Department chairs champion faculty concerns,
by Andrew Shurtleff
consensus within the department is very important, says Larry
Goedde, chairman of the art department.
skeleton leered at her from the couch in her office.
was no Halloween trick. Art professor Megan Marlatt shrieked as
she stumbled into the furniture and then heaved a sigh as she
picked up the phone to call Larry Goedde, her department chair.
happened again. The skeleton used for drawing classes was out
of the closet. After shed cooled down, Marlatt could see
the humor in it and shot off a memo to her colleagues, asking
them to move it or The next time I find a skeleton on my
couch, Im throwing it off the roof of Brooks Hall!
Arts & Sciences: 27
Neither the Commerce School nor Nursing School is organized
was just another day for Goedde, who has chaired the art
department since 1994. He and other faculty who have taken
on the job in various departments say they learn to expect the
the unexpected pleasures of getting closer to their colleagues,
of having the chance to understand their work better, of helping
them solve problems.
of a departments size, the chair should be there to help
faculty members in any way possible, from breaking through a stumbling
block in research to finding additional funds.
one of the rewards. Its good to see people succeed,
They also act as advocates and represent their departments in
the bigger arena of the College or the entire university.
many faculty who head departments these days, problems are often
related to cramped, aging and outdated facilities, like the art
department having two homes in Brooks and Fayerweather halls,
not to mention moving the department forward and keeping faculty
morale afloat through the state budget crisis.
Judith Shatin, who just finished six years of chairing the music
department, that meant getting air-conditioning installed
in Old Cabell Hall offices and replacing practice modules with
new air-conditioned ones.
David Mills, a longtime economics
professor whos now chairing the department, its a
constant battle being housed in Rouss Hall, one of the oldest
buildings on the Lawn. If faculty and students open the window
in a classroom at the back of the building, they can expect to
be interrupted by motorcycles revving up as they come and go from
their designated parking area outside.
professor Michael Levenson, finishing up his term as chair this
year, passed along a colleagues advice: Just be open
to the stream of accident meaning, you dont
have to go looking for problems. Theyll come to you.
chairs receive a brief orientation to U.Va. administrative processes
such as filling out forms, doing evaluations and using the Oracle
chairs participate and dispense bits and pieces of wisdom
from their experience, said David Gies, former chair of the Department
of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. He has chaired Spanish
twice and led several of the small-group sessions.
theyre learning in the school of hard knocks, said
environmental sciences professor George Hornberger, associate
dean for the sciences.
department chairs usually learn some of the requisite skills from
running their laboratories, managing big budgets and staffs. Many
other chairs have gained administrative experience by being directors
of their departments undergraduate or graduate studies programs.
They often turn to the former chairs for guidance, as well as
other administrators, services and offices.
Miller, into his second three-year term as chairman of classics,
said he is glad to have colleagues he can turn to for guidance;
three of the eight faculty members in the department have served
college dean appoints the department chairs for three- or five-year
terms. Hornberger and Karen Ryan, the other associate dean who
oversees the humanities, put together department committees to
discuss the best candidates before making recommendations to Arts
& Sciences dean, Edward L. Ayers.
its up to Ed to persuade the person to do it, said
Ryan, associate professor of Slavic
languages and literatures, who, like Hornberger, has also
chaired her department.
Levenson, My colleagues and I didnt get into this
business to be administrators, but they agree faculty members
have an obligation to serve.
said chairing a department is probably the toughest job in the
University, not only because of the time involved but also because
of the sacrifice that commonly means less time for scholarship
or research. Chairs have to attend more meetings and frequently
work longer hours. Those who run labs often give more work to
postdoctoral fellows. They might have to represent their departments
at functions on nights and weekends. Many relegate their professional
work to summertime, but keeping up with their academic work is
chairs pointed to predecessors who were outstanding role models
because they were first and foremost top scholars or tried to
lead by example.
The person has to be a respected scholar and has to be detail-oriented,
power of the chair is actually limited, said Goedde who
oversees 25 art and art history faculty members. You can set the
agenda, he said, but professors are an independent lot
you have to enlist their support.
Detail-oriented scholar/researcher who plays well with others;
respected by colleagues for work ethci and academic accomplishments;
people person, team leader, facilitator, teacher, ombudsperson,
judge, trouble-shooter, decision-maker, visionary.
consensus within the department is important. It cant be
approached like corporate management.
also has worked on enhancing collegiality among the faculty, giving
them and students more opportunities to share their work through
is key, stressed Gies. He and current chair Joel Rini credit retired
professor Xavier Herrero, who came to U.Va. in 1979 as chair,
with building up the Spanish department to its top five ranking
from the National Research Council. But Herrero, and Gies, who
came the same year, also cultivated collegiality by starting a
weekly informal lunch gathering for the faculty that has endured
for 23 years, Gies said.
department is like a family and youre the parental figure.
You have to make judicious and fair decisions, Ryan said.
and personnel issues are the toughest. The problems tend
to be unique. The direct supervisor has to be the first one to
handle the situation, Hornberger said. Part coach and part
counselor, the chair sometimes has to get involved in a professors
personal life, so he or she must be discreet and tactful.
for everyone in the department goes a long way, said Thomas Gallagher,
who chairs the physics department. The chair has to make sure
everyone works well together, he said. Physics is somewhat unusual
because there are almost as many staff members (20) as there are
faculty members (30). Many of the latter work in the departments
machine shop, building or maintaining the equipment used in research.
staff is wonderful, Gallagher said. Theyre loyal
chairs not only manage classified staff, but they also oversee
faculty and their professional development. A chair goes from
being a colleague on an equal level to being the one doing the
evaluations for promotion and tenure, in concert with the deans
of the rewards the chairs agreed on was that the role has given
them an opportunity to influence the departments progress:
in making curricular changes, initiating or supporting new programs
and, at least before the budget crunch, hiring new faculty members.
Levenson: If you just sustain the present tense, you miss
the chance to affect the future.
Im most interested in, added Gallagher, is being
able to show junior faculty that there is a future here at U.Va.