(Ashland, Ore.) — Four Southern Oregon University faculty members are among 36 educators selected from higher education institutions across the country to take part in the inaugural Department Chair Leadership Institute, an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities that is intended to help participants develop critical skills and prepare for future administrative roles.
SOU’s participants in the AASCU program are Jackie Apodaca, professor and co-chair of the Theatre Department; Dee Fretwell, senior instructor and chair of the School of Business; Larry Gibbs, associate professor and chair of the Healthcare Administration Program; and Jesse Longhurst, associate professor and chair of the Education Department.
Members of the initial cohort of the DCLI will participate in an in-person meeting this week in Washington, D.C., and in three 75-minute virtual sessions in February and March. The leadership institute’s comprehensive curriculum covers how to lead a department based on an institution’s mission and strategic plan, navigate difficult conversations, grow and sustain a future-focused department and and maintain relevance as higher education changes.
The DCLI is designed for current department chairs state colleges and universities who aspire to be dynamic, strategic and empathetic leaders. Participants gain a national perspective on the importance of the department chair in serving the institutional mission, leading with an equity mindset, delivering value and ensuring student success. The institute was created in response to AASCU member feedback and requests for a robust professional development program for department chairs.
Richard Helldobler, president of New Jersey’s William Paterson University and a former AASCU board member, is serving as executive sponsor and lead faculty member of the new leadership institute. He said a recent study found that 67% of department chairs reported no training was received for their position, even though chairs are considered the most critical front-line managers for academic and institutional effectiveness.
“AASCU is taking this issue head-on with the development of this new program to help department chairs understand roles and responsibilities, finances and navigating the complexities of university leadership,” Helldobler said.
The demand for the new program was so high that the 2024 institute will be made up of two cohorts, with the second group participating in its in-person meeting in August and virtual sessions in September and October.