This past week I attended the Academic Chairpersons Conference for the first time. Now in its 31st year, I’m wishing I’d discovered it sooner. In the first post on this blog I bemoaned the lack of training and preparation that many chairs face. This conference provided an excellent remedy and offered sessions ranging from assessment to handling student complaints to time management.
I had previously attended a similar conference focused on chairs of arts and sciences departments. And admittedly, this one casts the net wider and included chairs of departments I rarely interact with, even at my own university. Although there are some distinctly disciplinary issues that chairs contend with, not surprisingly, we share more challenges than not. Heads nodded vigorously every time someone shared an anecdote about the difficult faculty member or the university’s “business plan.”
I took copious notes, collected numerous handouts, and listened appreciatively to the wisdom and strategies of my colleagues. But now what? As with so many conferences, I ask myself the question, how will this experience change my work? This blog will provide one opportunity to think aloud, strategize, and implement some of the best practices I learned about. But I will also pose this as a broader question: given the chance for professional development as a chair, what do we then do with that knowledge? How do we bring those lessons back to our home campuses, especially when those lessons might be in conflict with the prevailing culture at our institutions?