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Leading the Academic Department

June 16-19, 2005

Washington Terrace Hotel
1515 Rhode Island Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20005
(866) 984-6835

Washington DC 20005

Organized by:
Arnie Ostebee, Saint Olaf College
Jon Scott, Montgomery College


This workshop is intended for department chairs who are new to the post or have years of experience. The emphasis is on leadership; that elusive quality that chairs are expected to possess but have little opportunity to develop and refine while dealing with the day to day demands of academic administration. This program is unique in that mathematics department chairs will have time to discuss issues and gain insights from their colleagues who are in the same positions.

The workshop will address concepts of leadership, vision, and management as they apply to chairing a mathematical sciences department. We will discuss many issues facing department chairs including recruitment and retention of students, curriculum change, faculty firing, retention, mentoring, and development, review, assessment, legal issues, conflict resolution, workload, adjuncts, TA’s, budgets and finance, and external support. Sessions will focus on individual growth, time management, and balancing the demands on the chairperson. The format will be primarily discussion sessions devoted to case studies and particular issues. These sessions will address issues faced by new, mid-career, and long-time department chairs and provide opportunities for chairs to meet together based upon institutional profile as two-year colleges, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive state colleges and universities, and research universities.

Keynote Address: Dennis Berkey, President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Friday afternoon, title tba)

Dennis D. Berkey assumed the Presidency of WPI on July 1, 2004. Dr. Berkey received a B.A. in mathematics from Muskingum College, an M.A. in mathematics from Miami University, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Cincinnati. He joined the faculty of Boston University in 1974, chaired the Department of Mathematics from 1978 to 1983, was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1987 to 2002, and twice served as university provost at BU from 1987 to 1991 and from 1996 to 2004. Dr. Berkey's published research is in applied mathematics, the theory of differential equations and optimal control.

The workshop will begin with a reception on Thursday evening, June 16, and conclude at noon Sunday, June 19. A full agenda will be posted on this site in mid-May.

The discussions described below will be based on materials from Leading the Mathematical Sciences Department: A Resource for Chairs (MAA Notes 64), edited by Tina H. Straley, Marcia P. Sward and Jon W. Scott. A copy of this volume will be provided to each participant.

Case Studies

A case study is a short, one paragraph to one page description of an event that is based upon an actual occurrence. The group will discuss possible solutions to the given situation, what action they would take, and how they would resolve the issues. This may be followed by a more general discussion with the participants of the general issue and situations that they have confronted.

Issue Sessions

Issues sessions will focus on 2-3 issues; discussion will be spurred by 1-2 page papers on each issue. Participants should be prepared to discuss their own experiences and questions on the specific issues.

Discussion Issues
  1. Undergraduate student recruitment, especially efforts to recruit underrepresented minority students.
  2. Graduate student enrollment (impact of having or not having a VIGRE program, foreign students vs US residents/citizens, teaching vs research assistantships or fellowships).
  3. Faculty review and merit pay.
  4. Encouraging/leading curriculum renewal (departmental buy-in, institutionalization, interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary programs).
  5. External funding (pros, cons, ways to promote, issues in the department).
  6. Hiring and firing staff and faculty.
  7. Budgets (managing, stretching resources, strategies for increasing your budget).
  8. Graduate program issues (renewing curriculum, preparing for jobs in and outside of academe, professional masters programs, balancing the interests of the faculty).
  9. Undergraduate major (preparing for jobs, teaching, graduate school).
  10. Dependence on and enculturation of part-time faculty (adjuncts, TA's) and temporary faculty (non-tenure track, post-docs, other).
  11. Resolving conflict within the department.
  12. Managing conflict with the dean, provost, or other departments.
  13. Mentoring faculty throughout their careers.
  14. Technology in the classroom.


An email discussion group will be established for the participants and leaders of this workshop. Additionally, a reunion meeting will be held at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in January 2006 at San Antonio where participants will have the opportunity to discuss how they have incorporated the ideas of the workshop into their position as chair.

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