Department Chair Resources
This site provides information that new and experienced department chairs will find useful. Please see the accordions below for a collection of information regarding various topics and issues that you may need to address as department chair.
Helping the Faculty in Teaching
It is part of your job as department chair to help the faculty become better teachers.
- Make sure faculty members understand how to ensure positive relationships with students, including setting up appointments, publicizing office hours and being available during office hours.
- Make faculty aware of the Center for Academic Innovation and Faculty Support, which provides resources to help faculty become more effective teachers through active learning, inclusive pedagogy, online and hybrid learning, and service learning and community engagement.
Faculty Teaching Responsibilities
- Make sure that all faculty understands his or her teaching responsibility, as detailed in Chapter 3 of the Faculty Manual.
Faculty members must:
- Meet their classes.
- Be accessible to students through regularly-scheduled office hours (5 hours per week for full-time faculty and 30 minutes per course meeting/week for part-time faculty).
- Grade work in a timely manner.
- Provide a syllabus that states course objectives, faculty expectations, methods of learning assessment and grade computation.
- Allow students to evaluate a faculty member's performance.
- Teach classes assigned to them by their department chair.
Ensure that your faculty are aware of University policies that relate to teaching, such as:
- Privacy protection including rules against using social security numbers to post grades, and other protections of the privacy of student information as covered under FERPA (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act).
- Academic Grievance Policy (Policies and procedures for disputed grades).
- Grade Forgiveness
- Academic Probation and Suspension
- These policies are spelled out in the academic catalog under "Academic Regulations."
- Maintain and follow the Academic Unit Guidelines for Online Learning and Distance Education
- In addition, forms associated with these policies and procedures can be found on the Registrar's Office Forms page.
Faculty Forms for the following nonstandard courses can be found on the Registrar’s Web page:
- Independent Study Courses
- Non-scheduled course - Initiated by the academic department or faculty member to provide a student with the course content of an existing catalog course in a format that is not on the schedule open to all. The course number and title reflect the content that the student is taking.
- New Course Request for one-time only
- Application for Reduced Teaching
All junior faculty (and some not so junior) benefit from having a mentor in the department.
- Assign a tenured faculty member to be a mentor to new faculty.
- Encourage faculty to share resources related to teaching strategies, successes and resources.
- Consider implementing a peer observation system among faculty colleagues to observe one another's teaching (perhaps reciprocally), with the goal of improvement rather than judgment.
- Contribute to the Faculty Mentoring Program
- Have at least two department meetings each year to discuss aspects of teaching
- Meet with every faculty member every year to discuss teaching. This does not always have to be an evaluative conversation. One purpose would be to learn innovative techniques that faculty may be employing in their courses.
- TAPS Grants: The purpose of the USC Upstate Teaching and Productive Scholarship (TAPS) Fund is to promote good scholarship including original research projects, programs that support curriculum development and travel for presentation of scholarship. Funded projects will support the scholarship process with the goal of formal presentation and/or publication, improve pedagogy and curriculum development to contribute to the USC Upstate mission and/or enable major service projects which require application of scholarly and/or professional knowledge. TAPS application and reporting forms can also be found on their webpage.
- Several funding opportunities exist for faculty through the office of the Director of Research.
- For help with grant writing and other aspects of research, contact the Office of Sponsored Awards and Research Support (SARS)
- The Center for Research and Scholarship Support provides programs, incentives, and resources to enhance the educational and professional development of USC Upstate undergraduate students by supporting student-based research, scholarly, or creative activities. There are multiple funding opportunities to support student research.
Creating a Collegial Research Culture
You play an important role in setting the tone for research in your department.
- To create a culture of research, set targets for departmental and individual publications, proposal submissions and presentations in premiere venues.
- As benchmarks, see what is done in three or four departments you regard as top-rate.
- Have brown bag seminars where faculty can present and get feedback on their research.
- Invite key scholars in the field to give talks or to hold seminars.
- Create a climate where individuals discuss and debate their research and share drafts with one another, individually and in workshops.
- Encourage an atmosphere where faculty help each other's careers, e.g., nominating colleagues for awards and honors.
Becoming a department chair often means taking a larger view of the University and your role in it.
- Understand the government of the University as detailed in Chapter 2 of the Faculty Manual, “Faculty Powers and Organization.”
- The Faculty Senate is the representative body of the faculty. Faculty Senate agendas, minutes, and motions passed can be found on their Web site. Department chairs regularly attend Faculty Senate meetings to stay abreast of University updates.
- Take some time to understand the key people who serve the University, such as the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Academic Deans of the schools and colleges. Be sure to attend meetings of chairs and directors and expanded provost council as scheduled.
- Department chairs should protect probationary (tenure-track) faculty from too much service on University committees, but they must have a voice in governance.
- It is the responsibility of the department chair to make clear that all full-time faculty are expected to be part of the governance of the University. Ideally, every full-time faculty member should serve on a University-wide committee.
Full-time, tenure-track Faculty Searches
As the department chair, you play a pivotal role in shaping your department through the faculty you hire.
- Discuss proactive recruitment strategies and what needs to be done to remove obstacles to the hiring, promotion and tenure of women and faculty of color. Consult with Sharon Wood, Director of Employee Relations and Equal Opportunity for assistance and advice.
- Make sure each search committee a specific plan for making phone calls and otherwise reaching out for diverse candidates.
- "Casting the net widely" is a vital part of the effort to search for the best candidates.
- Strategies often found helpful include
- Telephone campaigns to likely sources of good leads
- Canvassing of contacts at national meetings
- Imaginative forms of transition appointments
- A Permission to Search Form must be approved before each search begins.
- Understand the government requirements regarding work authorization if you are considering hiring a candidate who is NOT a US citizen or permanent resident. Work authorizations can take many months to obtain and it is a good idea to start the process as early as possible.
- Search committees should consist of five faculty members – four faculty from within the unit where the vacancy occurred and one from outside the academic unit (unless the unit has insufficient faculty, in which case additional outside faculty are utilized.
- Appointments should follow the policies set out in Chapter 5 of the Faculty Manual.
- Approval to make an offer must be obtained by the dean from Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Upon receiving such approval, the dean makes the offer, and if the offer is accepted, a letter of appointment is sent to the candidate by the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
- Deans and the Office of Academic Affairs can often be helpful in seeking opportunities for the partners or spouses of newly-appointed faculty.
- All new faculty should be encouraged to attend the New Faculty Orientation held in the fall by the Office of Academic Affairs.
Full-time, Non-Tenure Track Instructors
- In general, the selection and appointment of instructors should follow the procedures for tenure-track faculty.
- The search committee must consist of at least three unit faculty, and the criteria for selection should focus on teaching.
Administrative Annual Reviews
- All Faculty undergo an administrative annual review by their chair or dean which serves as the basis for merit increases. All faculty must submit annual reports on their activity. The review is completed in the Spring semester and evaluates activity from the prior calendar year. Make clear to your faculty both the information to be submitted and the desired format. The material should document effective teaching, service and scholarship and include a cv, copies of syllabi, student opinion polls and other relevant evidence of activity and effectiveness in the three areas of evaluation. Thoughtful organization of materials each year can significantly reduce the amount of work required to compile one’s promotion and tenure file.
- Establish clear expectations and criteria for evaluations. For example, what kinds of scholarship will earn a 5, 4, etc.? Involve faculty in this discussion to get their buy-in upfront.
- Engage in classroom observations of your faculty to help assess teaching effectiveness.
- Encourage faculty to ask their peers to observe their teaching and provide feedback.
- The annual review is a particularly important opportunity for feedback for probationary faculty (tenure-track faculty who have not yet received tenure.)
- Policies on annual administrative reviews are set out in Chapter 6 of the Faculty Manual.
- Adjunct Faculty complete a self-evaluation form following their first semester and then every three years thereafter.
- Forms for Administrative Annual Review of Tenure-Track Faculty, Instructors and Adjunct Faculty.
- As department chair, you are also subject to evaluation by your dean.
- See this helpful article by Malik and Lees on “Making Faculty Evaluations Count”
- Be familiar with the provisions concerning peer review, including the composition of the committee and the selection and responsibilities of the chair, as set out in Chapter 6 of the Faculty Manual.
- New tenure-track Assistant Professors undergo a peer review during their 2nd and 4th years as spelled out in Chapter 6 of the Faculty Manual.
- In all reviews, it is important to balance praise with constructive criticism, and avoid assurances to probationary faculty about what will be the ultimate evaluations by external reviewers and University administrators and the University Promotion and Tenure committee.
- If there are performance problems and whenever you judge that a faculty member's work is unsatisfactory, consult with your Dean so that a development plan can be worked on.
- The Faculty Manual ( Chapter 6) provides for the annual possibility of a notice of non-reappointment for any probationary faculty member (someone on the tenure-track who has not yet achieved tenure) as well as any non-tenure-track faculty member. Such decisions are made by the dean. Non-reappointment is to be distinguished from dismissal for cause.
- Be familiar with the guidelines and policies for Promotion and Tenure, found in Chapter 7 of the Faculty Manual.
- Clarify the different standards for promotion to Associate Professor compared to promotion to Professor.
- Promotion and Tenure Resource Page – P&T calendar, forms, and unit criteria
- Take some time to meet with new faculty to go over the guidelines for promotion and tenure and give them the opportunity to ask questions.
- Remind them that departmental advice or evaluations are no guarantee of the eventual decision.
- Check out advice from the American Council on Education on good practices in tenure evaluation.
- There are provisions for "stopping the tenure clock" for probationary faculty (untenured, tenure-track faculty member) as specified in Chapter 7 of the Faculty Manual. Requests to extend the probationary period require the recommendation of the department chair, the dean, and the provost.
- Sabbaticals: Sabbatical leaves are intended to allow full-time tenured faculty members relief from normal duties in order to pursue significant projects designed to improve their capabilities as scholars and teachers and hence to increase their future contribution to the mission of USC Upstate. Sabbatical leaves are designed to permit faculty members to achieve educational goals that could be reached only over an extended period of time if pursued under the demands of regular University duties. Consequently, recipients of sabbatical leave are to be separated from all University duties during the leave.
To be considered for sabbatical leave, a faculty member must be a tenured associate professor or professor with six or more years of full-time service and must be eligible to serve for a reasonable period following completion of leave, under no circumstances less than one year. A sabbatical leave provides one-half pay for a full academic year, or full pay for one-half of an academic year. Granting sabbatical leaves of absence is dependent upon budget limitations, workloads, and other considerations. Therefore, it is a matter of administrative discretion.
- Modified Duties: The University of South Carolina is committed to fostering an educational community with a flexible and supportive work environment where faculty can thrive in both their professional and personal lives. Periodically a faculty member may need relief from some level of academic duties in order to respond to an anticipated or unanticipated personal event or situation. All full-time faculty members are eligible for modified duties, automatically in the case of childbirth or adoption, or by request in other circumstances. The University encourages faculty to utilize this policy as needed. Additionally, academic unit heads, deans and college/school leaders and administrators are expected to work with faculty to accommodate these situations, in accordance with this policy and other applicable Academic Affairs (ACAF) and Human Resources (HR) policies. This policy is not intended to diminish the rights and benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act or any other state or federal law. Academic unit heads should be alerted as soon as possible about a potential need for a “modified duties semester.”
The Modified Duties Semester Form should normally be submitted at least four months before the start of the proposed semester or as soon as possible when it is less than four months. The modified duties semester may occur during the fall or spring semester of a given academic year. Alternatively, the equivalent of one semester of modified duties, including teaching relief when applicable, may be distributed over two semesters.
- The Student Success Center is the main resource and referral office for learning enrichment at Upstate. Their services include Academic Support Services The primary student retention unit on campus, responsible for most campus tutoring services, supplemental instruction, and University 101 classes to provide students with the tools and resources needed to make a smooth transition into college.
- Academic Success Services also coordinates the Early Intervention Program. The Early Intervention Program (EIP) is a mid-semester reporting system for faculty to identify students who are not performing well academically in their courses. The program targets only students enrolled in 100 and 200 level courses for indications of unsatisfactory progress and/or excessive absences. The online forms for EIP reporting can be found at
- Advising Services Provides outreach, assistance and academic advising services to all undeclared students, those on academic probation, and those in danger of losing scholarship funding. In collaboration with student life and residential life, Advising Services also provides academic programming to residential students.
- Career Management works closely with Academic Support Services to help students clarify their occupational goals and to sharpen their academic focus. In collaboration with faculty and area businesses, Career Services aims to provide internship opportunities for students, as well as employment resources and prospects upon graduation.
- TRIO is a program designed to assist students in achieving their goals as they confront the challenges of completing a college degree. It provides services to eligible students from the time they are accepted to the University through graduation.
- In addition to the above services, the Department of Languages, Literature and Composition operates The Writing Center, which offers free, 50-minute sessions of one-on-one tutoring at any stage of the writing process. Distance tutoring is also available via Skype.
Other essential services for students are provided by Student Affairs:
- Student Counseling – Services include free and confidential comprehensive psychological services, as well as testing for psychological evaluation, personality testing and graduate school admission.
- Office of Disability Services Here you will find important information about the Accommodation Process for students with documented disabilities as well as valuable resources for faculty
- Health Services provides medical services, health promotion and prevention services to Upstate students on an outpatient basis.
- Spartans Care offers basic needs support, including the Spartan Pantry.
Enrollment Services – Orientation, Advising and Registration (OAR); Fab Fridays and Open Houses
- OAR: Several times throughout the summer, new students who are starting in the fall will attend OAR sessions. They are held separately for freshmen (2 days) and transfers (1 day). Freshmen are advised on the first day in the departments of their respective majors and register on the second day. The responsibilities of the chair include:
- Having adequate faculty on hand for advising so that students don’t have long to wait before being seen.
- For transfer students, making sure you have received all transcripts for each student from Admissions and that you have evaluated those transcripts prior to the OAR.
- Making sure there are enough seats in popular classes, such as those that meet General Education requirements.
- Being accessible on the second day when registration occurs in case you need to make decisions regarding overrides, special permissions, etc.
- Students who have not submitted their immunization records or citizenship verification will not be allowed to register.
- Fab Fridays. Once a month during the academic year, prospective students will visit the campus to learn about Upstate and their potential area(s) of study. Students will be brought to the areas in which they have indicated an interest. Be prepared to give an overview of your major(s) – the curriculum, faculty, internship opportunities, etc., along with more general information such as class size, class schedules, balancing work and school, etc. Often parents will be in attendance as well, so expect questions about employment opportunities following graduation and student support services. You will have approximately 20-30 minutes for this session.
- Open Houses. Typically three Open Houses are held on a Saturday morning at the University Readiness Center (URC) – one in the fall and two in the spring.
- At the beginning, you and/or your representative will set up with your display board and any other materials (e.g., brochures) in the main hall of the URC, ready to meet and talk with interested students and their parents/family members. This lasts for one hour.
- Later in the morning, students (and parents) who have indicated an interest in your major will be brought to you in your area, where you will conduct a session similar to the one described above for Fab Fridays.
Enrollment Services – Information on the P Drive
On the “P Drive” under the folder titled Enrollment Services, a host of valuable information can be found, including the names of all accepted students for the upcoming semester, names of all students who have registered to attend the upcoming OARs, student test scores, information for advisors, transcripts, and the financial aid “plan of study” form. This can be a very helpful site.
Recruiting New Students and Evaluating Transcripts for Orientation and Registration
- In evaluating incoming transcripts, use Degreeworks to map transfer credits onto degree requirements. Only courses from regionally accredited colleges and universities are acceptable. Course equivalencies can be found in SC TRAC and many from the most common transfer schools are automated within Degreeworks.
- A “Transfer Guide for South Carolina Technical Colleges” can be found in our catalog.
- Courses for which there are no Upstate equivalents may be accepted by the chair or dean, if they are deemed to be college-level courses that are relevant to the program of study of the particular academic unit.
- Try to be flexible, if possible, without sacrificing academic rigor or undermining the integrity of the academic program.
- For students transferring from with the USC System, all passing grades for acceptable courses transfer. For all other transfer students, only grades of C or better transfer.
- Consult with fellow chairs if uncertain about whether or how to accept a course.
- Consult within your unit with faculty about whether or how to accept a course within a departmental discipline.
- Keep a record about decisions that are made so consistency in evaluation can be maintained.
- Be aware of articulation agreements that your department has with area two-year schools – Spartanburg Community College, Greenville Tech and Spartanburg Methodist College – as well as others.
- Be wary of remedial courses that may appear to be college-level courses on some transcripts.
- For courses that you decide to accept that the University has not previously approved, notify the Registrar’s Office that you want to do a “special accept.” Be sure to follow up that the course or courses show up on the student’s academic record.
Approval of Graduation Applications
- Double-check the student’s academic record with the advising check sheet, using Degreeworks to ensure that courses affected by grade forgiveness and other policies are not counted double.
- Remember the student must have an overall 2.0 grade point average.
- “120-Hour Rule” - If the student’s GPA is under 2.0, but the student has over 120 hours of credit, the student can still be approved for graduation if the best 120 hours that fulfill the degree requirements results in at least a 2.0.
- Remember to send to students whose application is disapproved a letter stating that fact and why, indicating what requirements for graduation remain.
Academic Plans for Financial Aid Appeals
- When students file financial aid appeals, they are asked to submit an academic plan, showing what courses are needed, and how long it will take, for them to graduate. Included in that plan are estimates of the grades students will earn in each course (a federal requirement, not Upstate’s).
- The form used for this purpose can be found on the P drive, under Enrollment Services, in the Financial Aid folder.
- Once you enter the cumulative grade hours, cumulative grade points, and current grade point average, it automatically calculates semester and cumulative grade point averages based on the estimated grades you enter.
- Let student demand be the primary determinant of the schedule.
- Be sensitive to faculty needs regarding certain classrooms due to physical limitations or time constraints.
- Not everyone can teach at the same times. If conflict arises, come up with a system upfront that insures fairness over time.
- Encourage the faculty to come up with a 4 to 5-year rotation to insure needed courses are offered and for planning convenience.
- Try to avoid multiple courses within the major or discipline offered on the same days at the same times.
- When courses have to be canceled, make sure all students who have enrolled are promptly notified.
Hiring and Managing Adjuncts
- Make sure adjuncts meet SACS criteria. Typically, this is a minimum of a master’s degree with 18 graduate hours in the relevant discipline.
- When trying to identify potential adjuncts, consider contacting chairs of graduate programs in the area for names of current students or recent graduates. Also contact chairs at other area universities and community colleges who may employ or know of individuals with the expertise you are seeking.
- Be sure to interview the candidate and call references.
- Potential adjuncts must complete the Academic Personal Information Form.
- When hiring someone for the first time, try to give them only one or two courses, just in case they don’t work out.
- Observe adjuncts in the classroom just as you would a full-time professor/instructor.
- Meet with them periodically to assess how things are going, and to determine if there are any needs or problems that need to be addressed.
- Adjunct Faculty complete a self-evaluation form following their first semester, and then every three years thereafter.
- Help adjuncts feel like they are a part of the department/division. Include them in professional and social events when possible and appropriate.
- Remember that they will need help identifying and working with the various offices on campus.
- Don’t forget to thank them for their contribution to your department and to USC Upstate.
- If you are not a budget aficionado, don’t panic – over 90 percent of your budget is salaries.
- Work closely with the Academic Affairs Budget Manager, Michael Moton–he can be a tremendous asset to you.
- Be sure to include new expenses that arise in a given year in the next year’s budget (e.g., raises for promotions, a renewable software license, etc.).
- Be creative, especially in support of faculty. As long as you stay within your overall budget, monies can be transferred from one budget line to another to meet unit goals.
The Academic Leadership Blackboard Course Site provides links to video tutorials, resources, and workshops for academic unit leaders.
- Bensimon, Estela M., Kelly Ward, & Karla Sanders.(2000) The Department Chair's Role in Developing New Faculty into Teachers and Scholars. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.
- Buller, J.L. (2012). The Essential Department Chair: A Comprehensive Desk Reference. (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Diamond, Robert M., Ed. (2002). A Field Guide to Academic Leadership. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
- Gunsalus, C.K. (2006). The College Administrator’s Survival Guide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Hanson, C.K. (2011). Time Management for Department Chairs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Hecht, Irene W. D., Mary Lou Higgerson, Walter H. Gmelch, & Allan Tucker (1999). The Department Chair as Academic Leader. Phoenix: American Council on Education/Oryx Press.
- Leaming, Deryl. R. (1998). Academic Leadership: A Practical Guide to Chairing a Department. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.
- Lucas, Ann. (2000). Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
- Tucker, A. (1993). Chairing The Academic Department: Leadership Among Peers (3rd ed.). Phoenix: American Council on Education and Oryx Press.
- Wheeler, Daniel W., Alan T. Seagren, Linda Wysong Becker, Edward R. Kinley, Dara D. Mlinek & Kenneth J. Robson. (2008). The Academic Chair’s Handbook. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.
- A quarterly journal called “The Department Chair.” http://www.departmentchairs.org/Journal.aspx
- Wolverton, Mimi & Robert Ackerman (2006). “Cultivating Possibilities: Prospective Department Chair Professional Development and Why It Matters.” (2006). Planning for Higher Education. 34(4): 14–23.
- ACE – American Council on Education Leadership Academy for Department Chairs
- Jossey-Bass – Department Chair Leadership Institute, Chair Training Webinar
- Quick tips and pracitcal advice
Here are 10 key guidelines for handling complaints:
- Don't take it personally: Avoid the temptation to take complaints personally and become defensive. Find out what action the person making the complaint expects from you; perhaps listening is all that is required. Keep your demeanor calm and courteous.
- Never act on only one side of the story: Many problems stem from differences in perceptions. As you collect information, keep your stance neutral and remind people you are gathering data in the face of a problem presented to you.
- Nobody knows what "everybody knows": If someone tells you "everyone knows" something, it is a good idea to drill deeper into the facts of the case. Often, things that some believe are common knowledge have little basis in truth.
- When in doubt, leave it out: If you are thinking better of making a statement or putting something in writing, don't do it. Emphasize facts and decisions, not opinions and motives.
- Never attribute to malice that which incompetence will explain: Most bad things happen not through nefarious intent but through inattention, inaction, or miscommunication. Ask for clarification of facts, and repeat back what you have heard until you get it right.
- Say what you'll do, and do what you say: Just as giving a screaming child a candy bar trains that child to yell for a treat, you can also train adults to behave inappropriately if you break the rules out of pressure or desire to have the problem solved. Let the person know the plan of action and its timeline, and stick to it.
- In the absence of facts, people make them up: If you leave people hanging for a long period of time waiting for the next step or response, they will imagine the worst. Stick to your time schedule to alleviate this kind of worry.
- Keep notes: Your notes can serve as everything from reminders of your action plan to facts required for a lawsuit. Only four things belong in notes: the date, who was present, the facts brought to you, and the action you promised. Leave speculation, analysis, and thoughts out.
- Trust your instincts: If you have an anxious or fearful feeling about a situation, don't hesitate to call in someone else to help handle the situation properly with the appropriate boundaries. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance.
- Some problems require formal process: It is possible that most of the problems brought to you will require only a calm ear to listen. However, some situations, like reprimands, discipline, and terminations, will require formal action. The more complex the problem, the more likely it will require a formal process. Acquaint yourself in advance with the resource people on your campus.
Plus two more:
- Consult the dean: Before you take that action or send that email, consult with your dean or dean of faculty. They may have dealt with similar issues before, and they may have the relevant policies at their fingertips.
- Consult the Office of Employee Relations and Equal Opportunity or Title IX Coordinator: If anything someone tells you suggests there may have been discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, neither investigate it yourself nor ignore it. Instead call Sharon Woods, Director, at 864-503-5344.