This guide was developed on the model of the
SurvivalSuccess Guide for Knox Faculty; that is, a peer-to-peer guide, but here specifically for the role of chair. Four faculty members (all current or former department chairs) met throughout the year to talk through the content of the guide. Text was drafted by the editor and then revised through consultation with the other three members of the group and with Larry Breitborde, Dean of the College. This work was undertaken within the framework of the Faculty Development Program at Knox, and was facilitated by a grant from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest FaCE project (Faculty Career Enhancement).
We intend this guide as a resource, not as a prescriptive document. The more we talked through the material in the guide, the more conscious we became of how challenging the role of chair is. Even as we strove to record the "best practices" of successful department chairs, we also realized that it would be unrealistic for any one person to carry out all the possible tasks of a chair all of the time. Just taking care of the multitude of small, necessary duties, along with the occasional search, takes a significant amount of time. Some of the most important tasks of chairs, such as mentoring untenured faculty or undertaking a periodic curriculum review, are not "hardwired" into the schedule the way other tasks are, so it can be difficult to put them at the top of one's list. Delegating some of the routine department tasks is one important way of coping with the workload (see section on "Delegating"), but even this will not eliminate the need to prioritize tasks, and to keep on the list some of the "big picture" items that can make the job of chair particularly satisfying.
A note for program chairs: We were thinking primarily of department, rather than program, chairs when writing this guide, so you will find that some sections, or some language within sections, will not be applicable to you.
We expect the Guide will be updated and revised in a couple of years, so please send in any suggestions you might have for revisions or additions. And are there issues here that you think would benefit from wider discussion? Consider dropping a note to the e-mail list of all chairs: email@example.com.
The Chairs Guide Working Group
Penny Gold, editor
Regarding fair use by other institutions: We encourage others to use this material, adapting it to their own institutional situations. You may make use of whatever material you like. We just ask that you give appropriate acknowledgment to: Guide for Department Chairs (Galesburg, Illinois: Knox College, 2006), that you inform us of your plan to use the material (firstname.lastname@example.org), and that you send a copy of your final product to: Professor Penny Gold, Coordinator, Faculty Development Program, Knox College, Galesburg, IL 61401.