Understanding the Scope of Your New Role

Your role as chair will involve some amount of routine administrative work.  You’ll deal with day-to-day details of student needs, enrollments, course sections and offerings as well as larger concerns associated with hiring, promotion and review of faculty colleagues and supervision of staff within your unit.   These responsibilities are likely the ones you’re already aware of, and your former chair(s) and administrative assistant will probably be able to help orient you with respect to many of these tasks.  The yearly calendar of such tasks can be found in the Chairs Handbook.

Beyond the list of specific things to be done however, there are a number of responsibilities that come with becoming chair that are less concrete, but are critical parts of your role.  Aside from the administrative work for which you’ll be responsible, you’ll also have the opportunity to effect change within your unit.  Some improvements might come from streamlining some of the annual or day-to-day work, while others might arise out of projects that are larger in scope.  You’ll also represent your unit to the institution: there may be meetings where you’ll need to represent your unit’s interests, or perhaps where you’ll learn of campus initiatives under consideration that you’ll want to report back to your unit. As you embark on your role, some questions that you should consider are:

  • What are your key responsibilities, and who (or what interests) do you represent?
  • What are your particular goals?
  • What will the biggest challenges be?
  • Who can help advise you?
  • How can you best help your successor?

As you begin, you may want to meet with various individuals or groups:

  • Meet with each member of your faculty and staff to understand their perspective on the unit and its key issues. Are there particular topics that they would like to see raised?  Are there particular areas of sensitivity or confidentiality that need to be considered?
  • Talk with previous chairs to understand what they accomplished, what they would have liked to accomplish, where they felt they succeeded, where they ran into obstacles.
  • Who else on campus do you need to consider as you think about the work of your unit and its place at the College: other departments/programs, individual faculty in other units who contribute to your curriculum, students, the library, OIT…
  • Talk with other individuals/offices at the College that you’ll need to work with in order to understand the workflow, timing, and logistics of projects that you’ll undertake (e.g. hiring, budgeting, evaluation of staff..)  The Office of the Dean of Faculty is always a good place to start if you have any questions.