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.