Related Pages

Worksheets & Tools

Characteristics of the Ideal Department: Survey
A tool for internal analysis of departmental strength and weakness was devised at the 2002 PKAL Summer Institute. The "Characteristics of the Ideal Department" grid outlines the various aspects of a strong department– from the existence of a statement of mission to the presence of a talented administrative assistant.
Departmental matrix - Clarity about the scope and sequence of departmental offerings
Mary Savina, C. Edward Buchwald, David M. Bice, Shelby J. Boardman
Having departmental conversations about where students learn what, brings coherence to the academic program.
Departmental Thermometer
Ted Vessey, Sylvia T. Bozeman
A checklist from which leaders can determine the "temperature" of their community in regard to serving all students. Adapted from a survey prepared by mathematicians Sylvia Bozeman of Spelman College and Ted Vessey of St. Olaf College.

What Works Statements

What Works: Building Robust Interdisciplinary Programs
What Works: Motivating Students to Pursue STEM Careers


A synthesis of recommendations from Keck/PKAL Consultancies: Dealing with dysfunctional departments
Identifying what does not work is sometimes as important to efforts to build strong STEM departments and programs as knowing what works (see stories posted 02/06/04 from the undergraduate physics project SPIN-UP). Most problems facing departmental leaders have been identified and addressed in other settings: attrition after first-year courses; little or no administrative support; "ownership" of specific courses. Bringing an outside voice to the discussions is sometimes helpful, as illustrated by this report summarized from several Keck/PKAL consultancies.
Addressing one American Psychological Association goal for student learning
Christine Marco
A report of departmental efforts to implement a curriculum assessment strategy.


Key characteristics of good departmental leadership
Lee W. Willard
By creating a coalition around issues relating to intellectual life and intellectual curiosity, an academic leader can help develop a broad commitment to a vision that links to greater institutional goals.

Link to another site

10 Principles of Good Practice: Supporting Early-Career Faculty
This document includes: "ten principles of good practice; inventories to prompt department chairs, senior colleagues, and other academic leaders to examine their individual and institutional practices; and examples of concrete and innovative approaches to good practice being tried out now in a variety of institutional settings."
Book excerpt-
"I talk about my transformation as a teacher through my work with ChemLinks and creation of ChemConnections modules. I talk about the risks, rewards, strategies, surprises, and struggle to deal with student resistance and defying disciplinary norms."
Excerpt from Astronomy Education Review, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2004.
Teaching demands versus research productivity
Keith M. Howard, Monir H. Sharobeam
Faculty in undergraduate institutions are scholars and need to be actively engaged in research. They must also publish and get grants to be promoted and tenured. The strong demand on their time for teaching and college services, however, leaves them little time for research.
The American Council on Education's Department Chair Online Resource Center
Since November 1999, the American Council on Education (ACE) has offered workshops and provided extensive resources "for those heading departments or programs and for administrators who work with department leaders;" this work is coordinated by Irene W. D. Hecht, ACE Director Department Leadership Programs.

Keck Consultation Reports

A Chemistry Department's Desire to Increase Visibility
The Keck/PKAL Consultation Program
The chemistry department at this liberal arts college in the southwest has been recognized for its continual pursuit of excellence. However, the department wants to increase the visibility of and enrollment in the department. Several steps were identified that will contribute to and add to the success of the department.
Re-creating a Successful Biology Program
The Keck/PKAL Consultation Program
Consultants were asked to evaluate the biology program at this private institution in the northeast. They evaluated core course requirements, upper-level courses, assessment tools for student learning, and the over-arching goals for biology majors in the program. The following recommendations will enable the institution to produce successful graduates that have many career options following graduation.


A report from the undergraduate physics community
Robert C. Hilborn
Three national physics societies, with support from the ExxonMobil Foundation, collaborated in identifying how certain undergraduate physics departments are achieving success in increasing the numbers, persistence and success of students. The chair of the project (Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics: SPINUP), Robert Hilborn of Amherst College, reports on their findings: that what works is a challenging but supportive academic program, strong and sustained departmental leadership, with continuing experimentation and evaluation built into the process of curricular transformation.
Building and Sustaining Faculty Careers: Nuts & Bolts for Department Chairs
Jeanne L. Narum
Challenges for Departmental Leaders
Participating teams in this workshop identified a kaleidoscope of challenges that department leaders must consider.
Creating a Community Dedicated to the Assessment of Student Learning
Jeanne L. Narum
One responsibility of leaders in undergraduate STEM is to keep their community focused on the quality of learning of their students- what lasts. Exercising this responsibility calls for discussions and negotiations to take place at many different stages in a long and iterative process...
Examining Unexpected Challenges Facing Department Chairs
It is of paramount importance for institutions to recognize the importance of departmental chairs and to cultivate their leadership abilities.
Excerpts from essays
Fund Development for Science (STEM) Facilities: The Role of the President
James Appleton
Getting Support & Budget for Your Great Idea, Part I
Peter Facione
Peter Facione's essay develops a scenario through which a faculty member (or a team of faculty) with a good idea builds internal connections within a campus in order to secure resources to advance their ideas. He urges faculty to figure out how a single good idea fits into their long-term goals for professional advancement, into the departmental and institutional priorities, and how to articulate that connection to people with decision-making responsibilities. His main point is that good administrators "remember people who have good ideas and show initiative and energy, even if [they] cannot support the person at that moment and in the way the person is asking. [They] are talent scouts and coaches, mentors and leaders...looking for motivated people whose work and vision they can use for the betterment of that person and of the school."
Guidelines for Collaboration : The Dean's Perspective
Jeanne L. Narum
This essay from PKAL Volume III outlines five specific "guidelines" for the work of committees with a leadership role in shaping new spaces for science. These guidelines- about finding consensus, respecting disagreement and diversity, etc.- are instructive for all committees working through the minefields of institutional change.
Hiring new faculty
Logistics, Landmines and Life-preservers for the Department Chair
Elizabeth S. Boylan
One of the most significant challenges a department chair faces involves the leadership of the process by which a new member of the department is recruited, hired and integrated into the local academic community.
Roles & Responsibilities of Academic Leaders
An Essay
Jeanne L. Narum
Building and sustaining faculty careers involves more than hiring a new body. Planning is critical to the success of the person, department and institution.
The Gainesville College story
J. B. Sharma
One case study from the SPIN-UP/TYC report is from the work of J.B. Sharma, Professor of Physics at Gainesville College in Georgia, which includes an active Society of Physics Students (SPS) which brings students into the physics community on the campus and keeps them engaged. Dr. Sharma is a member of the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century and serves on the PKAL Phase IV Steering Committee.

Case Studies

Departmental Transformation: A Case Study - University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Gubbi Sudhakaran
This case study was presented at the PKAL 2002 Summer Institute in sessions organized by the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics.

A President's Perspective: Fund Development for Science Facilities
James Appleton

Other Resources

Characteristics of the Ideal Department, v.2
Arnold Ostebee, C. Gary Reiness
The "Ideal Department" as characterized by participants from "Building Vital Departments" at the second Leadership Institute at Baca from June 5-10, 2005.
Department/Program Chairs Calendar
A calendar that summarizes many of the duties and responsibilities of a department/program chair and when during a typical year action might be required to fulfill those duties and responsibilities.
Departmental self-study at Allegheny College
David Statman
How the process of a departmental self-study results in a better sense of "who we are, who our students are, and where we fit into the liberal arts college."
Developing People and Programs
John B. Conway
Advice for department/program leaders on helping young and old faculty achieve their potential, and on developing tranformative programs within the confines and context of institutional structure.
F. Resources
Linking departmental planning to larger institutional initiatives
Teresa Burns
A personal story: linking departmental planning to larger institutional initiatives that reflect institutional goals in regard to the quality of student learning, the building of an intellectual and physical infrastructure that enables robust learning.
Roles and Responsibilities: Leaders of Departments and Programs
Departmental/programmatic responsibilities include defining goals, ensuring communication, and supporting community.
Strategies for avoiding burnout: A department chair's perspective
Ruth H. Howes
Practical advice for department chairs on leading a balanced life.
The department chair as linchpin of institutional transformation
Beth L. Weatherby, John Steven Kramer, Elizabeth Desy, Emily Deaver, Daniel Kaiser
This set of essays from Southwest Minnesota State University reflects ideas and insights from one of PKAL's Leadership Initiative teams about the crucial role of a chairperson within the department and the institution as a whole.