Roles and Responsibilities

The role of department head has been termed the most challenging as well as fulfilling within the university setting. In their excellent guide to the job, Gmelch and Miskin ( Chairing an Academic Department, Atwood Publishing, 2004) define four chair roles: Faculty developer, manager, leader, and scholar. Department heads are encouraged to read Chairing an Academic Department for an in-depth description of chair roles and a broad orientation to the role of a department head. Department heads have the authority and responsibility to manage the day-to-day operations of departments or schools. As such, they are charged with providing academic leadership, office management, faculty career development and external visibility and support. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

Academic Leadership

  • Developing their unit's strategic plan and metrics for evaluating progress
  • Espousing clear guidelines for faculty recruitment and retention
  • Making office, laboratory, studio and/or research space assignments
  • Making teaching assignments
  • Leading in curriculum development
  • Leading assessment of learning
  • Ensuring faculty input and communicating priorities

Office Management

  • Supervising the work and development of professional office staff
  • Exercising budget oversight
  • Creating a collegial, respectful and supportive culture
  • Demonstrating appreciation and recognizing faculty and staff performance
  • Managing conflict
  • Ensuring understanding of and compliance with relevant University policies
  • Creating an ethical, principled work environment where diversity is encouraged, supported and valued as a measure of departmental success
  • Creating a work environment that supports and values personal and family needs and priorities including marriage, childbirth, dependent care and dual careers

Faculty Career Development

  • Providing prompt, meaningful, fair and written annual performance evaluations
  • Developing a mentoring system for faculty members throughout their careers by matching their individual strengths and abilities in ways and at times that best match the unit's goals and needs
  • Articulating clearly the path to tenure and promotion
  • Ensuring knowledge, understanding and compliance with faculty policies
  • Aiding the faculty to develop their efforts in discovery, learning and engagement
  • Guiding the faculty in managing their competing demands

External Relations

  • Leading and managing external relations, including development
  • Representing the department to the dean, the campus and external entities

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