Dear Faculty Relations: I was elected as the department chair last spring and began on July 1. While I am very excited to lead the department and positively impact our faculty, students, and staff, I have some concerns keeping me up at night. I am worried about the role of our outgoing chair, a full professor with a strong personality and connections both within and outside the university. I am also an associate professor in our department with aspirations to go up for promotion to full. Do you have any advice for me? -Worried Incoming Chair 

Dear Worried Incoming Chair: Firstly, congratulations on being elected the chair of your department. It is a testament to the high level of faith, confidence, and value your colleagues in the department place on you. It is common for former chairs to return to being regular faculty members, and we completely understand your apprehensions about that. Setting up a meeting and talking to the outgoing chair about their goals and future plans would be a good idea. In what ways could they be of support to you?  More often than not, outgoing chairs are happy to step aside and help when needed. However, if your outgoing chair is having some issues letting go, it could be resolved by having a candid but perhaps, crucial conversation with them. If you haven’t taken Crucial Conversations or Crucial Accountability Training, we highly recommend that. You can get coaching on how to have difficult conversations from the Office of Faculty Relations. ALI also has specific trainings and workshops for all chairs and academic leaders, which can be found here.  

As for your second concern, we recommend looking at the ACUMent mentoring programs, particularly the mentoring circle program, where you can request to be placed in a group with other associate professors in leadership roles. Being a department chair as an associate professor presents numerous unique challenges, and our ACUMent mentoring circle program is designed to specifically address such challenges. We also have several upcoming workshops and panels that you might find helpful such as Demystifying VCAC and the promotion to full process, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, and Managing Your Social Media Presence, among others, this semester. You can find more ongoing workshops and training sessions on the FDS website. Please keep an eye out for Faculty Development and Support (FDS) and Academic Leaders Institute (ALI) newsletters for more workshops and panels to come in spring.  

If you have ideas for workshops or any feedback on how we can help associate professors in administrative roles reach their goals, please get in touch with Harsha Ganga, Faculty Director for Mid-Career Faculty Development, Office of Faculty Affairs. 

Written by Harsha Ganga, Faculty Director, Mid-Career Faculty Development, Office of Faculty Affairs, and Professor of Advertising, College of Media, Communication and Information, September 2022