Transitioning from Faculty to Chair
This article first appeared in Academic Leader on November 15, 2018. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved. Many of us either are asked to serve as chair of our department as a cyclical rotating chair or have made the decision to pursue the chair position on our own. Regardless of the path…
How to Select a Department Chair
In most academic departments, chairs are elected—or at least recommended to the dean—through a vote of the faculty. At other institutions, the chair rotates among the entire full-time or tenured faculty, while at still others the upper administration appoints the chair either from among current members of the department or as the result of a national search. In cases where deans, provosts, or presidents are in a position to choose the chair of a department, what principles should guide them?
The 5 Most Helpful Experiences for Moving from Faculty to Department Chair
Inadequate preparation, unrealistic expectations, and increased workload can be overwhelming for faculty members making the transition to department chair. Brenda Coppard, chair of occupational therapy at Creighton University, found this transition “just a little mind boggling” and decided to focus her research on it.
Planning Priorities for Leaving the Chair Position: Part 2
A second strategy would be to negotiate with the dean for a package of support that would allow the chair time and resources to do some personal “reinvention” immediately following chair service. Included might be released time from partial or full faculty obligations (perhaps an in-house sabbatical) for a semester (or year) and some monetary resources that will allow the former chair and “new” faculty member to attend conferences in the research area or focused on teaching, hire an assistant/student helper, and purchase some basic materials or equipment for research or teaching. Because this fund is similar to start-up funds many institutions provide for new faculty, it could be called a “restart-up” fund. This modest investment is justified by the professional sacrifices that the chair has made by engaging in administrative work and by the fact that the institution will be far better off in the future with this individual contributing at a more productive level.
Planning Priorities for Leaving the Chair Position: Part 1
Although not often in mind at the outset of life as an academic department chair, the time will come for all academic department chairs to exit their administrative roles. What prompts the departure’s timing can be as simple as the expiration of the term limit at institutions where there is a tradition or policy of leadership that has time limits on service. In schools where there are no prescribed limits on chair service, the motivations for leaving the post of chair are more complex. Among them are a desire to turn full attention the things that drew department chairs to higher education—teaching or research; new administrative leadership that may take a path incompatible with the chair’s goals; a feeling of having accomplished as much as possible; performance issues, whether real or perceived, that lead to dwindling support; and ambition for higher administrative positions. With regard to the latter, although some faculty members are wary of colleagues who set an administrative career track, it seems it is far better to move talented individuals from within the academy to senior leadership posts than to have those from other professions assume these positions.
The Department Chair: A Retrospective Perspective
The department chair is a linchpin of a university. It has been estimated that 80 percent of the decisions made in higher education are made at the department level. The chair is a classic hybrid-in-the-middle position; not really an administrator but “more than” a faculty member. The roles and responsibilities of a chair can differ significantly from one university to another.
Six Ways to Ensure a Smooth Chair Transition
Faculty members often become chairs under less-than-ideal circumstances or for the wrong reasons. An underprepared faculty member or one with an axe to grind can wreak havoc and lead to frequent department chair turnover. Recognizing this all-too-common cycle, Gian Pagnucci, chair of the English Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Ethan Krase, chair of the English Department at Winona State University, offer the following recommendations to help smooth chair transitions and promote a well-functioning department.