Essential Management Skills for Department Chairs

Essential Management Skills for Department Chairs

October 26 - 28, 2017

San Antonio, TX

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Develop the skills necessary to advance your management and leadership role as a department chair. 

Join us for our 4th annual management skills for department chairs training. During this pre-conference workshop and two-day conference you will sharpen the skills you need to both manage and lead your academic department. Current and former department chairs, Jeffrey L Buller, Jennifer Faust, and Domenick Pinto, will share their personal experience and lessons learned so that you can confidently navigate the department chair role. Throughout the event we will focus on three critical aspects of management, including:

  • Effective communication skills
  • Personnel management
  • Budgeting and resource allocation

To ensure a productive and collaborative learning environment, this program is limited to the first 50 registrants. You will leave with knowledge that you can only gain from our experts’ personal experience.

A Unique Learning Experience

We have intentionally designed this event to balance information-sharing with learning activities. To give you a practical understanding of the skills needed, you will be asked to problem-solve case scenarios that department chairs commonly face during their tenure.

Full-Day Pre-Conference Workshop: Positive Academic Leadership

Facilitated by Jeffrey Buller, author of Positive Academic Leadership: How to Stop Putting Out Fires and Start Making a Difference, this workshop will focus on teaching you to lead more effectively no matter the challenges you face. We will begin by looking at how you can gain a fresh perspective and update the language you use. We will round out the day by looking at leading within the academic system and explore the role of negativity within leadership. You will leave better prepared to make a real difference in the long term rather than spending your time putting out one fire after another.

Who Should Attend

This leadership institute is designed specifically for department chairs, with a particular emphasis on chairs who are looking to develop the expertise to become an exceptional manager within their department. The depth and breadth of training in this workshop is also suitable for those who are contemplating making a move from department chair to a higher administrative position.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pre-conference Workshop: Positive Academic Leadership: How to Stop Putting Out Fires and Start Making a Difference

Registration and Continental Breakfast for Workshop Attendees (included in registration fee)
8:30 - 9:00 a.m.

Changing Your Perspective
9:00 - 10:30 a.m.

The expression positive academic leadership leaves many people with a misconception that this means thinking positively and having a good attitude. In this session, we will discuss what positive academic leadership really is and how you can learn to change your perspective in order to achieve more productive results. You will learn:

  • What positive academic leadership really means
  • How your results can be positive even when you don’t feel positive yourself
  • What the Erich Brenn Syndrome is and how you can avoid it
  • How the organizational culture of higher education calls for a unique leadership style
  • How learned optimism can help you see hidden possibilities
  • What the Bridge of Spies Philosophy is and how it relates to positive academic leadership
  • Why Pink Bat Thinking can help to change your perspective

10:30 - 10:45 a.m.

Changing Your Language
10:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

After looking at how changing your perspective can help you see more positive possibilities we will focus on how changing your language can help you communicate those possibilities to your colleagues. A surprising number of leadership problems arise because academic leaders ineffectively communicate their decisions to colleagues. During this session, you will learn:

  • What mood contagion is and how it spreads through a unit
  • Why changing your language can change your world
  • How to fill the emotional tanks of others with the right words
  • How you can tailor your language to your audience
  • Why language is more than just the words you use
  • How electronic communications can hurt the clarity of language
  • How to talk about what you want rather than what you want to avoid

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Changing Your Style
1:00 - 2:45 p.m.

Departments, colleges, and universities are all systems and adopting a systems approach can help to advance our positive academic leadership. In this session, you will explore how being aware of the nature of the system in which you work can help you change your style for improved results. You will learn:

  • What a system is and why systems theory can be useful to you
  • Strategies for implementing respect, rewards, and recognition
  • How four important concepts (Mihaly Cziksentmihaly’s Flow, Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, Kevin Carroll’s Red Rubber Ball, and Jim Collins’ The Hedgehog Concept) work together to create a more positive academic system
  • Why understanding the ratios of progress to setbacks, catalysts to inhibitors, and nourishers to toxins can help you promote positive, lasting change

2:45 - 3:00 p.m.

Negative Academic Leadership
3:00 - 4:30 p.m.

In our final workshop session, we will review how and when negativity and pessimism are destructive and when they can be desirable. We will also draw together key points from throughout the workshop so that you can leave with an action plan for adapting positive academic leadership to your institution. You will learn:

  • The difference between negative negativity and positive negativity
  • How the concept of learned pessimism can be as useful as learned optimism
  • Why the George Costanza Style of Leadership is self-destructive
  • How positive academic leadership can transform a department in a short period of time
  • How you can serve as a coach, counselor, and conductor through positive academic leadership
Friday, October 27, 2017

Main Conference

Registration and Continental Breakfast (included in registration fee)
8:00 - 8:30 a.m.

Welcome and Introductions
8:30 - 8:45 a.m.

Understanding the Dean’s Expectations and Leadership Style, and Making the Connection With the Chair’s Responsibilities
8:45 - 10:15 a.m.

Department Chairs are intermediaries between their departments and college leadership. The call to do more with shrinking resources requires the chair to champion the vision and values of the department while simultaneously advancing the dean’s goals and plans for the college. This session focuses on three key aspects of the chair’s balancing act:

  • The intersection of departmental and college vision and values
  • Prioritizing your work time and delegating effectively
  • Managing your time and stress to be more successful

10:15 - 10:30 a.m.

Skill #1 – Effective Communication Skills
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Effective communication can help you manage your department better by dealing with difficult situations, creating a positive work environment, and building stakeholder buy-in. This session will help you learn:

  • Your communication strengths and weaknesses
  • Active listening and supportive communication
  • Receiving, evaluating, and acting on complaints

Lunch (included in registration fee)
12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Skill #1 Continued – Effective Communication Skills
1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Building on our morning discussion of effective communication skills, we will discuss how you can improve departmental morale and facilitate positive change through:

  • Building rapport/fairness
  • Problem solving
  • Effective meetings
  • Building buy-in

2:30 - 2:45 p.m.

Skill #2 – Leading People and Change: Personnel Management
2:45 - 5:00 p.m.

After discussing communication we will turn our focus to managing faculty. In this session you will learn how you can inspire your colleagues, anticipate personnel challenges, and solve personnel problems in an effective and legal manner. Topics discussed include:

  • Motivating faculty to work as a cohesive unit
  • Supporting faculty to comply with mandates from college and campus leadership
  • Recruiting quality faculty who are a good fit for the department
  • Mentoring faculty through retention, tenure, and promotion

Networking Reception (included in registration)
5:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Continental Breakfast (included in registration fee)
8:00 - 8:30 a.m.

Skill #2 Continued – Leading People and Change: Personnel Management
8:30 - 9:15 a.m.
Building on our final session from day one, we open day two with a focus on common challenges that department chairs face in the area of personnel management. You will learn strategies for managing, mitigating, and preventing various personnel problems. The discussion will focus on cases drawn from actual, recent experiences of department chairs from across disciplines.

Skill #3 – Budgeting and Resource Allocation
9:15 - 11:00 a.m.

Planning the departmental budget is one of your most important responsibilities as a chair. During this session, we will discuss the complex relationship between strategic planning, resource allocation, and departmental mission and goals. Topics include:

  • Foundations of college and university budgets
  • Departmental budgeting and management
  • Enrollment management and scheduling
  • How to allocate funds effectively

Tying All Three Skills Together
11:00 - 11:30 a.m.

This session will be your chance to pull together the common threads of the previous sessions and discuss how to take the lessons you learned here back to your department for immediate application. We will focus particular attention on the importance of:

  • Effective communication
  • Problem solving
  • Flexibility and resiliency
  • Understanding personal and legal boundaries

Program Takeaway and Wrap-Up
11:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
What have you learned that you can immediately apply to your situation, and what questions do you still have? In this panel format, your instructors will tackle your remaining questions.

October 26 - 28, 2017

San Antonio, TX


Sheraton Gunter Hotel
205 E Houston Ave
San Antonio, TX 78205


Room Rate: $149, plus applicable tax.
Room Block Dates: October 25, 26, and 27, 2017.
Available until October 5, 2017.

Please book early - rooms are limited and subject to availability.


Reserve Your Room: Call 210-227-3241. Please indicate that you are with the Academic Impressions group to receive the group rate.


Jeffrey Buller

Jeffrey L. Buller

Dean, Honors College
Florida Atlantic University

Having previously served for more than thirty years in administrative positions at Loras College, Georgia Southern University, and Mary Baldwin College, and after ten successful years as a dean at Florida Atlantic University, Jeffrey L. Buller recently became the first executive director of the Center for Leadership and Professional Development.

Dr. Buller is a prolific writer and has authored several works on academic leadership, including The Essential Department Chair: A Comprehensive Desk Reference, and Academic Leadership Day by Day: Small Steps That Lead to Great Success.

He previously served as the principal English-language lecturer at the International Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany.  More recently, he has been active as a consultant to the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia, where he is assisting with the creation of a kingdom-wide Academic Leadership Center.  Along with Robert E. Cipriano, Dr. Buller is a senior partner in ATLAS: Academic Training, Leadership, & Assessment Services.


Jennifer Faust

Internal Consultant, Office of Quality Improvement
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Faust serves as a consultant to offices and programs across the University of Wisconsin, assisting with a variety of projects ranging from improving department culture and climate to strategic planning. She has extensive experience in faculty affairs administration including labor relations and grievance handling, faculty policy, faculty and department chair training and development, and faculty personnel management. As a long-time faculty member and a department chair prior to becoming an academic administrator, Dr. Faust understands the unique context that academic departments present as well as the value of tenure and the longevity and stability of the academic “workforce.”

She has presented workshops and seminars to faculty members, department chairs, and academic administrators from institutions across the U.S., on topics from “Handling Complaints 101: What Every Department Chair Needs to Know to Survive” to “Dealing with Difficult Colleagues.” At a former institution, she founded the Academic Leadership Institute, which provided new and aspiring faculty, staff, and administrators with the tools needed to both manage and lead others.


Domenick Pinto

Associate Professor and Department Chair
Sacred Heart University

Domenick Pinto is an Associate Professor of Computer Science, as well as the department chair and director of both the Master’s in Computer Science and the Master’s in Cyber Security at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. He has been with Sacred Heart for 40 years and has been chairperson for 29 of those years.

Domenick has presented at numerous conferences in his career including the Academic Chairperson’s conference, the CIC Chair’s workshop, the International Conference on Teaching and Learning at which he received 2 excellence in teaching awards and has been an invited workshop presenter. He has published numerous times in the Department Chair publication and has been honored several times at Sacred Heart for his outstanding leadership and service and teaching. In addition, Domenick has served as University Academic Assembly president twice.

Questions About the Event?

Tunde Brimah
Director, Program Development, Academic Impressions

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