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Chairing an academic department is a demanding role that requires not only leadership skills, but also considerable administrative abilities and knowledge of the university system. Often, faculty who are exceptional scholars and teachers are thrust into the role with little support for the development of these new competencies. Additionally, a number of department chairs are new to the university or have served as chair for a limited time.
In the Office of the President Annual Report 2010-11, President Rao explained:
Observing the need to provide a stronger foundation for the success of our department chairs, we piloted a Department Chair Development Program to prepare chairs for their leadership and management roles and responsibilities. The three-day pilot program was delivered through The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute and will become a required professional development series for all department chairs beginning in the 2011-12 academic year (p. 12).
As requested by VCU President Rao, the Department Chairs Certification Program develops the leadership capacities of unit leaders at Virginia Commonwealth University. The curriculum for department chair training is designed with input from the provost, deans, and other senior administrators.
Consistent with the goals of all leadership programs offered by the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, the program strengthens general leadership skills while also providing very specific information relevant to the department chair role. In addition, department chairs benefit from a climate of support and the opportunity to build valuable relationships with other chairs and university officials.
Designed for both long-term and new department chairs, the objectives of the Department Chairs Certification Program are to:
The program will include university leaders, including Dr. Rao who will present his vision for VCU and the important role that department chairs will play in our successful achievement of VCU’s new strategic plan, Quest for Distinction. The series of seminars will be presented in three tiers of information:
To complete the certification program, participants are required to attend all sessions and take an online assessment.
The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute will offer the next Department Chairs Certification Program in summer 2021 on: