Department Chairs Handbook
The roles and responsibilities of Chairs and Heads of Departments have changed dramatically in the past ten years. Multiple simultaneous processes in American Higher Education—enrollment growth and competition for students, issues of access, affordability, and accountability, economic downturn and shrinking state appropriations, increased expectations for concurrent productivity increases in grants, scholarship, teaching, and service, along with developments in technology, faculty work and life, and the university’s growing role as an engine for economic development have made departments the “most critical organizational unit” and the chairs among the “most important academic leaders.”
Chairs and Heads are “front line” managers and leaders. As such, they serve more than one constituency and assume multiple roles. They are the primary spokesperson for department faculty, staff, students, and programs. They also must implement campus policy and carry forward the mission and initiatives of the University for the Central Administration. Chairs and Heads usually are selected on the merits of their records in teaching, scholarship, and service, as well as their abilities to gain the confidence of department faculty during the interview and selection process. But the roles and responsibilities of Heads and Chairs at UNCG—as well as in most institutions of higher education—encompass a broad range of management and leadership functions for which new academic leaders are seldom prepared by training or experience. Leading a department requires that Chairs and Heads be effective advocates, negotiators, consensus builders, budget wizards, and managers, as well as good colleagues, advisors, and communicators. Chairs and Heads also need to know what information they need, when they need it, and where to get it. That is the purpose of the Handbook.
(Sources: Irene Hecht, Mary Lou Higgerson, Walter Gmelch, and Alan Tucker, The Department Chair as Academic Leader. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education/Oryx Press, 1999; Ann F. Lucas and Associates, Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000. Emphasis added)