Department Chairs as Change Agents: A Virtual Cross-Institutional Professional Development Model for Chairs

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Department chairs are crucial in impacting departmental climate, conveying expectations, and providing merit assessments. Therefore, they have the most influence in retaining highly qualified faculty. Most department chairs come from the faculty ranks and lack formal training in key management, communication, and administrative skills, including performance reviews, resource allocation and budgeting, legal and compliance issues, promotion and tenure determinations, conflict resolution, and the inclusive management of people with diverse identities. Recognizing the critical role of department chairs and the evident gap in their training, we developed a series of chair workshops to provide ongoing professional development for department chairs across multiple semesters. These workshops were designed as part of a multi-university collaboration funded by the National Science Foundation to create more inclusive environments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) units. However, the offerings were expanded to include all units on all campuses. This paper outlines our approach to developing these professional development workshops and describes the workshop designs and how we incorporated participant feedback. Additionally, we offer suggestions for others designing and implementing chair professional development workshops together with areas for future advancements in chair professional development.

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Innovative Higher Education