DU Chair Handbook

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  7. Building & Sustaining Community

Building & Sustaining Community

Departmental decision-making

Take time to review your traditions for departmental decision-making. Assess whether or not they serve everyone equitably (especially untenured/NTT faculty). If they don’t, it might be time to change these.

Consider formalizing your decision-making process by writing it into your departmental bylaws. This can increase trust and transparency in departmental decision-making.

Consider the balance between committees of the whole and committees with specific expertise in decision-making.

Difficult department decisions might require one-on-one conversations between the chair and each department member before engaging in group decision-making in a department meeting. For high-stakes decisions that carry the potential for controversy, it is wise for chairs to take the “temperature” of each department member before moving to collective decision-making.

Learning to Listen: The role of chair involves active listening and often approaching complex problems that take time to resolve. In some departments, the chairs work with a small committee.

Check out the work of the DU Deliberative Decision Making Symposium Group.


Communication within program

Communication within a program may include the following:

  • Department newsletters to communicate with stakeholders or alumni in and outside of DU. In some departments/colleges, the dean’s office has a marketing and communications person that creates and sends newsletters. The chair can suggest topics. The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs has newsletters about recent grants.
  • Good news emails or social media posts (e.g., new article published, performance, exhibit)


Student orientation

Graduate student orientation

In some departments, a faculty committee oversees graduate student orientations. The chair is included and welcomes students, but they may not be be overly involved. Some graduate students are working as GTAs and need safety training for labs, training in teaching, as well as course selection discussions.

Undergrad orientation

Undergrad orientation changes slightly year to year, but typically consists of a college wide welcome to DU and major advising, performed by each department. Major advising is led by 2-10 faculty depending on the departmental needs. This usually happens the week before classes begin for first year students.

Department events

Department Events vary from department to department, but can include

  • Colloquiums that highlight faculty, student, and visiting scholar work
  • Time for faculty to gather without students (e.g., chair lunches with junior faculty, Friday afternoon coffee)
  • Annual events (e.g., welcome picnic, graduation celebration, winter holiday events)
  • Department rituals (e.g., award ceremonies, lectures/seminars by those going up for or recently receiving tenure and promotion)

Beyond the department

Chairs may need to participate in outward-facing events in the College or University and the community, depending on the college and department you represent. For example, in education, chairs may represent the College and University at events with local school districts.

Chairs may be invited to reach out to donors, when applicable. Chairs should work closely with their Deans and College or DU’s Center Office of Endowment when initiating any communication with the donors.