This page provides guidance on many tasks, duties, policies and procedures for Department Chairs. It is also intended to give chairs a sense of their roles and responsibilities and information about the timing of various activities that occur throughout the academic year.
Department Chair Role
You will find that as a Chair you will wear many hats and serve multiple audiences, but they will generally fall into two categories:
You are the representative and spokesperson for the department, interacting with the VP and AVPs for Academic Affairs, other university administrators, alumni, parents, and students on departmental issues, including curriculum, personnel, and budget.
You are an administrator who is expected to be familiar with established college policies, such as those in the Faculty and Contract Staff Handbook, and are responsible for representing the University to various stakeholders.
The following individuals will serve as academic department chairs for the 2021-2022 academic year. This list is current as of May 2021.
Art and Art History Kate Ritson Biology James Shinkle Business, School of Robert Scherer, Dean Accounting Julie Persellin Business Administration Charlene Davis Finance and Decision Sciences Jorge Colazo Chemistry Laura Hunsicker-Wang Classical Studies Tim O'Sullivan Communication Aaron Delwiche, Interim, AY 2021-22 Computer Science Yu Zhang Economics Nels Christiansen Education Angela Breidenstein Engineering Science Farzan Aminian English Betsy Tontiplaphol Geosciences Kathleen Surpless, Summer and Fall 2021
Ben Surpless, Acting, Spring 2022
Health Care Administration Edward Schumacher History Anene Ejikeme Human Communication and Theatre Andrew Hansen Library Chris Nolan Mathematics Cabral Balreira Modern Languages and Literatures Bruce Holl Music David Heller Philosophy Judith Norman Physics and Astronomy Jennifer Steele Political Science David Crockett Psychology Jane Childers Religion Rubén Dupertuis Sociology and Anthropology Jennifer Mathews
The following individuals will serve as the director of an interdisciplinary major for the 2021-2022 academic year. This list is current as of May 2021.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Frank Healy, Corina Maeder East Asian Studies at Trinity (EAST)
Stephen Field, Jie Zhang Environmental Studies David Ribble Global Latinx Studies Rita Urquijo-Ruiz, Summer and Fall 2021
Ana Maria Mutis, Acting, Spring 2022
International Studies Alfred Montoya, Curtis Swope Mathematical Finance Roberto Hasfura-Buenaga Neuroscience Kim Phillips Urban Studies Christine Drennon
The following individuals will serve as the director of an interdisciplinary minor for the 2021-2022 academic year. This list is current as of May 2021.
African American Studies Kimberlyn Montford, Carey Latimore American Intercultural Studies William Burke Architectural Studies Kathryn O'Rourke Arts, Letters, and Enterprise (A.L.E.) Carl Leafsteadt, Jacob Tingle Biomathematics Cabral Balreira Communication Management Camille Reyes Comparative Literature Heather Sullivan Cultures and Languages across the Curriculum Zhaoxi Liu Data Science Jorge Colazo Entrepreneurship Luis Martinez Film Studies Patrick Keating Global Supply Chain Management Jorge Colazo Health Professions Advisory Committee James Shinkle Linguistics Jane Childers Medieval and Renaissance Studies Nicole Marafioti Mexico, the Americas, and Spain Dania Abreu-Torres Museum Studies Lauren Turek New Media Aaron Delwiche Scientific Computing Saber Elaydi Sport Management Jacob Tingle Women’s and Gender Studies Sarah Erickson, Gina Tam
Within a university structure, department chairs play a vital and challenging leadership role. Recurring stories in The Chronicle for Higher Education affirm that many chairs feel unprepared to meet their complex responsibilities, including mentoring new faculty, establishing a healthy work environment, overseeing personnel and budgets, and promoting student learning.
Even experienced chairs report feeling “caught in the middle”—negotiating directives from senior administrators and the mandate to serve as an advocate for the interests and goals of their departments and colleagues.
To address the specific needs of department chairs, in August 2020, Trinity University launched Empowering Department Chairs to Lead and Implement Change (ED CLIC), an initiative to empower ten current department chairs to better serve their departments and the strategic goals of Trinity University.
ED CLIC is a cohort-based program in which the ten participating chairs form a community of practice. Not only do participants engage in peer learning and support, but they are also afforded opportunities to improve and shape the culture of the University.
The program is entirely supported by a three-year, $275,000 from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Participants are encouraged to draw on provided resources to navigate the many challenges directly connected to their daily work as well as larger projects to advance Trinity’s teaching and learning mission and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The program will run from August 2020 through May 2022.
ED CLIC has three components:
- ED CLIC department chairs have the opportunity to work with a professional coach who specializes in academia and the specific realities of faculty lives and organizational change in academia. Coaches serve as a “sounding board,” while focusing on leadership skills and strategies, work-life balance and mindfulness, and the intersection of human, scholarly, and professional development.
- Department chairs participate in 20 professional development sessions focused on how to be a change leader in academia and strategies to hone their leadership skills. These one-hour sessions present important concepts and tools that participants will then apply to their departmental context.
- Chairs will develop and implement a change initiative project in consultation with their professional coach, departmental colleagues, and other stakeholders. Multiple departments may collaborate on a shared initiative. Each participating department is provided with sufficient financial resources to undertake their change initiative. Funds may not be used as direct monetary compensation for the Chair or for faculty/staff.
Kardia Group Partnership
The program is offered in partnership with Kardia Group LLC, a group of higher education consultants that specialize in leadership development, models of effective organizational change, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academic environment. Kardia Group consultants provide strategic partnership to the ED CLIC program, one-on-one professional coaching, and lead monthly professional development sessions for participants.
Participants in the inaugural cohort were selected by the Vice President for Academic Affairs according to the guidelines of the grant award. Each participant had at least one prior year of experience serving as a department chair and at least two years remaining in their term.
Individuals were selected based on their potential to benefit from participating and their ability to contribute to the shared learning and growth of the cohort through their disciplinary perspectives and lived experiences. Participants agreed to be part of this voluntary program and received no monetary compensation. Participants agreed to share what they have learned with other members of the Trinity committee.
Participants in the inaugural ED CLIC cohort (2020-2022) include:
- Jane Childers, Psychology
- Andrew Hansen, Human Communication & Theatre
- Bruce Holl, Modern Languages and Literatures
- Laura Hunsicker-Wang, Chemistry
- Chris Nolan, Library
- Julie Persellin, Accounting
- Jennifer Mathews, Sociology and Anthropology
- Ed Schumacher, Health Care Administration
- Jennifer Steele, Physics and Astronomy
- Kathleen Surpless, Geosciences
Department chairs in the ED CLIC program benefit directly from the professional development afforded by their participation. The departments of participating chairs will gain a more skilled academic leader and benefit from an initiative to improve a core element of the department’s operations, culture, or curriculum.
In addition, participants in the inaugural cohort are encouraged to share their insights with other faculty and staff across the university in a spirit of mentorship and collaboration. Participants will be periodically invited to share their insights with department chairs, interdisciplinary major directors, and others.
By attending to the intentional development of a pipeline of skilled leaders, Trinity seeks to support its current and future operations. Finally, by piloting an innovative model to improve the training and preparation of department chairs, Trinity University seeks to contribute to a broader national conversation about developing effective leaders in the academy.
While the current pilot initiative is supported exclusively by external grant funds, Trinity seeks to use what is learned from this program to inform future professional development for department chairs and other academic leaders. Based on the outcomes of the pilot, Trinity may extend the program elements in the future.
Questions about the ED CLIC initiative can be directed to Lisa Jasinski, Special Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and CO-PI of ED CLIC.
Meetings and Retreats
Department Chairs meet monthly in a meeting convened by the Vice President for Academic Affairs. The meetings are typically held on the first Monday of the month at 4:00 pm in the Waxahachie Room.
Information about the timing and location of periodic Chair Retreats are circulated in advance.
To share information with Chairs in an efficient manner, the Office of Academic Affairs maintains a Google Drive folder with helpful documents and the Department Chair’s Manual. Contact Lisa Jasinski if you need a copy of the link.
These online resources address topics such as:
- General roles and responsibilities of a department chair;
- Common student issues;
- Preparing budget requests and managing resources;
- Preparing effective departmental assessments and reports;
- Recruiting and hiring new faculty;
- Calendars and deadlines; and
- Strategies to build a supportive and functional departmental culture.