Calendar Task List
Roles of Dept. Chairs
Chair Support & Resources

(revised fall 2016)

Table of Contents

I.  Introduction

II.  Calendar Task List

III.  Roles of Department Chairs

IV.  Chair Support & Resources

V.  Attachments


This document serves as a resource to all academic department chairs at Albright College.  It contains information regarding processes and procedures for all of the responsibilities of department chairs, as well as valuable information and resources to help chairs effectively carry out their duties. Feedback on ways to improve this document is welcomed and should be sent to the Provost.  To aid in making this document as useful as possible, we hope that you will assist us by providing suggestions to the Provost in terms of both missing information you are seeking and resources which you believe will help other chairs.

As Department Chair, you have a critical role to play as a leader, facilitator, mentor, manager, mediator, and agent of development for the departmental program as a whole and for the individuals in your department. The biggest challenges you are likely to face and the greatest rewards of the job are linked to "people issues." Although not easy, given that interpersonal relationships – between colleagues, between faculty and administration, between faculty and students – are the cornerstone of Albright, they are critically important.

As Chair, you have three main responsibilities:

1) Human Resources – recruiting, mentoring, supporting and providing guidance to your faculty.  Others too – faculty secretary, administrative support, including the Provost!

2) Curriculum – from the logistical – scheduling classes, collecting syllabi – but much more importantly, leading continual assessment and improvement of the program to best challenge and meet student needs and interests while adhering to the mission of the College and the department.

3) Fostering the department – marketing to alumni, prospective families, undecided students.  Advocating to the Provost and others for resources, helping develop and implement a long term plan.

All of these roles are based on the fostering of inclusive, positive relationships and by supporting the professional development of your faculty in teaching, scholarship and service.  

You are responsible for seeing that all the departmental tasks get done, but you do not need to do all the work yourself. You will receive help from your faculty secretary and you should share tasks with departmental colleagues. You should also receive support from the Provost, the Academic Affairs Office and other offices on campus. 

Serving as a Department Chair is often a very challenging task – it’s somewhat like juggling with lots of balls and you may not have practiced much.  You have been elected by your colleagues to serve as their representative and leader for a time.  In this role, you will have additional responsibilities and will be required to gain the cooperation of others as well as to think strategically about the direction of your Department.  You are not responsible for all the duties your Department must fulfill, but you are tasked with providing the structure and leadership to help the Department best achieve the goals selected.  You have one foot in the world of administration which gives you the ability to speak up for the needs of your colleagues and engage in important decision making.  You also remain a colleague with goals in common with your Department members. 

As Jeff Buller notes in The Academic Leader as Conductor, “the role of an academic administrator is not to ‘sell’ an idea or vision, but to create a fertile environment where important ideas flourish.”  He draws great similarities to the role of an orchestra conductor as stated by Boston Philharmonic Orchestra director Benjamin Zander in his 2008 TED talk.  Zander points out “the conductor is the only member of the orchestra who makes no sound.  He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful”.   It is the environment that you can help to create which determines the success of your Department.

One of the most rewarding parts of being a Department Chair is seeing your Department do well.  What ‘doing well’ means varies and should be based on the goals that the Department has defined for itself, through the Department mission statement, goals and plans.  Through your leadership and planning, you can see your Department advance and feel some pride in that success.

Many people undergo a radical transition as they move from Department member to Department Chair.  The article “Understanding the Challenges of Department Chairs” by Gmelsh and Miskin (1993) points out 9 significant changes you are likely to experience when you become chair.  These include “From Solitary to Social” as now your responsibilities require you to work together with others to achieve your goals and “From Private to Public” as an open-door policy is often necessary to achieve effective communication and responsiveness and “From Autonomy to Accountability” as you will be reporting in a way to both the administration and to your colleagues in your Department.

Roger Denome (2006) of Stonehill College writes in his article for the ACE Department Chair Online Resource Center that a Chair’s role includes helping his or her Department identify goals, building consensus toward achieving those goals and generating confidence that your department (and through your leadership) can achieve those goals.  He points out that you gain that confidence by carrying out the ‘nuts and bolts’ of Department work in a timely and reliable manner, by seeking input and communicating clearly.