chairs at a small, rural university in Pennsylvania. Questions in the survey included topics such as dealing with bureaucracy, lack of time for individual research, job-related stress, dealing with noncollegial faculty, excessive workload, and training for department chairs. Findings are in line with previous empirical research and illustrate the need for evidence-based decisions regarding the nature of academic department chair leadership training and support.

Taggart, Gabel. “Department Chair Advice on Teaching and Research at U.S. Research Universities.” Innovative Higher Education, vol. 40, no. 5, 2015, pp. 443–54. Crossref, doi:10.1007/s10755-015-9329-4.

Using data from a 2010 survey of academic chairs, this study reports on academic department chairs' recommended time allocations to new assistant professors. I contend that personal values about research and teaching influence the department chair's recommendations along with organizational characteristics. Multi-level modeling indicates that department chairs' own academic time allocations, promotion history, and desire for quality teaching as well as organizational characteristics such as research facilities, average teaching load, and research ranking influence the department chairs' advice. These results suggest that organizational characteristics do not dominate official, individual actions within the university setting as bureaucratic and neo-institutional theories might predict.

Borchardt, Jamie. “Surviving the Pandemic as a Department Chair.” The Department Chair, vol. 31, no. 3, 2020, pp. 26–27. Crossref, doi:10.1002/dch.30370.

As we left for the 2020 spring break, no one could have anticipated the changes that have taken place over the last several months. During this time, faculty have had to switch to a fully online modality and/or transition courses that were once face‐to‐face or hybrid to online. In addition, fall semester courses must be taught hybrid, using synchronous and asynchronous formats with Zoom recordings. These adjustments have presented novel and monumental tasks for department chairs. Our university created a new Center for Educational Excellence, and within it is a program directly related to leadership development that will assist current and upcoming leaders in their appointments as chairs. The chair position on my campus has a high turnover rate, so the university believes that assistance with leadership development will be beneficial, especially during these challenging times. We all are continuing the process of our normal routine as department chairs, as well as dealing with the extra work the pandemic has brought, so we must engage in some self‐care to maintain our health and well‐being.

Buller, Jeffrey. The Essential Department Chair: A Comprehensive Desk Reference, 2nd Edition. 2nd ed., Jossey-Bass, 2012.

This second edition of the informative and influential The Essential Department Chair offers academic chairs and department heads the information they need to excel in their roles. This book is about the "how" of academic administration: for instance, how do you cultivate a potential donor for much-needed departmental resources? How do you persuade your department members to work together more harmoniously? How do you keep the people who report to you motivated and capable of seeing the big picture?

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