Trinity University’s academic department chairs juggle several responsibilities. They act as the representatives, spokespeople, administrators, and facilitators of learning. Across the country, academic department chairs often feel underprepared for their roles, which is why Trinity created a program meant to remedy this issue. In March 2020, the University received a $275,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. The grant provides funds for ED CLIC, which stands for Empowering Department Chairs to Lead and Implement Change, through May 2022. ED CLIC intends to empower department chairs to develop their leadership capacity while addressing institutional needs. For the 10 department chairs in the program, components of ED CLIC include working with a professional coach, attending 20 professional development sessions, and developing change initiative projects with their coaches and colleagues.
“The ED CLIC grant is framed around ‘change projects,’ and in geosciences, this work is part of the long-term evolution of our program,” says Kathleen Surpless, Ph.D., chair of the geosciences department. The department chairs involved in the program are encouraged to share their insights with their colleagues to foster interdisciplinary development.
Surpless is one of 10 Trinity department chairs participating in the inaugural cohort of ED CLIC. Her project is designed to improve and expand teaching methods within the geosciences department, in addition to removing barriers to student success.
“The ED CLIC grant allowed us to bring in workshop leaders and facilitators to help us develop tools and strategies for improving our teaching and classroom environment, with the goal of helping all students thrive in our courses and our program,” she says.
The program is helping the geosciences department build on improvement projects they have been working on for a long time. For example, under Surpless’s leadership the department spent three years revising its curriculum, a change that went into effect in Fall 2020.
The ED CLIC grant could not have come at a better time for the geosciences department (or Trinity as a whole), as the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 disrupted many ongoing departmental projects.
“The coaching and professional development that ED CLIC has provided, including concrete tools and tactics for handling challenging aspects of the leadership role, helped me navigate through the anxiety and uncertainty of leading during the pandemic,” Surpless says.
The department chairs selected for ED CLIC are:
- Jane Childers, Ph.D. / Psychology
- Andrew Hansen, Ph.D. / Human Communication and Theatre
- Bruce Holl, Ph.D. / Modern Languages and Literatures
- Laura Hunsicker-Wang, Ph.D. / Chemistry
- Jennifer Mathews, Ph.D. / Sociology and Anthropology
- Chris Nolan, Ph.D. / Library
- Julie Persellin, Ph.D. / Accounting
- Ed Schumacher, Ph.D. / Health Care Administration
- Jennifer Steele, Ph.D. / Physics and Astronomy
- Kathleen Surpless, Ph.D. / Geosciences