Academic department handbook
Note from Interim Provost Dr. Betsy Morgan: This handbook exists to provide up-to-date practical information for chairs and administrative assistants. In addition, the handbook focuses on the roles, responsibilities, and the professional development of department chairs. Whenever possible, this handbook links to existing web pages to maximize currency. Users are invited to submit feedback, notice of broken links, and/or edits/modifications to email@example.com. Dr. Becky LeDocq (Math) created this handbook building the content UWL's talented and committed chairs and ADAs including Kary Auby, Sibbie Weathers, and Mary Grattan. The development of the handbook was, in part, based on the recommendations of a Provost's Faculty and Staff Academic Leadership Development Task Force (2015).
Note from author Dr. Becky LeDocq: In researching existing manuals for department chairs at campuses across the country, I came across the “Guide for Department Chairs” at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois [Guide for Department Chairs (Galesburg, Illinois: Knox College, 2006, second edition 2010)]. The general outline and tone of the guide was exactly what I was hoping to provide for chairs at UWL. In the Preface of the Knox College guide, they encourage others to use their materials. I borrowed heavily from this guide in deciding the outline of this handbook and, in some cases, included paragraphs or sections virtually verbatim with minimal changes to make them fit the UWL structure. These paragraphs an indicated throughout the handbook with an “asterisk”. I want to thank Knox College for allowing this use of their wonderful materials.
The purpose of this Handbook is to help those with little or no administrative experience get a general feel for what the job entails and to simply serve as a resource for new and experienced chairs alike. Along the way you will find a lot of “Nuts and Bolts” on just what you, as chair, need to do as well as some more thoughtful discussion on topics that are, hopefully, especially helpful for new chairs. It is impossible to cover everything that might arise in your role as department chair, so a list of contacts for people that can help with specific questions/concerns is given in the appendix.
There are also many resources available, both electronic and paper, that deal with many of the “non-campus specific” duties of department chairs. Such duties may include conflict resolution, running effective meetings, and leadership skills. A collection of these resources is included in the appendices.
UW-L DEPARTMENT CHAIRS’ YEAR AT A GLANCE
Start of new fiscal year
Academic Program Review self study due (if applicable)
GEAC - Forms B & C due
|Week before meetings week - full day chairs’ workshop||Spring & J-term schedules due late September
20 day notice for PRT reviews
Personnel Month (w/ November)
Retentions (2nd year)
IAS Career Progression
GEAC - Form A due
Merit decisions due to Dean’s Office
Retentions (3-4 years)
Summer school - enter basic offerings if known even if full information about staff/times are as yet unknown
Annual Review for IAS and staff
Purchasing re: coming end of fiscal year
Faculty Annual Report due June 1 - Digital Measures
End of fiscal year
Dept Annual Report due July 1st
New Student Orientation
Program Assessment Report due (every three years)
Distribute SEI results to faculty/IAS
Once you've been appointed chair, notification will be sent to various offices on campus, including the Business Office, which will set you up for online access to the departmental account(s). Every department has at least one budget (the basic departmental budget) and may have many more. Access to information on these accounts is through WISDM (see more below).
There are lot of acronyms and terms associated with the budgets at UWL. These can be a bit confusing initially, but will quickly become a part of your vocabulary.
Department chairs are considered the supervisor for various types of employees within the department. Depending on the department, these may include faculty, academic staff, university staff, and/or students. Different personnel procedures are associated with each employee type.
The Human Resources Office is your source of information for policies, procedures, benefits and services for all campus personnel. Every department chair will be involved in personnel decisions for faculty and/or academic staff (instructional or non-instructional) and at least one university staff member: the Academic Department Associate or ADA. Other types of employees will be more variable across departments.
It is likely that at some point in your tenure as department chair, you will have the opportunity to recruit new faculty or staff. This process begins with requesting the position. This is required whether you would like to retain a position that has opened up due to a retirement in your department, or you are requesting a new position. For faculty and instructional academic staff, the process for requesting a position can depend on the funding source. Check with your College Office for more information.
The Human Resources webpage has all of the pertinent information on the mechanics of the recruitment process. Included are process and approval flow charts, search and screen planning and procedures, advertising guidelines and templates, and information on hiring a foreign national. There is also a Toolkit which provides materials on confidentiality requirements for interviewing, interview question banks, and tips on preparing for the interviews. Make sure that you contact HR prior to starting your search. They will help lead you through the process, including lessons on how to use PeopleAdmin. All searches now use electronic submission of application materials and search committees will access these materials through this software. As the search progresses, the approval process for bringing candidates on campus and eventually for hiring will all be accomplished through PeopleAdmin.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of searches to the department and the university, most especially searches for tenure-track faculty. Each person in the department affects the success of the program, and a new person will invariably bring change to the department. A search is about shaping the department, not just adding a person. Even if a department wanted to replicate exactly a person who's just retired or left for another job, this is never possible. Each search provides the opportunity for a department to think again about mission and identity, about new perspectives or approaches that might be brought in, as well as any common characteristics you would like to preserve. Diversity in terms of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and region of country are important, as well as the obvious characteristics of field, methodology, intellectual perspective, or type of graduate training.
Searches are a great deal of work, but the stakes are high, so it's worth it! A search can even be fun: the intellectual stimulation of talking with people newly immersed in their fields and the camaraderie of working closely with colleagues on an important task. The prospect of a new colleague—something that may not happen very often—can also be exciting in itself.
UW-System rules require that all faculty be reviewed annually (See UWS 3.05 and UWL 3.05 Periodic Review). For tenured faculty, this review is typically accomplished by the Merit Review Process, which is a part of the department bylaws. In addition to the merit review, probationary faculty also go through an annual Retention Review (both contract and non-contract years). Details on the retention process can be found on the Academic Affairs webpage under resources.
Both the candidate and the department create electronic reports through Digital Measures. The chair is typically responsible for creating the department report: Retention Report-Departmental. Helpful information for department chairs concerning departmental reports in Digital Measures can be found in the Department Chair e-Portfolio Guidelines and Entering TAI Data into Digital Measures
UW-La Crosse requires that all academic staff members have a performance review annually (See UWL 10.06 Annual Review). In some cases, this review may be used to determine whether the staff member’s contract is renewed. The process for this annual review may vary by department, so check your bylaws. Commonly the process mirrors that of retention for probationary faculty. (Retention at UWL)
The promotion process for faculty is well documented and there are lots of resources available for both the department and the applicant. In particular, the Human Resources webpage has faculty promotion resources. The Human Resources site includes a description of what needs to be prepared by the department and the promotion schedule with important deadlines. Typically, recommendations for promotion are due from the department chairs to the deans or division officers in early November.
As is the case with retention, Departmental Promotion Reports are created in Digital Measures. As mentioned above in Annual Reports, helpful information for department chairs concerning departmental reports in Digital Measures can be found in the Department Chair e-Portfolio Guidelines and Entering TAI Data into Digital Measures.
Promotion for Instructional Academic Staff was, until recently, referred to as “Career Progression” so don’t be surprised to see this on various webpages. Department Chair e-Portfolio Guidelines and resources for Academic Staff can be found on the Human Resources page. The process is meant to mirror the faculty promotion process, but the dates may differ.
THE DEPARTMENT CURRICULUM*
*Taken in large part from the Guide for Department Chairs, Knox College, Galesville, IL
Central to the identity of a department is its curriculum: the courses that are offered, for both non-majors and majors, and the structure of the requirements for the major and minor(s) in the department. This is an area where the big picture is very important, and where the big picture is easily lost. Some things to consider:
- What are the goals of the department's curriculum as a program — for majors, minors, non-majors?
- Are these goals well-supported through the current offerings of the department?
- Is the major serving well those students who will not be going to graduate school in your discipline, as well as those who are?
- How up-to-date is your collective knowledge about what is currently considered by graduate schools to be the most important preparation for graduate training?
- How up-to-date is your collective knowledge about the preparation students need for other pathways? For example: Anthropology and Sociology students who are interested in urban planning or science students interested in public health. The more the department is in the habit of thinking about these issues, the stronger the sense of department identity will be. Talking about the curriculum can help build collegiality, can help newer members of the department feel invested in the mission of the department, and can help you articulate departmental goals and achievements, both internally and externally. These issues are also central to the ongoing responsibility for assessment at the department level; see the next section for further details.
If you haven't routinely been discussing the large curricular issues, here are some occasions that can serve as a stimulus to such discussion:
- one or more colleagues will be retiring soon
- one or more new colleagues have recently been hired
- there have been significant new developments in your field, which raise both curricular and staffing issues
- the department is experiencing a significant change in enrollments or in number of majors (either declining or expanding)
- students are expressing considerable interest in areas not currently covered by the department
- strong majors have not been getting into graduate school
- the department will soon be up for its Academic Program Review
General education courses are assessed on a schedule determined by the General Education and General Education Assessment Committees (both Faculty Senate Committees). Everything you are likely to need relating to on this topic can be found on the Faculty Senate General Education Assessmentpage. This website includes background information, timelines and due dates, and log-in information for your work as chair.
Departmental Assessment should emerge from clear programmatic student learning outcomes. You will be required to assess your program as part of your regularly-scheduled Academic Program Reviews (every seven years if all is well). More on this later.
It is good practice to include programmatic consideration/coverage in yearly and/or biennial assessment reports so you have record of this. Your College may require more frequent reviews or have additional requirements, so you should check with your previous chair or Dean.
The Human Resources Office is your source for information on faculty sabbaticals and most other leaves, including Family and Medical Leave. UW System has various guidelines and policies that govern the sabbatical program, so individuals should consult with Human Resources to become acquainted with benefit options and responsibilities when granted a sabbatical.
The different Colleges may also have supplemental guidelines for applying for a sabbatical and information on the review and evaluation process. For this reason, the College Office may be a good place to start for information on sabbaticals.
It is important for the chair to be aware of the consequences of a faculty or staff member being on leave. Who will do the work that the faculty or staff member would usually do? In the case of faculty, it may be possible to hire an adjunct or use overloads to cover classes. Many times a department simply finds a way to cover the classes on their own. Either way it is important to know about possible sabbatical or other leave as soon as they are being considered.
Scheduling courses can be a big job for any department chair, but especially for those of larger departments with more course offerings. This a situation where the former chair, if available, can be of significant help. Make use of previous semester schedules and the knowledge of how to avoid conflicts with other courses in other departments.
As chair, you need to be aware of the University’s standard meeting times. We are all aware of the times for the traditional 55-minute course. Issues sometimes come up in offering “x-classes” - There are restrictions on when you can offer x-classes. This information can be found in the Standard Meeting Patterns section of the Classroom Scheduling Policy.
Course schedules are due in WINGS on a consistent schedule. You will receive an email indicating that the prior year’s courses for that semester have been “rolled over” in WINGS and you can begin updating the course schedule for that semester.
Fall Schedule – due in mid-February
Winter Schedule – due in mid-September
Spring Schedule – due one week after the Winter Schedule
Summer Schedule – due in early January
Chairs have permissions within WINGS allowing access to functions beyond those of faculty. Chairs can modify many aspects associated with the schedule of classes, they can access all class lists associated with their department (and can email the students in a class), they have additional textbook screens and have access to Post Enrollment Requisite Check (PERC) pages and milestone reports. Also, as indicated below, major/minor reports, and SEI and TAI information.
- WINGS course-related "how-to" information (Scheduling, Textbook rental, Modify scheduled classes, Facility availability, etc).
- Emailing majors/minors - how to generate a spreadsheet of the email addresses of majors
- Enrollment data across courses - how to generate a spreadsheet for all courses per term.
(*Taken in large part from the Guide for Department Chairs, Knox College, Galesville, IL)
Course scheduling is a big and complex job, as it calls on you to balance out the interests and skills of each member of the department, and then to balance faculty preferences with the needs of students (both majors/minors and non-majors). The better relations are within the department, the easier it will be to work out this balance in an amicable way. Here are some of the things to take into account.
There are somewhat different issues involved in introductory and more advanced courses.
Introductory courses often have the largest enrollments and the broadest range of students in terms of ability and interest. Some faculty love teaching the intro course in the department, others may find it an intimidating challenge, and others may be sick of it after having taught it for decades. While there may occasionally be a reason to do otherwise, the first principle should be to share the load.
Upper-level courses: In some departments, where there is significant overlapping of expertise, the governing principle is that no one individual "owns" a course. If more than one person is interested in a course, it gets passed around. In other departments it is less likely that such sharing would occur, because of specific training of faculty members in certain areas. Here the issue is to insure that an appropriate range of courses are taught at the upper levels, that significant areas of the discipline are represented, and that each faculty member has an appropriate share of both upper- and lower-level courses.
Over the course of the year: The big task of the chair in scheduling is to think about which courses need to be offered in a given year, in which terms, and in how many sections. Which courses have to be available for majors? What about General Education courses that are open to all? Or 200-level courses that might get a mix of majors and non-majors? Which courses must be offered in a strict sequence? You want to aim for a fairly even spread of different levels of courses throughout the year. Look at the previous year's schedule and enrollment figures to see if there were any problems, or if it might serve as a model. You might want to have a guideline in place for balancing the various needs, which would help make sure everyone is on the same page.
There may be considerations beyond your department as well. Are your majors also required to take certain courses in other departments? This often happens in the sciences, and those departments have long been in the habit of coordinating scheduling to avoid conflicts; other departments may want to keep this in mind as well. Sometimes it's not an issue of a required course, but just something you will be encouraging majors in your department to take. If you haven't thought of this at the time of doing your initial scheduling for the upcoming year, you will have another chance to consider it when the Registrar sends you a draft of the schedule. Check this not only for accuracy within your own departmental listings, but for courses in other departments with which you might want to coordinate.
When setting up time schedules for specific courses, let new faculty know what the practice is in the department for the number of meeting times each week. Sometimes this is flexible, sometimes not.
Within each term:
Once you've settled on which courses are going to be taught in which term, the big challenge is to decide on time slots for each course. Here are some of the factors to take into account:
- You need to have a spread across the day, including something in the first and last periods of the day.
- As much as possible, schedule in different periods courses that majors might want to take together in one term.
- If you have some courses that can be taught MWF and others TH, do take advantage of the TH time slots.
- Faculty tend to have strong preferences about which periods they like to teach, and sometimes have particular needs, often dependent on the age of children and the starting time of their schools. But children grow up, and if you've established a departmental culture where people accommodate each other's needs, taking turns at unpopular tasks (including teaching, say, in 1st period), then this will go easier. When you ask faculty for their preferences on time slots, ask that they give you a range of choices.
- Room preferences: Some faculty have strong preferences about which rooms they teach in. Ask for these preferences (again, giving more than one option) when you ask them for their preferred schedule for the coming year. If there's a very popular room that not everyone can have, make sure all get turns; you may also need to coordinate with other departments in your building.
Enrollment caps are set at the same time that the schedule is made up for the year. It is useful to have a departmental understanding for the normal cap in various levels of courses. Apply these across the board, unless there is a reasonable case for an exception. Chairs are typically asked to save a certain number of seats in Fall Semester introductory and general education courses for incoming freshmen. In these courses, set the initial enrollments lower.
The university’s funding from the state is largely based on overall student credit hour (SCH) production. The Dean’s Office should be consulted on discussions of workload formulas, enrollment caps and other department level plans that affect overall SCH production for an individual instructor, a program or a department. Occasionally, the Dean’s Office and/or Provost’s Office may need to be more directly involved in workload and SCH production due to the fiscal implications for the unit and the university.
You think you've got everything figured out for the long run, and then one of these things happens:
- A person goes on leave or is granted release time in a grant. It's good for people to take such leaves/releases, even though it means you'll have some juggling to do, especially if you're not authorized to hire a replacement.
- A person has course-released time for a specific college/university task or part time administrative appointment. These tasks are very important to the college. Try being proud that someone from your department has been asked to take on one or another of these, at the same time that you scramble to figure out how to make up for the gap in departmental offerings.
- A faculty member would like to team-teach a course. You need to consult with the Dean on any team-teaching arrangement to determine how load is determined in such a situation.
At the end of each academic year, each department is required to submit an Annual Report to the appropriate Dean. The contents of these reports are used to help the Deans prepare their College Annual Report which is given to the Provost. Your Dean may give additional information as to the format and content required for the annual report. Departmental Annual Reports are typically due in late June. The ~300 word summary is posted annually to the Provost’s webpage.
Programs are required to report on their assessment plan, results, and feedback loops. Traditionally a biennnial report, as of 2015-2016, UWL is transitioning to a three-year rotation and a reporting mechanism through Taskstream and assessment software also used for General Education assessment. The purpose of the reports is to succintly communicate to an external audience the goals and outcomes of a programmatic assessment and evidence of a continuous process.
For more information, please contact your Dean or the Assessment Coordinator in the Provost’s Office.
As part of the 2016 UWL Higher Learning Commission Reaccreditation Report, information on Academic Program Review was consolidated in a webpage.
Reservations should be made (requested) no later than 3pm the business day before the meeting/event and will be guaranteed depending on availability. Although later reservations cannot be guaranteed, reservations for academic events (requests for unforeseen meetings) within the regular operating hours of the building and involving no catering or set-up will be provided when possible. Late requests should be made by calling the reservations office.
For late-day requests (ex. after 1pm for the next day). A phone call is better because then they can react to that right away if we are in the office. Please say when you call that it is a late request because they have trained our students to direct people to the survey links.
UW-La Crosse uses VoIP, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It's also known as Voice over IP. Messages left on the phone are sent as email attachments.
It is recommended that users delete the email after listening to the message.
Travel policies are documented on the UWL Travel Page. Departments vary in how they fund travel faculty and staff. It is up to the department to make sure department members are aware of the limitations and any special requirements for requesting travel funds.
As department chair, you are now in the role of “Approver” for all reimbursements to members of your faculty and staff.
Travel needs to be pre-authorized within the e-reimbursement system (Travel Preauthorization for Faculty & IAS -- Note: In effect February 1, 2016 and reimbursements are provided through the same system: e-Reimbursement).
At any time a traveler has access to see where their expense report is in the system/workflow, to see where the report may be ‘caught’ in the system, or to ensure it has made it to Accounts Payable (AP) for review/final approval.
To do so, click on Queries/Reports | Search | Either select 1 or 10 based on searching for Authorizations or Expense Reports à then click on the details link associated with “Where are my ERs?”
Travelers may also call AP or send an email if they would like to find out what may be holding up their report. If their report is stagnant for more than 2 weeks, there is likely a hold up somewhere in the workflow.
Budget Each College has a budget officer and should be your primary contact in addition to the Budget Office.
ACCOUNT FUND NUMBERS - most common shown below (p. 29 of WISDM manual provides a more complete list)
- 102 - General Program Revenue- main source of department funds
- 128 - special course fees, seg fees, etc.
- 131 - differential tuition (includes GQ&A)
- 133/144 - grants
COMMON BUDGET DEFINITIONS
- WISDM - the web-based financial reporting software that is a component of the UW-System's Shared Financial System. Most of the WISDM reports can be downloaded to Excel.
- GPR - General Program Revenue (state funding)
- GQ&A - Growth, Quality and Accesss (UWL's tuition plan) - funding for instructors hired through GQ&A is reflected in a different budget lines than those who are GPR
FOUNDATION ACCOUNTS (Contact - Finance Director Pam Schomburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608.785.803)
How to export Major/Minor student emails from WINGS to desktop Office 365.
Run your Major/Minor List in Wings:
Main Menu - UW-La Crosse – Records and Enrollment – Reporting – Plan Reports – Plan Reporting
Select Academic Organization from the magnifier list.
Enter desired term or select it from the magnifier list.
Click “Generate Report”.
Click “OK” from the Message Box that appears with the message:
“Academic Program Report Email successfully sent”.
Once your report is ran, it will be in your email. Open the excel attachment in that email. Click “enable editing”.
Highlight and hide rows so that all majors are listed together with no break of headings in between.
Repeat for minors (or other “programs/plans”). (we keep our lists separate by majors and minors so we create two distribution lists)
In Outlook (desktop version), click on the “New Items” drop down arrow (top left corner on the Home toolbar) and click on “More Items” and then click on “Contact Group”.
In your excel spreadsheet, highlight all of the emails of the majors and press “control c”. Make sure you don’t have anything else highlighted (i.e. row heading).
In your Outlook window where you have an untitled Contact Group, click on “Add Members” drop down arrow and click on “From Address Book”.
At the bottom of that window where it has a “Members” button, place cursor in the space to the right of the “Members” button and press “control v” to paste the email addresses in the space provided. I normally backspace to the last email address if there is a blank space at the end.
Enter the Name of the Group in the available space at the top of the box. Press “Save & Close”.
Repeat for next list (minors).
*Taken mostly from the Guide for Department Chairs; Knox College, Galesville, IL
A department chair is charged with looking at the big picture: looking at the department as a whole and at the department’s relationship to the college. But the chair is also charged with stewarding the day-to-day operation of the department, and it is easy to drown in the minutiae of paper-pushing, to lose sight of the larger issues that should be of concern. There is much to balance as chair: the small tasks with the large vision, and also the job of chair with the continuing jobs of teacher and scholar. It has been a daunting task to list in this publication all the things a department chair does—the list is long! All the more reason to keep the big issues alive. Approving course substitutions, turning in the year’s schedule, signing up new majors, and all the other small tasks of the chair need to be done, but the real satisfaction of the job comes from things like shepherding a young colleague through the probationary years, conducting a successful search, or re-thinking the department’s curriculum.
One's role in the department changes when one takes on the chair, even though our departments are small, the power of chairs is limited, and faculty tend to rotate through the position. Here are some of the roles generally expected of a department chair:
It's important for the chair to keep in mind the big picture—of the well-being of the department as a whole, of the department's place in the college, and of the needs of students. Of course it's good for all faculty to have such a perspective, but it's very important for the chair to consistently weigh the needs and desires of individual faculty with the larger good, and to model this for the rest of the department. Some of the issues for which the big picture may need to be invoked:
~most fundamental of all: establishing a collegial environment, one in which much of the above will take care of itself because each person feels valued, that they have a stake in the endeavor, that they are part of a team, that they have ownership in the program
~making time for the department to consider what its goals are, and if those goals are being met through an ongoing process of assessment
~helping people get along with each other (sometimes personality issues within a department are a major challenge)
~sharing the load of service tasks within the department
~finding ways to balance the wide variety of factors that go into what courses are taught when and by whom (see the section on "Course Scheduling" for a more detailed treatment of this issue):
~~~course offerings for majors with general education courses for non-majors
~~~faculty teaching from their strengths while also meeting the needs of the program
~~~faculty teaching in the time slots they prefer while also sharing the burden of teaching in unpopular time slots
~~~sharing the teaching of both introductory courses and upper-level courses across the department
Another section of this guide goes into detail on the variety of specific things a chair should do to help a new faculty person. Over and above these details, and the obvious role of being the first resource for the vast array of questions any new person has, the most important thing you can do for the new person is to make them feel welcome as an integral member of the department and to convey to them that you want very much for them to succeed. We also suggest you keep this welcoming attitude in mind when setting up the course schedule for a person's first year, something that will be done before they arrive on campus. Help insure their success by giving them, as much as possible, courses they'll feel comfortable with. Perhaps there's a popular introductory course that can be offered twice in the year, to cut back on new preparations. If there's something they need to teach that will be a huge stretch for them, see if it can be held off until the second year. Consider giving them first choice of the time slot for their courses.
This is a key function of the chair. You are the person the Dean will turn to with regard to any issues facing your department, and you are the person who will go to the Dean with concerns initiated by the department. You are the representative of the department, a spokesperson, an advocate for the department. You are also the person who will be relating back to the department the perspective and concerns of the Dean. What happens when there is a conflict between what the department collectively agrees are its needs and what is presented by the Dean as the college's needs? The chair serves as the intermediary, conveying the department's perspective to the Dean, and the Dean's perspective to the department. If an issue is particularly contentious, the Dean may meet with the whole department. Examples of some of the issues that routinely call for the chair to consult with the Dean (for more details, see sections on these issues):
~definition of positions in the department (when change is being considered)
~searches (various aspects, from approval of the search through to candidate choice)
~significant curriculum change (e.g., changes in major requirements; rethinking introductory courses)
~some course logistics (e.g., over- or under-enrollment, course times, caps)
There's a lot of unscheduled traffic that comes to the chair--from students, staff, and faculty—so one needs to be more accessible as a chair than one may have been previously. This means that chairs have less access to one of the perks of faculty life--a flexible schedule and the ability to do much of one's work away from the office. It's important to be in the office, with the door open, more than you may be used to, with certain times of the term especially important (e.g., during registration periods, the first week of any term, etc.). Prompt answering of e-mail will also be appreciated by all the people turning to you for questions. Much of this communication stems from the chair's role as point person for communication to and from the Registrar's Office and other departments.
Colleagues will look to you as a model, and they will see what you're doing—in all kinds of ways. They'll see you at the office, and also at any departmental social functions.
Delegate! Departmental cultures vary on how much is done by the chair and how much is delegated to others. We recommend that departments make a conscious effort to divide up tasks. Even though this will mean more work for some faculty in departments where the chair currently does it all, the pay-off will come later, when the next person in turn can rely on the help of others. See the section of this guide on "Delegating" for suggestions about which tasks are most appropriate for delegating.
Seek counsel! When faced with a difficult issue, don't hesitate to seek counsel. You have three natural resources:
~another person in your department who has previously been chair,
~the Dean (who can draw on past experience as a Chair as well as current experience as Dean)
Advice is also available in print and on the web. Some places to begin:
Don Chu, The Department Chair Primer: Leading and Managing Academic Departments (Anker Publishing, 2006)
I. W. D. Hecht et al., The Department Chair as Academic Leader (American Council on Education/Oryx Press, 1999)
the website of the American Council on Education: http://www.acenet.edu (under "Programs and Services" select "Department Leadership Programs")
The Department Advisor (a quarterly publication from Higher Education Executive Publications)
As stated in the Faculty Senate Policies (V.C.), the length of term for a department chair is three years. Given the learning curve for the position, it is not unusual for someone to serve a second term. After that, it is probably a good idea to allow someone else to learn the job and have the opportunity to lead the department.
When you know that you're in the last year of your term as chair, think about ways you can help to facilitate the transition to, and for, a new chair, especially if the person has not chaired the department before. You might invite the prospective chair to observe or participate in one or another key task: for example, planning out the course schedule for the next year (an especially important thing for the incoming chair to be closely familiar with). Talk with them about things that are on the horizon that will need to be dealt with on their watch rather than yours. Maybe go through this Guide with them, as a way of prompting discussion of one or another issue especially relevant to your department. Spend some time getting the files in order, so it's easy for the next person to find things. (Paragraph taken from Cornell College Department Chair’s Handbook)
Faculty Senate policies guide chairs' elections and eligibility, and particular attention should be paid to the following (B & D).
B. Eligibility Requirements for Serving as Chairperson
1. All members of a department shall be eligible to serve as department chairperson provided they are: a. Tenured and of the rank of assistant professor or above; b. On staff of this university at least three full semesters; c. Not on terminal contract or temporary appointment.
D. Method of Selection
- Departments with fewer than five members eligible to vote shall have the chairperson appointed by the Chancellor
- Departments with five or more members eligible to vote shall elect the chairperson under the following procedures:
- Elections shall be held during the month of February;
- The dean shall send nominating ballots, containing the names of all members of the department eligible to serve as chairperson to each member of the department eligible to vote;
- Each person receiving a ballot shall nominate one person and return it to the dean who shall tabulate the results;
- The dean shall determine whether or not the two persons receiving the highest number of votes are willing to serve if elected; however, if one person has received nominations from 60 percent or more of the eligible voters, that person shall be declared elected;
- If a chairperson has not been selected in the nomination balloting, the dean shall place the names of the two persons receiving the highest number of nominations on a ballot and send it to eligible voters for an election;
- Each person receiving the ballot shall vote for one person and return it to the dean;
- The dean shall tabulate the results of the election and submit the name of the nominee receiving the most votes as the chairperson-elect to the provost/vice chancellor for approval, who in turn, shall submit it to the chancellor for approval. If approval is not given, the dean shall conduct another election under the provisions of this policy.
Generally, Deans will ask the current chair of each department up for election to provide two lists. (1) a list of faculty eligible to serve as chair and (2) a list of department members who will be voting (this is determined by department by-laws informed by Fac Senate policies).
Deans are strongly encouraged to communicate with departments on the mechanics of voting. The phrase “nominations” is a bit misleading, as the person who gets 60% of the votes wins the election, so new faculty in particular need to understand it is more of a vote than a nomination. The balloting can be done either by paper or electronic means.
*Taken mostly from the Guide for Department Chairs, Knox College, Galesville, IL
Each department at UWL has its own culture, which—like culture in general—is reproduced over the generations, often without self-conscious effort. Each of these cultures tends to proceed on the principle that the way things are done are the way things should be done. It's often only in conversation with someone from another department that one realizes a certain practice is not actually a rule, or even a norm. As a new chair, there may be aspects of the departmental culture that you would like to change, which may well be a good thing. But that doesn't mean it will be easy! On the other hand, maintaining a healthy departmental culture doesn't happen automatically; it requires cultivation. Yes, this is a paradox: culture tends to reproduce itself (and so is resistant to change) and it also needs conscious nurturing in order to sustain positive qualities.
Here are some of the factors that contribute to department culture:
~the size of the department;
~the proportion of tenured to untenured faculty;
~how many long-timers there are
~what expectations people have about time commitments (e.g., time spent in one's office, attendance at departmentally sponsored events, departmental socializing off campus);
~incorporation of student input into departmental decisions;
~a tradition of hierarchy or egalitarianism;
~how much is delegated and how much done by the chair;
~reliance on common (or autonomous) decision-making.
An added element of complexity occurs when there are disciplinary divisions within one department, for example: Archeology and Anthropology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Geography and Earth Science, Political Science & Public Administration, and the several languages within Modern Languages. These departments include faculty who may have significantly different sorts of training, and there is often more than one major. This makes for a complicated departmental identity in general, and can also come into play for specific things, such as how advisees are assigned, curricular concerns, position and hiring decisions. The more you're aware of potential difficulties because of different purposes, training, different priorities, the more likely you are to be able to head them off, or bring them into the open for discussion.
If you would like to change some traditional practices in the department, it's likely to be easier if you acknowledge the issue openly, invite discussion, and see where it takes you. Some things are readily changed, and some are remarkably persistent, and one can't necessarily predict which is which.
As department chair, your own habits and inclinations will have a significant impact on the life of the department. Consider whether you fit in smoothly with old patterns, or whether your style will necessitate some accommodation. Some of the factors that contribute to the style of a department chair:
~Do you prefer to have control over all aspects of the department, or do you tend to be laissez-faire?
~Do you prefer face-to-face interaction, or to do most things by e-mail?
~Do you prefer a hierarchical structure or an egalitarian one?
~Are you approachable for professional problems? For personal problems?
~Are you comfortable with number stuff (e.g., budgets, enrollment information)?
Here are some of the qualities of department culture we would hope for in all departments: collegial, functional, supportive, open-minded, communicative, cooperative (everyone willing to chip in), collaborative
IV. H. The Chairperson is generally responsible for ensuring that the policies and procedures of the department are carried out in accordance with the departmental bylaws and that the department and its members are fulfilling the responsibilities described in A. through G. above. The Chairperson shall assume a prominent role in creating a professional environment conducive to high morale and productivity in the department. Specific department functions supervised or performed by the chairperson include:
a) Developing semester and summer session class schedules in consultation with the faculty. b) Monitoring registration and assessing the need to add or cancel classes.
a) Implementing the authorized curriculum; initiating discussion of curricular issues; developing proposals for new or revised courses, special projects, grant proposals, curriculum changes; arranging for textbook selection; and participating in the presentation of departmental proposals before the appropriate committees.
b) Receiving and responding to concerns about curriculum and acting on substitution and waiver requests brought by students and others.
a) Preparing the annual departmental budget for travel, services, supplies and equipment; ordering all budgeted items; and managing expenditures in accordance with the budget plan.
b) Making recommendations for textbook and library budgets and other budgets as requested.
c) Reporting textbook choices to the Textbook Rental Service in timely fashion.
d) Making assignments of offices, classrooms, and other work areas; obtaining other facilities when needed; and requesting maintenance for repairs for equipment, offices, classrooms, and other work areas.
a) Establishing a schedule of department meetings and presiding at same.
b) Ensuring that departmental committees are meeting to fulfill their responsibilities.
c) Attending meetings of appropriate departmental, college, and university committees.
d) Designating or recommending department members to serve on committees as requested.
e) Arranging for representation and participation of the department at professional meetings and placement centers as appropriate.
f) Serving on committees as required.
a) Conveying to the appropriate administrative officer the personnel needs of the department for faculty and academic staff, graduate assistants, classified staff and student help.
b) Monitoring all departmental search and screen activities for compliance with UW-L Affirmative Action hiring procedures.
c) Describing and publicizing faculty and academic staff vacancies and corresponding with applicants and placement agencies; scheduling and participating in interviews; making recommendations to the appropriate administrative officer regarding hiring; and providing orientation for new members regarding departmental policies and procedures, departmental expectations for faculty and academic staff, and faculty and academic staff responsibilities.
d) Arranging for the required evaluations of faculty and academic staff; scheduling student evaluation of department members; monitoring department personnel committees with regard to conformance with UW System, UWL and department procedures; and informing individual members of any recommendations regarding them.
e) Describing and publicizing graduate assistantship positions; making recommendations to the appropriate administrative officer regarding hiring of graduate assistants; providing orientation and assignment for graduate assistants; and participating in the evaluation of graduate assistants.
f) Arranging for the selection, hiring, training, overseeing, and evaluation of classified staff and student help.
g) Recommending summer school appointments to the appropriate administrative officer within university, college and departmental guidelines. h) Ensuring the continuation of classes during prolonged faculty absences.
a) Receiving and responding to student questions, concerns, and complaints regarding courses, curriculum requirements, faculty and grades.
b) Coordinating advising activities for the department.
a) Teaching a reduced load in the department in accordance with by-law VIII.B.
a) Responding to inquiries from the university, the UW System, and external accrediting agencies regarding department programs.
b) Conferring, as needed, with other chairpersons in the university and with other departments of the same discipline in the system and area.
c) Corresponding with prospective students, teachers, and the general public on their inquiries.
VI. Remuneration of Department Chairpersons
1. There will be a fixed chairperson's stipend paid to each department chairperson in the form of additional lump sum compensation during the academic year. The amount of the fixed stipend shall be reviewed periodically by the Promotion, Tenure and Salary Committee.
2. Chairpersons shall be evaluated annually by their departments in accordance with current university policy applicable to faculty evaluation and merit pay.
B. Reduction of Load
1. Department chairpersons are to be assigned a reduced load depending on department size:
a. A reduction of one-quarter time for a chairperson of a department with fewer than 10 full-time faculty positions.
b. A reduction of one-half time for a chairperson of a department with 10 or more full-time faculty positions.
2. Exceptions to the preceding guidelines are permitted when justified by the volume of departmental business or by other university responsibilities held by the chairperson. Such exceptions shall be arranged in consultation with the chairperson's dean.
Department chair duties do not end with the academic year. From writing annual reports (more later), participating in Freshmen Registration, and closing out budgets, certain responsibilities can only be accomplished during the summer. Summer remuneration for chairs is at the discretion of the Deans. The following list of summer responsibilities for chairs was developed by the Deans in conjunction with the chairs and provost, and was reaffirmed in 2015: UWL Department Chairs: Summer Responsibilities
As a member of the department, the Chair will go through the same Annual (Merit) Review as the other faculty in the Department. Check your departmental bylaws to see whether there are additional materials required for the chair’s annual review. Some departments will ask for specific feedback from department members on the chair’s service relative to department chair duties. In addition, the Dean may be asked to supply a letter evaluating the chair. Departmental bylaws should specify how the non-instructional portion of the chair’s duties will be evaluated.
In addition to the department evaluation through the Annual Review process, as of Summer 2015, the Provost has requested that all department chairs be formally reviewed at least once during each 3-year term. The review should involve feedback from the membership of the department and from the Dean. The format and timing of the review is up to each Dean. While some departments are already incorporating this additional feedback, for others it will be a new level of chair evaluation. This formal review need not be tied to the merit review.
As chairs, we are responsible for watching out for all members of the department. The faculty are at the heart of any department. We should do all we can to be in touch with all members of the department, to know what they're working on, what issues they might have with regard to teaching, and to seek ways to help each person contribute to the department and to advance professionally. We should be accessible in times of trouble, and should also be sure to celebrate achievements.
Within this general area of care and concern, untenured faculty have a special place. Once you've completed a search, it's time for the long follow-through, to help your new colleague succeed in the department and in the university generally. This attention to untenured faculty is of enormous importance to the chair's role. But unlike some of the more routine tasks (like course scheduling), there are no timely reminders that come to us. Here are some things to keep in mind with regard to our responsibility towards untenured faculty.
The first year is a crucial time of adjustment, and a new colleague will most likely need more of your attention now than at any other time. You'll want to strike a balance between two important goals: protecting a new faculty member from the onslaught of multiple demands and integrating them into the life of the department and the university.
Certain protections are built in: First-year faculty are not typically assigned advisees, and they are not assigned to Faculty Senate committees. But there can be many other demands, demands that come to the faculty member directly, without you knowing about them, such as requests for independent studies, membership on (or even chairing) honors committees, and ad hoc projects or committees. Consider recommending that a first-year faculty member not take on being chair of an honors committee, and that they hold off on independent studies as well. Talk to them about how many ad hoc requests they may receive, and that you recommend caution on how often to say yes--in general, and especially during this first year. Here's a relevant section from the Survival/Success Guide for Knox (College) Faculty about the importance of prioritizing commitments:
"Say no. Not all the time, of course. The college can't function, much less thrive, without each of us contributing in a variety of ways to its sustenance and to the ongoing innovation that makes this an interesting and satisfying place in which to work. But you will be asked to do many more things than you can do. When asked, get in the habit of saying that you need a day to think about it--even if you're pretty sure you want to say yes. And then take that time to figure out if this is something that: a) you have the talent or skill for, b) you have a strong interest in or commitment to, and/or c) will help you connect up with other people in the college you're interested in working with.
What keeps us from saying no? The pressures are somewhat different for untenured and tenured. Untenured faculty may be concerned that one has to please tenured faculty, the college administration, and students at every turn. Tenured faculty sometimes think the college's welfare demands that we do everything we possibly can. Yes, the health and welfare of the college depend on each one of us contributing beyond our teaching and research to the service of the institution. But the institution will be best served by having faculty who contribute out of commitment and interest in the ways best suited to each. It's not well served by having faculty worked to a frazzle doing tasks beyond us, or whose value we're not sure of. A less common problem, but still existent, is people who don't say "yes" enough, which makes life even harder for people who have trouble saying 'no.'"
Sometimes a new faculty member is very eager to get involved with all kinds of things on campus, and of course that is a good thing. But you can help them set priorities, and to keep at the top of the list those things most crucial for their successful establishment as a teacher, scholar, and member of the UWL community. One way to help—since you will not necessarily know all that they commit themselves to—is to check in with them mid-year, to see if they are getting overcommitted. Or, if they seem not involved enough, this is a good time to talk about other things they might be doing.
With regard to teaching assignments: Remember the enormity of the task of multiple new preparations in the first years of full-time teaching. Whenever possible, have new (and untenured) faculty teach courses they're already familiar with. If there's the possibility of them teaching multiple sections or offerings of one course, let them do that so they have fewer preps.
All of these protections for new faculty members mean more work for others in the department. There are perhaps some departments who take the opposite approach— giving a new person the least desirable courses, time slots, and departmental tasks, with perks going to the more senior faculty. But we strongly recommend the model we've put forward here: doing all you can to help a new faculty member get off to a good start, even when it means some sacrifice on the part of more experienced faculty. This model is likely to produce gratitude from the new faculty member, which is a more productive basis for a long term relationship than the resentment that is likely to be generated if treated as the lowest person in a departmental hierarchy.
New faculty need the most protection in their first year, but do keep untenured faculty on your radar screen in the subsequent years, checking on how much they're doing beyond what seems a reasonable load (e.g., independent studies, honors projects). Of course it is important that each faculty member contribute in these areas, but untenured faculty sometimes take on too much. Help them with a reality check on how much is good to do, and when it becomes counterproductive. If the department is one in which there are many requests for supervision of independent work, it might be wise to set up a system in which independent studies require pre-approval from the chair, so that the responsibility may be shared across all members of the department.
If a faculty member expresses concerns about their teaching, encourage them to find someone to talk to about it: you, others in the department, people from CATL. People at other colleges can also be helpful, and a summer workshop devoted to teaching issues (away from UWL, with people from other universities) can be transformative. Visiting other people's classrooms can also be helpful—either to alleviate concerns, to get some fresh ideas, and/or to serve as a base for further discussion about pedagogy.
Talk early on with a new faculty member about what the expectations are in this area, and encourage them also to talk to the Dean. Talk with them about developing a post-Ph.D agenda for scholarship/creative work. Where are they going from their thesis? What are their plans for publication/performance/exhibition? Are they thinking of moving into a new area? Are there ways of linking up these developments with teaching in ways that might enhance both?
When faculty have recent accomplishments, encourage them to make their achievements known, not only to the department (through you as Chair), but also to the university community, through the Campus Connection. That is exactly what the Campus Kudos section if for! Kudos (as well as other news) can be sent to the Campus Connection by sending an email to: email@example.com
Encourage them to enhance professional development by networking outside the university. If funding is available, encourage them to go to at least one conference a year, even if they're not giving a paper.
Encourage them to consider seeking funding from both internal and external sources. Talk to them about applying for a Faculty Research Grant, Faculty Development Grant, or other internal grants that are available. Encourage them to apply for external grants or fellowships, and pass along information about such that comes across your desk. Let them know about help available from the Grants Office for searching out grant opportunities and for vetting proposals.
One thing that is difficult about being chair is that your relationship with junior colleagues may change when you move from being just another departmental colleague into the chair's position. Perhaps being aware that this may happen can help ease the discomfort.
*Taken mostly from the Guide for Department Chairs, Knox College, Galesville, IL.
Tenured faculty need your attention too! Perhaps not in as concentrated a way as untenured faculty, but they will also benefit from encouragement, support, and attentive listening. The vitality of a department depends on the continued energy, productivity, and intellectual edge of all faculty. Stay interested in the teaching and research/creative work of tenured faculty. Offer to look at work in progress. If the department has a colloquium, encourage them to present. Encourage them to apply for grants and to continue to attend conferences. If you see that there may be an issue with their keeping up in the field and/or with technological developments related to the field or to teaching, give encouragement; you might even offer to engage together in some aspect of new developments. Talk with them about their agenda for the future, and do all that you can to facilitate it. Be aware that the life-course continues to have its ups and downs, even after tenure. Midlife crises or significant transitions are normal. Just when one thinks everything is settled, the ground can shift, whether in one's personal life or in professional interests. Be as supportive as you can during these midlife changes. It will be much appreciated! You can also consult with the Dean about any concerns you have; he/she can play an important supporting role—to you, to the faculty member, or to both.
In whatever stage they are, tenured colleagues are a great resource. They may have been chair before you—ask for their counsel and help. They may be the chair after you— involve them in decisions and tasks so that they not only are helping you but are learning valuable information and skills for the future.
As a faculty member, you are likely aware that your department bylaws should include a section on dealing with student complaints, grievances and the appeal process for both academic and non-academic issues. This section is a part of the bylaws template, originally approved by Faculty Senate in 2009. The template was slightly modified in 2012 and has been updated most recently in August 2015. Student conduct issues are also addressed in the Student Handbook.
There may also be concerns about students unrelated to misconduct. Faculty and staff are often some of the first to notice student behaviors that may be helped by counseling or medical attention, i.e., depression, sudden weight loss, exhaustion, alcohol/drug use. For this type of concern, you should contact the Student Life Office, and in particular the Campus Assessment Response and Evaluation (CARE) Team. The CARE Team was created to meet regularly to review critical incidents and students in crisis. They are trained to deal with these issues.
As department chair, you are likely to be seen as a resource for your faculty staff on what to do with students in the case of suspected cheating or other type of misconduct, or concerns about a student’s welfare. You should be well-versed in the policies and procedures so that you can advise your faculty and staff as needed.
As department chair, you are now likely to be first in line for student complaints about faculty/staff or faculty/staff complaints about other faculty/staff.
*Taken mostly from the Guide for Department Chairs, Knox College, Galesville,IL.
Earlier in this Handbook after going through the multiple demands on a department chair, we gave some suggestions for strategies for dealing with such demands (Role of Department Chairs). Now we elaborate on the first suggestion: DELEGATE! As we wrote earlier: "Departmental cultures vary on how much is done by the chair and how much is delegated to others. We recommend that departments make a conscious effort to divide up tasks. Even though this will mean more work for some faculty in departments where the chair currently does it all, the pay- off will come later, when that person in turn can rely on the help of others."
Here are some of the tasks or areas that are easiest to delegate to others:
- club advisor
- organizer of social events for majors
- liaison positions
- information on internships, careers, and/or graduate school in your discipline
- information about alums
- information about achievements of current students
- departmental prizes
- supervising student worker(s)
- updating the departmental webpage
- some of the tasks involved in a faculty search
- arrangements for guest speakers
When dividing up tasks, play to the experience and strengths of individual faculty members. For example, if one person has strong organizational skills, ask them to take on arrangements for guest speakers.
As chair, you still have the overall responsibility for seeing that all of these things get done, which may mean that you have to remember to remind someone else about what needs to be done. What if delegating a particular task isn't working, even with reminders and some discussion with the person you've asked to take charge? First, keep in perspective what counts as a good enough job, even if it is not being done the way you might do it yourself. If that doesn't solve the problem, then rotate the task to someone else, and ask the first person what they might prefer to do instead.
Department chairs are responsible for scheduling, planning, and running department meetings. It is important to remember that department meetings, as well as meetings of departmental committees are subject to the Open Meetings Law. Please use the Events Calendar. When you submit your meeting to this calendar, the requirements of the Open Meeting Law are fulfilled.
Anyone running a meeting should become familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order. There are many different summary pages, introductions and tip sheets available. Here are a few that you may find helpful:
We’ve all been in “bad” meetings…the meeting that goes on and on with nothing getting accomplished…the meeting where everyone is checking their email…the meeting the gets hijacked by one person who just keeps talking without really saying anything…the meeting where everyone is wondering “Why am I here?!” Meetings are often unpopular because they take up time, and poorly run meetings can be a waste of time. But there are good meetings and bad meetings. Meetings can be a great use of time if they are well run, but effective meetings don’t just “happen.” There are ways to run effective, efficient meetings that will leave the participants energized rather than drained. If you’re not a natural meeting leader, meeting management skills can be learned. If you are new to running meetings, or would just like more ideas, there are lots of available resources. Here are just a few to get you started:
Faculty and staff use the new system for electronic absence/sick leave/timesheet entry through HRS. Absence, leave and hours (for hourly workers) are entered using the HRS Employee Self Service (ESS). As a department chair, you are the supervisor for the faculty and staff in your department and are now responsible for approving absence, sick leave and timesheets where appropriate. This is done using the HRS Manager Self Service (MSS). If you have any questions concerning this process, you can contact Mary Dixon for questions on university staff ESS/MSS and Megan Stauffacher for questions on faculty and academic staff ESS/MSS.
Buller, J. L. (2011). The essential department chair: A comprehensive desk reference (Vol. 132). John Wiley & Sons.
Chu, D. (2012). The department chair primer: What chairs need to know and do to make a difference. Jossey-Bass.
Gmelch, W.H. & Miskin, V.D. (2011). Department chair leadership skills. Madison, Wisconsin: Atwood Publishing.
Gunsalus, C. K. (2006). The college administrator's survival guide. Harvard University Press.
How to lead effective meetings. http://quality.wisc.edu/effective-meetings.htm
Association of American Colleges and Universities - useful for resources about the value of a liberal education, global learning practices, civic learning and communication engagement, and more...rubrics available for exploring standards of evaluation for the aforementioned
HR for paper work if not already completed, Benefits Orientation
Building tour and introductions - mailroom, copy room, departmental spaces, meet other ADAs in the vicinity
University photo for the website - University Communications
Budget 101 - College Business Manager
SEI overview - Sheri Craig or other knowledgeable ADA
Student Payroll - HR
More detail budget review with Department Chair
Outlook training - likely to be a "power user" and need desktop client
Purchasing meeting and P-card overview - Business Services and/or knowledgeable ADA
Wings 101: Course Scheduling, electronic overrides, waitlist - Records and Registration
Textbook Rental policies, procedures - Textbook Rental
Work-Study student considerations - Financial Aid
Web editor training - University Communications
Consider scheduling a lunch with ADA colleagues