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Department Chairs Professional Development

The Cross-Institutional Department Chair Professional Development program enables participating institutions to share best practices and lessons learned in departmental leadership, with a focus on empowering chairs and change agents and on mitigating traditional barriers to the success of under-represented women faculty and women faculty of color. Workshop topics include performance management in time of crisis, department climate and workload equity, flexible faculty practices, and incivility.

Program Purpose

The Cross-Institutional Department Chair Professional Development program provides forums for institutions to share best practices and resources towards the goal of supporting faculty success. Under-represented women faculty and women faculty with familial responsibilities navigate complex issues, such as caregiving penalties, tokenism, implicit biases, and historic departmental practices that were not designed with a diverse faculty in mind. These cross-institutional workshops, conducted virtually, are intended to empower chairs as change agents within their own departments, across their own campuses, and at times across multiple universities. 

Carla Koretsky, Patty Sotirin and Gul Okudan Kremer
Carla Koretsky (left, back, WMU), Patty Sotirin (middle, MTU) and Gul Okudan Kremer (ISU) discuss the department chair professional development at the March 2, 2020 meeting.












Prior to the workshop, learning goals, pre-workshop readings, and registration information are shared with participants. Shareable documents are created for participants to include institutional policies pertinent to the workshop topic. For example, templates for faculty annual evaluations and guidelines for promotion and tenure dossiers provided background information on performance evaluation. The COVID pandemic included a focus on documenting COVID impact. Flexible faculty policies might overlap at institutions with similar missions, but details on implementation may differ: collecting information on existing policies informs participants about the differences in the institutional context.

The cross-institutional workshops are ~90-minute videoconferences offered two or three times at different days and times to better accommodate participants' schedules. The workshops start with a short presentation to introduce the topic. The core of the workshops are a case study with two perspectives (e.g., the one of a woman faculty and the one of their chair) followed by breakout sessions where participants answer questions included in each scenario. Within the large group, participants report out questions, insights, and reflections.

After the session, participants are provided with information on related resources at their home institutions and encouraged to create action items to implement change in their department.

Four workshops have been offered: Faculty Evaluation in Times of COVID (spring 2021), Building an Equitable Department Where Faculty Want to Come and Stay (fall 2021), Flexible Faculty Policies (spring 2022), and Faculty Incivility and Bullying (fall 2022). Two workshops on bias in faculty evaluation and equitable workload were offered in spring 2023. 


Dawn Bratsch- Prince, Jo Anne Powell Coffman, Gul Kremer, Stephanie Peterson, Heather Petcovic, Canan Bilen-Green, Adrienne Minerick.


"We were already planning to do a workload analysis in the department. This workshop made me feel an urgency to get that task done, and made me see how important transparency is an a department (although it can be scary to think about sharing some information)."

"I plan to educate every member of my department on the subtle ways in which our unconscious bias, particularly in regards to gender, affects everything we do on a daily basis. I have already underlined talks given by women on our campus, which normally would have been solely underscored by the office on campus that was sponsoring or organizing the event."

"I think the biggest takeaway for me was that it was good to have a conversation with other leaders just to kind of hear their thoughts about how they would approach the scenarios that were part of the conversation, I think the scenarios themselves were the biggest area where it felt like you could really take the information and apply it. And I guess the most useful part of the exercise to me were those scenarios, and hearing how other people would approach the situations was useful. "

"I think it's just a really good idea to be doing this. I think, as we talked about on campus, many times, chairs come into their role not always with skills to be people managers. And I think these programs are really needed in the academy across the country that help chairs become real leaders of their programs and help to achieve these goals that this program is putting forth."


Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences: ADVANCE Case Studies 

University of Maryland's Faculty Workload and Rewards Project

University of Washington - ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change: Hostile Behavior Case Studies

Department Chair Resource Document: Building an Equitable Department Where Faculty Want to Work and Stay

ADVANCE Midwest Partnership: External Review Letters - Recommendations for department chairs during promotion and tenure reviews.