Department Heads and Chairs

"I have always found it fascinating that an institution dedicated to training professionals to assume positions of leadership in society does absolutely nothing to train its own leaders in the essential skills." (Feiss, 2005)

When you find yourself in a position of leadership for which you have received no training, the following resources may help you navigate the waters.

Strategic Planning

A strong department has a unified vision and a plan for achieving it. Lead your department in developing a vision and implementing a plan.

Recruiting and Retaining Faculty

Finding and keeping high quality faculty is a major concern for every department. Here are resources describing successful strategies.

Managing a Department

As the head or chair of a department, it is your job to prepare budgets, allocate resources, help resolve problems, evaluate your colleagues, and more.

Additional Resources

  • The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) collaborate to produce a series of monthly webinars, promoting dialogue on topics of interest to department chairs and heads.
  • Stay in touch with fellow heads and chairs of geoscience departments via email lists:
    • Join SERC's geodepts email list to receive announcements about relevant workshops and events at professional society meetings, as well as to discuss issues that are important to the community.
    • If you are the current head or chair of your department, you can join AGU's Heads and Chairs email list by contacting Pranoti Asher (AGU Education and Public Outreach Manager) at You do not have to be an AGU member to join this list.
  • The Academic Leader is an online newsletter for academic deans and department chairs.
  • Hitting the Ground Running: Making Strategic Changes is a posting from "Tomorrow's Professor" that describes changes made by a new chair in several areas and the results. It is food for thought for anyone about to become chair who sees room for department-level changes.
  • Learning to Lead is a posting from "Tomorrow's Professor" that focuses on some of the important things to pay attention to in the first three-six months as a new department chair. In particular, it addresses a few key behaviors that lead to success as a faculty member but may lead to failure as a chair.
  • Departments that Work: Building and Sustaining Cultures of Excellence in Academic Programs focuses on how academic programs can make evaluation more useful and critical reflection more likely.
  • Read the 2001 Report on the Status of Geoscience Departments from the American Geosciences Institute to learn about geoscience enrollments and degrees granted, employment trends of recent graduates, faculty ranks, faculty teaching specialties, geoscience theses and dissertation topics, research funding support, and geoscience employment by employer category, age distribution, and gender distribution.
  • The NSF-funded [ 'ADVANCE portal for Department Heads'] has an extensive list of resources for department chairs, on a wide variety of topics.

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