As Department Chair or Program Director, you have a critical role to play as a leader, facilitator, mentor, manager, mediator, and agent of development for your department or program as a whole and for the individuals in your department or program. The biggest challenges you are likely to face and the greatest rewards of the job are linked to “people issues.” These are not an easy set of responsibilities, but they are very important.

By far the most important function of the Chair or Director is to see that excellent faculty are recruited, retained, supported, and rewarded in their work. This means you must take responsibility for supporting the professional development of individual faculty members in your department or program as they strive to improve their teaching, carry on their scholarly and creative work, or work to understand what it means to be an effective citizen at Carleton. You will play a major role in hiring, mentoring, and reviewing young faculty, but you should be equally concerned about helping to facilitate the continued growth and development of your senior colleagues as well.

You should also take responsibility for long-range planning for the department or program. Department and program reviews and hiring new faculty are occasions that invite planning for curricular evolution, but you should not wait on these moments to provide thoughtful leadership. You can encourage ongoing discussion of the program in department meetings, or you can plan a department or program retreat for more substantial discussion.

Support for Your Job as Chair/Director

You are responsible for seeing that all the departmental or program tasks get done, but you do not need to do all the work yourself. You will receive crucial help from your department assistant and you should be able to share tasks with department and program colleagues. You should also receive support from the Provost and staff in the Office of the Provost. You will have occasional formal channels of communication with the Provost — the annual written department or program report; various communications in writing about hiring, faculty reviews, or department and program reviews; occasional requests for particular information.

Since so much of the job of Chair/Director falls outside of report writing and formal duties, and is all about helping to facilitate a productive working environment, less formal communication channels are often even more important. Do not hesitate to drop a note, pick up the phone, or make an appointment to see the Provost when you wish to discuss an issue or air a concern.

The Provost will call department chair/program director meetings one or two times each term on Thursday mornings. Make every effort to attend, as these meetings provide a forum for discussion of issues that will affect departments or academic policy of the College as a whole. They can be an excellent means of sharing information among departments and programs and of sharing moral support among chairs. The Provost always welcomes agenda items. Please send proposed agenda items to the Provost in advance of the meetings. If you can’t attend a Chair meeting, you may ask a departmental colleague to attend in your absence.

Selection of Chair/Director

Department Chairs and Program Directors are appointed by the Provost and normally serve three years. Tenured faculty members are expected to serve as Chair from time to time as part of their normal duties.

General Advice for Chairs/Directors

  • COMMUNICATION is the single most important skill and function for the Department Chair or Program Director. Communicate with all your colleagues, with the assistant, with the Provost.
  • WRITE IT DOWN. After you negotiate something with a colleague or with the Provost, put it in writing and get a response in writing.
  • KNOW THE RULES. As chair or director you need to know department or program requirements, faculty review procedures, and College policies. It is worth the investment of time it takes to (re)read the Faculty Handbook, Academic Regulations and Procedures, the Department Chair/Program Director Handbook, and the Student Handbook.

Good luck in your role as Chair or Director! May it provide satisfaction and even enjoyment as you help build and maintain a strong program in your department or program and in the College.