Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

Leadership from the perspective of the department/program chairperson

December 20, 2005

PKAL's focus on leadership in Volume IV postings in coming months will include discussions about the responsibilities of those in formal positions of academic leadership. These "positions of leadership responsibility" discussions connect to current PKAL’s leadership initiative (LI). LI activities are designed to inform, nurture, and enhance the work of those assuming leadership roles in the work of building strong 21st century learning in STEM fields for 21st century undergraduates, no matter their background or career aspiration.

Department and program chairpersons are key leaders within a campus community, as they:

  • ensure the long-term health and well-being of the department/program for which they are responsible, given the broader institutional mission, identity, and circumstance
  • are the vital liaison between their departmental colleagues, faculty colleagues across campus, and administrative colleagues
  • are catalysts for discussions about the quality of student learning in their classrooms and labs, and stewards for learning of the highest quality
  • work to keep the "system" of policies and practices running smoothly, dealing with the nuts and bolts of the politics of leadership in shaping, reshaping, and sustaining a robust curriculum, dealing with the creative tension that is bound to arise
  • keep the focus on the future, bringing insights, information, and data about the changing context—societal pressures, advances in science and technology, student demographics—into discussions about faculty and facilities, about pedagogies, course content, and instructional technologies.

And, this all must be accomplished while avoiding fatigue and burnout!

Special thanks to Mary Crowe (F21 class of '98) and the F21 community for their assistance in building these resources.

We present here four new essays by PKAL F21 members (and a village elder) who have been involved in the PKAL F21 Summer Leadership Institute at BACA. Further, we present an initial version of a PKAL Handbook for Department Chairs.