The Tasks of the Department Chair
The following is a list of the general areas of responsibility that fall to all Department Chairs. Each particular chair has the challenge and the opportunity to fulfill these responsibilities in a way that is appropriate in the context and ethos of your department.
Vision and Planning
Keep before your department the purpose of Westmont as a Christian Liberal Arts College and cultivate an ongoing discussion about the role of each department with that larger college mission.
Coordinate the administrative affairs of the department and serve as liaison to other departments of the College (e.g., working with the Registrar’s Office and Academic Advising and Disability Services Director in the assignment of advisees, facilitating new student recruitment with the Admissions Office).
- Plan and chairs all department business meetings and chapels
- Arrange for departmental faculty to be present at Summer Orientation and Preview days
- Monitor and update departmental website annually
Hiring and Mentoring of Faculty and Staff
You are the primary point person –in cooperation with the Provost’s Office and the faculty mentor- to help new faculty prepare for their tenure and promotion reviews. By point person, I mean that you are the most likely to be aware of concerns and needs that can helpfully be addressed before they reach crisis proportions.
- Recruit, orient and supervise departmental secretary (with other chair if applicable)
- Write annual performance reviews for staff
- Hire and supervise departmental workers or lab assistants
- Hire part-time faculty when they are needed (see use of Adjunct faculty document). The first step in such hiring is to confirm with the Provost’s Office that there is funding for the position, and then to recommend to the Provost’s Office the person you wish to hire. Any new part-time faculty should be interviewed by the Provost prior to any commitment being made to the candidate.
- Conduct and chair any departmental search committees
- Oversee all department faculty, especially non-tenured faculty through regular class visits, review of student evaluations, etc.
- Serve as sounding board and liaison for student concerns about departmental faculty
In connection with hiring, you will want to have someone in your department (if not you) to be alert to upcoming hiring opportunities and to be cultivating a pool of eligible candidates who will be able to complement your department in whatever ways the department might need to have new voices -diversity concerns and DDRs.
Communication and Cultivation of Sociability
The department chair is the key person to communicate information and concerns between the Senate and your department, and between the Provost’s Office and your department.
You are also the key person to gather and disseminate important information, and to facilitate dialogue whenever there are concerns within a department. Be sure to:
- Keep a running list of departmental majors and minors
- Orient and inform transfer students
- Receive and process all generic department mail
- Provide information for Professional Associations (such as American Historical Association)
You are the key person to facilitate some level of sociability among the faculty in your department and between faculty and students in your department. Be sure to:
- Communicate with alumni –write annual letter
- Follow-up with communication to Preview Day students
- Plan department events such as Senior breakfast as well as social and academic activities for majors
The department chair supervises and coordinates ongoing program review and assessment to ensure continued departmental health and progress –see brochure. The chair is responsible for:
- Writing annual updates
- Writing 6-year reports
- Gathering departmental information for Program Review every year
- Guiding the process of Program Review and Assessment
Oversee departmental budget, including submissions of annual budget and authorization of all departmental expenditures. Beyond regular departmental expenditures (supplies, copies…), this includes:
- Library budget
- Departmental Awards (Senior Award) and scholarships
- Yearly Capital Improvement Requests (CIP)
The department chair represents the department at the academic Senate and is responsible for assuring that the department is keeping its curriculum current, coherent, and responsive to helpful feedback.
- Attend and represent the department at Academic Senate meetings, and serve on assigned senate committee (if any)
- Devise and submit department course offerings for each semester
- Review and revise catalog copy annually –approve new courses and modify the major
- Serve as principle departmental contact for the General Education Committee and the Program Review Committee
- Review and sign petitions, mayterm course proposals, tutorial forms, research forms, ILAF (internships), Major/Minor substitution forms, Pre-approval form for Major/Minor credit,
In the event of disciplinary non-performance concerns, there are very specific responsibilities of the department chairs outlined in the faculty handbook.