2. Being a Department Chair is the Hardest Job on Campus

As a Dean, the most important “go to” people for me are the Department Chairs in my college. I count on them to inform me of their departmental needs, the challenges their faculty and staff are having, and to enforce policies created in the Dean’s Office or other areas of higher administration. They are expected to walk a balancing act of still being considered one of “them” by their faculty and one of “us” by the administration. This is not a fair position to put anyone in and ultimately no one is going to be completely satisfied. I appreciate our department chairs very much and am blessed with a talented and committed group that successfully walks that balancing act on a daily basis. We ask a lot of Chairs—put the accomplishments of your faculty and your department ahead of your own, support your faculty but also critically evaluate them, enforce the policies of higher administration even if you personally disagree with them, provide extra support to mentor junior faculty but don’t shortchange the needs of tenured and senior faculty, and while doing all of this stay positive!!  Succeeding in this “in between world” is no easy task. Let’s make sure we give our Department Chairs a break every now and then for being human and recognize the difficult positions we put them in.

2 thoughts on “2. Being a Department Chair is the Hardest Job on Campus

  1. Agreed, David! While I enjoyed being a Department Chair, it was the toughest job I ever held. As a Dean I spare Chairs as much as possible from tasks that others can do, and publically recognize their accomplishments whenever possible. Thank you, Department Chairs!

  2. I am so glad that David Travis posted this. One advantage of coming through the ranks, as he has, is that he has experienced being chair. As a chair myself for six years in the largest department on campus–Languages and Literatures–I can attest that it is a demanding position. I should add, though, that it was also the most rewarding job I have ever had. So much opportunity to work with faculty and students. Departments are the DNA of pedagogy in academia. Any real change will usually be initiated and be implemented through them.

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