Resources for Department Chairs

The pages below outline general duties of Department Chairs throughout the academic year. Additional responsibilities and resources are specific to certain departments, and not all duties outlined here will apply to every department or in all years. This document also serves as a basis for further conversations about roles and responsibilities with the Dean and with the Department.

Role Overview

The Department Chair, together with the Dean, is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the highest standards of scholarly excellence and for setting intellectual and academic priorities.

Within the department, the Chair is the intellectual and administrative leader for the faculty, instructional and administrative staff, and undergraduate and graduate students. The Department Chair also plays a critical role in connecting the Department to the Division and the University. The Chair serves as liaison with the Dean of the Social Sciences Division and the Master of the Social Sciences Collegiate Division (SSCD). The Chair also represents the Department to the central administration and the rest of the University. More generally, Chairs are advocates for their departments within the University and, critically, they also represent the perspective of the Division and the University to the members of their departments. Finally, they have a unique opportunity to create departmental conditions that position people for success, particularly junior faculty and students.

Department Chairs are officers of the University, and this role entails legal and professional responsibilities. The commitments that Chairs make to faculty, students, staff, and job candidates (among others) can be interpreted as binding upon the institution and so need to be carefully deliberated and coordinated with the Dean and other administrative bodies. Chairs are responsible for the oversight of the department’s finances, the academic programs offered by the department, and the implementation of the procedures of departmental governance. Chairs have access to confidential information, and they must maintain confidentiality in all personnel matters including salaries and annual raises, disciplinary issues, and negotiations in recruitments and retentions. Therefore, it is important that chairs work closely with the Dean’s office and other administrative bodies during critical processes.

The following sections outline general duties of Department Chairs throughout the academic year. Additional responsibilities and resources are specific to certain departments, and not all duties outlined here will apply to every department or in all years. This document should serve as a basis for further conversations about roles and responsibilities with the Dean and with the Department.

Department Governance

The Department Chair has primary responsibility for managing and facilitating the department’s decision-making and governance. Each department has its own formal procedures and informal customs in this regard, and typically the Chair works within these systems, though periodic review and revision of procedures and norms is sometimes needed. The Chair oversees faculty meetings (scheduling, setting the agenda, preserving and distributing minutes, maintaining order during discussion, et cetera), and follows the department’s procedures for staffing the department’s standing committees and appointing faculty to administrative roles in the department (e.g., directors of graduate and undergraduate studies). In addition to enacting these procedures, the Chair acts as leader—bringing opportunities, pressing questions, and issues of concern to the faculty; recommending the course of action in response to these; and working to build agreement on the directions the department will pursue. Critical in all of this is the Chair’s ability to foster communication, negotiation, and common purpose among the faculty.

Faculty Hiring, Reappointment, and Promotion

Among the most important decisions a department makes is the hiring of new faculty colleagues, their reappointment and promotion through all stages of career development, and their retention when faced with outside competition. The Department Chair oversees the departmental process for new hiring, reappointment, tenure, and promotion reviews, in accordance with Divisional and University procedures.

Faculty New Hiring
Typically, the process of hiring new faculty members begins with discussions in faculty meetings to identify the long-term and immediate hiring needs of the department. In setting its hiring priorities, the faculty should consider not only the immediate needs of the department, but also the evolving shape of the discipline and the social sciences, and the potential contributions of the proposed recruitment to the Division and the University more generally. The Chair presents the department’s hiring priorities and annual search request to the Dean as part of the annual departmental report, making the case for the search request within the context of longer-term priorities.

Authorization for searches in the coming year is typically provided in early summer. If a search is approved, the Chair then constitutes a search committee (following departmental practice), ensures that the job announcement is prepared and disseminated appropriately (all positions must be posted in the University’s Interfolio system and advertised publicly), informs the search committee of departmental and divisional guidelines and deadlines, oversees the decision process in identifying candidates for interviews, and assists with arrangements for candidate visits. The Chair meets with each candidate, if possible, and arranges for meetings with the Dean and SSCD Master as appropriate. As with all department decisions, the Chair oversees the process through which the search committee’s report and recommendations are discussed, and the hiring decision is voted on by the faculty. If the hire also requires a tenure decision, the Chair oversees the required processes (e.g., requesting external letters). For candidates who currently hold an academic appointment at another institution, Chairs must submit recommendations for new-hire appointments with an autumn start date to the Dean no later than April 15.

If the Department’s hiring recommendation is approved by the Dean and the Provost, the Chair plays an active role in recruiting the candidate and in communicating with the candidate and Dean’s office as offer terms are finalized. Formal offer letters are generated by the Dean’s office and signed by the Dean, Collegiate Master, and the Chair.

Faculty Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Reviews
Annually each spring the Dean’s office provides the Chair with detailed instructions about case components, along with a list of faculty up for review. The Chair oversees the departmental process for reappointment, tenure, and promotion reviews within University policy and guidelines. For untenured faculty members, the timing of reappointment or promotion recommendations are specified by the terms of the faculty member’s contract. Action is required when an untenured faculty member enters his/her final year of contract (in nearly all cases, untenured faculty members in Social Sciences have terms that expire on June 30 of the following year), which requires that the department submit its case in time for decanal and provostial review before a December 15th decision announcement.

Typically, reappointment and tenure reviews begin in the winter or spring of the academic year prior to the contract’s expiration (i.e. 14–18 months before contract expiration) to allow sufficient time for the department to gather necessary materials, prepare a report, vote, and make its recommendation before submitting the case materials to the Dean’s office by October 15. The Chair, following departmental practice, appoints a review committee and periodically checks in with the committee chair(s) to monitor the review process and learn of any special situations that may require advanced discussion with the Dean. In the event that a department does not recommend reappointment, or promotion and tenure, following its review, the Chair should promptly report this vote to the Dean so that steps may be taken to inform the candidate of the decision in advance of the usual December 15 timeline, allowing the candidate to enter the job market. University policy does not allow for communication with the candidate from the time cases are submitted (November 1) to the usual announcement date (December 15), so these cases must be discussed with the Dean well in advance of November 1. In some cases, promotion and tenure reviews occur outside of the time frame established in the faculty member’s contract either because the review is undertaken ahead of that schedule or because the faculty member has made use of the opportunity for a one-year “stop the clock” tenure review extension. (See “Faculty leaves” below for further information.) Departments should have established procedures for deciding when to take the exceptional step of putting a case forward early, noting that any departmental inclination toward early action must first be approved by the Dean before informing the candidate or soliciting external review letters.

For reappointment cases (from first term to second-term untenured Assistant Professor), the Chair must also draft a letter that the department will send to the candidate assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the case that came to light in the course of the review, along with recommendations for addressing areas of weakness in anticipation of the tenure review and plans for continued mentorship.

There should also be departmental procedures in place for the senior faculty to regularly evaluate whether and when Associate Professors should be invited to undergo review for promotion to Professor. Because there is no contractually imposed time pressure to guarantee these reviews, it is important that Chairs be mindful of this issue, and provide advice and mentorship to help Associate Professors stay on a timely track for promotion.

Recommendations for promotion from tenured Associate Professor to full Professor must be received in the Dean’s office annually no later than April 1.

Recommended reading
Guidelines on Faculty Appointment, Reappointment, & Promotion Cases
The Shils Report
Diversity Statement

Mentoring and Support for Faculty

Departments should provide support for faculty at the various stages of their careers, and Chairs are critical to this effort. In the case of junior faculty, departments must have a defined mentorship system in place, for example, forming mentoring committees or assigning individual senior faculty mentors. Departments may also have established frameworks for providing mentorship on teaching (for example, by having mentors visit classes), or other specific areas of professional development. The Chair oversees mentoring arrangements, monitors their effectiveness, and revises them as needed. In addition, the Chair should be available to his or her faculty, particularly junior faculty. The Chair is in a unique position to help junior faculty to find resources on campus to advance their scholarly and pedagogical work. It is equally important, but in some ways more challenging, for Chairs to support faculty development post-tenure. The Chair can play an instrumental role in helping faculty to formulate and launch ambitious plans. On the other side of faculty experience, Chairs are also in a position to know, and to offer assistance, when faculty careers are not thriving. Faculty now submit their annual reports electronically through Interfolio, and these reports are immediately made available to the Chair. They provide one (but by no means the only) way for Chairs to remain up to date on the scholarly work, professional contributions, and other accomplishments of faculty members.

Department chairs also form a critical link in the network of University efforts designed to support faculty members across a wide range of factors that affect the quality of academic life. Chairs are often highly attuned to, and first to learn of, the challenges faculty encounter in their day-to-day work and across a spectrum of matters.

Recommended reading

Faculty Development Program
Report of the Committee on the Quality of Academic Life and Follow-Up Report
Report on the status of Academic Women at the University of Chicago
Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Division of Social Sciences 
Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression
Faculty Retirement Incentive Plan

Faculty Leaves

The Divisional Research Leave policy allows faculty members the opportunity to apply for research leave at regular intervals and to extend leaves using external fellowship funds. A faculty member submits his or her research leave proposal to the Chair, who evaluates the merits of the proposed use of the leave as well as the likely impact of the faculty member’s absence on the department’s teaching and governance. The Chair sends the request along with his or her recommendation to the Dean no later than December 15 of the year prior to the requested research leave.

Other leave requests (parental, FMLA, disability, etc.) are evaluated on a rolling basis throughout the year; all leaves must be reviewed and approved by the Dean and the Office of the Provost. As soon as a Chair learns of such a request, s/he should coordinate and discuss terms and conditions with the Dean’s office. In cases where the faculty member becomes a parent by birth or adoption of a child, or in the case of personal or immediate family member illness, untenured faculty members are currently entitled to a “stop the clock” period, providing a one-year extension before review for reappointment or promotion, following the University’s standard procedures. The Dean’s and Provost’s Offices rely upon the Chair to identify when a faculty member is eligible for a “stop the clock” extension, putting forth a written request to the Dean on behalf of the faculty member to activate the one-year extension(s).

Recommended reading

Social Sciences Faculty Research Leave Policy
Academic Leaves of Absence (Faculty Handbook)
Parental Leave
Other Leaves of Absence (Faculty Handbook)
Stopping the Clock on Review for Promotion

Other Academic Appointments (OAA)

Many departments engage academic personnel in non-faculty positions to support the department’s teaching and/or research mission(s). For all Other Academic Appointees (OAA), the Chair oversees the appointment process, including working with the Dean’s office to determine which type of appointment is appropriate in particular circumstances, managing the search and recruitment, developing departmental procedures to ensure OAA are receiving mentorship and guidance on career development (as relevant), and creating intellectual and professional community for OAA in the department.

The type and rank for OAA positions follows from the rationale for appointment. Instructional Professors (IP) and Senior Instructional Professors (SIP) contribute to an instructional program. Research Associates, Senior Research Associates, and Research Professors contribute to a department’s research program. Visiting Professors are invited to meet a specific departmental need or to explore a possible future faculty recruiting opportunity. Visiting Scholars participate in terms of intensive collaboration that mutually benefits the visitor and host department.  Postdoctoral Researchers participate in mentored advanced training. Associates are courtesy appointments with minimal expectation for collaboration. For IP and SIP, the Chair manages course assignments to ensure their contributions meet specific needs within the department’s curriculum and achieve specific learning objectives.

As with all academic appointments, the Chair is responsible for overseeing the Department’s search, recruitment, reappointment, and promotion procedures following University policy and procedures and for sending the Department’s recommendation to the Dean’s office. Annually each spring the Dean’s office provides the Chair with detailed instructions about OAA case components, along with a list of OAA up for review. IP/SIP reappointment and promotion cases must arrive to the Dean’s office by March; all other OAA cases are reviewed on a rolling basis year-round.

Recommended reading

Academic Visitors (Faculty Handbook)
Other Academic Appointees Guidelines
Postdoctoral Researcher Policy Manual
Special Situation Appointments

Budgets and Finance

The Chair prepares and monitors the department’s annual budget for operations, gift, and endowment accounts, and submits an annual budget request to the Dean’s office by late winter quarter for the following year. The Chair makes faculty salary recommendations to the Dean in late winter quarter, and then meets with the Dean and the Social Sciences Collegiate Master to discuss the recommendations. At his or her discretion the Chair may consider a number of factors in making salary recommendations, though scholarly accomplishments, teaching, and intramural and extramural service should be central to the evaluation. Over time, many factors affect the growth of faculty salaries. If the Chair notes a disparity, such that a particular faculty member’s salary has fallen behind the level commensurate with his or her accomplishments, there may be opportunities to correct the imbalance in discussion with the Dean and Provost. Faculty salaries and quintile rankings are to be kept absolutely confidential. The Dean makes final determinations on individual faculty merit increases. Once the Dean’s office confirms the finalized annual increases the Chair sends a letter to each faculty member informing him or her of the salary increase and setting it in context as appropriate, for example by providing comments on scholarly productivity, teaching, and contributions to department. In addition, the Chair communicates to the Dean the department’s needs for larger scale resources, including lines for faculty hires, doctoral student support, staff positions, and physical infrastructure. The Chair also prepares an annual budget request for lectureships and other undergraduate teaching resources for the Social Sciences Collegiate Division.

Students and Curriculum

Faculty in the Social Sciences Division have (at least) four kinds of teaching and mentoring obligations: they teach and advise doctoral students, masters students (in MAPSS, CIR, and Computational Social Sciences), College students who are undergraduate concentrators in their discipline, and College students in the common core. Department Chairs are involved in organizing each of these aspects of teaching and advising. They work with the department’s Director of Graduate Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies, as well as the relevant standing committees in the department, to plan course offerings and periodically review and revise curricula for majors, minors, and graduate programs, to ensure excellence in the department’s teaching and mentoring. As a part of managing the Department’s curricula and programs, Chairs must also monitor faculty teaching loads, making certain that all faculty in the Department teach a full course load or have received the authorization from the Dean for any course reduction(s).

Chairs oversee the annual review of doctoral student progress and the preparation of annual student review letters, and they assist, when needed, if problems arise in a student’s progress or placement. They collect, review, and report annual data on doctoral admissions, student progress (years to candidacy, completion, job placements, etc.), students’ external fellowships, and total program cohort size, as well as information on the faculty’s engagement in teaching and mentoring College students. The Chair oversees doctoral admissions in the department, working closely with the Division’s Dean of Students with regard to fellowship offers and admission procedures. They oversee the Mentored Teaching Experiences for doctoral students, including both the assignment of doctoral students to teaching assignments and the training of those doctoral students as teachers, and submit an annual budget request to the Social Sciences Collegiate Division for teaching assistantships, lectureships, and other support for undergraduate teaching. In addition, the directors of divisional Masters programs are in contact with Chairs with regard to admission plans, coursework, and advising arrangements for M.A. students concentrating in the department.

Recommended reading

Social Sciences Dean of Students page
Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression 
PhD Funding and Support
Report of the Committee on Graduate Education
Report of the SSD Doctoral Education Review Committee 


Chairs are in a unique position to see opportunities to nominate faculty, staff, and students for awards or other opportunities for professional acknowledgement, or to encourage others to do so. Such awards include teaching awards for faculty and doctoral students, dissertation fellowships for doctoral students, and service awards and yearly bonuses for department staff.

Named Professorships and Distinguished Service Professorships are another important way the University recognizes and honors its most eminent scholars. Department Chairs are invited to make recommendations to the Dean for new Named and Distinguished Service Professorships. Named and Distinguished Service Professorships are an honor for the recipient; they do not provide additional compensation or research support.

Difficult Situations

The Department Chair is often on the front lines when problems arise between and among the faculty, other academic appointees, or students in the department. It is important that Chairs recognize the legal and professional obligations that their roles encompass, including obligations to keep certain kinds of information confidential (for example, salaries) and obligations to report certain kinds of allegations and problems to others within the University (for example, an allegation of sexual misconduct), and, in some cases outside the University (for example, child abuse). When a serious issue involving personal or academic misconduct arises, Chairs must seek advice from the offices of the Dean and the Provost and may benefit from consulting with University’s Office of Legal Counsel as well. Chairs should understand the University’s Title IX policy and the reporting obligations it specifies  and should contact Bridget Collier, Title IX Coordinator if problems relevant to this policy arise.

Recommended reading

Faculty Handbook
University Policy on Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct 
University Policy on Academic Fraud
Staff and Faculty Assistance Program (SFAP)
Social Sciences Division Disciplinary Procedures

Chair's Annual Report for the Department

At the conclusion of each academic year (by June 30), the Chair is responsible for formally reporting on the state of affairs in his or her Department. The report should offer the chair’s candid assessment on the current state of the department. It should provide a comprehensive update on all areas of the Department’s business including its faculty, degree programs, and other scholarly activities over the preceding year. The report should address how recent faculty recruiting, retention, and promotion efforts are impacting the department’s depth and breadth in research and assess the department’s efforts in faculty career development, including a summary of the department’s mentoring activities for each of the department’s untenured faculty members, as well as an appraisal of which associate professors may be on the horizon for advancement to full professor. The report should also identify which individual faculty members the Department is most worried about losing to outside offers.

Regarding degree programs, the report should detail the most recent graduate admissions/recruiting cycle, career outcomes for recent graduates, status of undergraduate teaching in the Department, and the health of the undergraduate major, as well as any curricular reforms that were initiated or completed. The report should also assess the scholarly impact of academic activities within the Department such as academic conferences and lectures that occurred in the previous year. Finally, the Chair’s report must offer a candid assessment of key challenges in the Department, including ongoing strategic priorities and opportunities for the Department.

Overview of Annual Tasks


  • Send faculty salary letters (prepared by current or outgoing chair)
  • Update website and student handbook in preparation for the upcoming year
  • Prepare orientation for incoming doctoral students
  • Receive authorization for new faculty searches; post job on Interfolio; place advertisements in disciplinary associations/publications; organize faculty search committee if this has not already been done
  • Submit to the Dean and Master the preliminary candidate dossier for “December 15” faculty reappointment and tenure cases (CV, research and teaching statements, selection of writings) by August 15


  • By October 15 submit to the Dean and Master the complete documentation for faculty reappointment and tenure cases (Chair’s memo; report of internal ad-hoc committee on the candidate; internal letters from faculty colleagues; letters from outside referees; for renewal reappointment cases, a draft of a letter that the department will send to the candidate candidly assessing his/her accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses, and plans for continued mentorship)
  • Continue new faculty searches
  • Confirm or set up mentoring arrangements for junior faculty
  • By December 15 submit to the Dean all faculty research leave requests for the following academic year
  • Applications for graduate admissions become available in December


  • Finalize doctoral admissions decisions; begin recruitment efforts
  • Submit Social Sciences Collegiate Division (SSCD) budget for next fiscal year (December/January)
  • Meet with Dean and College Master for faculty salary recommendations
  • Determine courses for the upcoming academic year; monitor faculty teaching loads


  • Conduct staff performance reviews
  • Determine department budget for next fiscal year with Dean’s office
  • Conduct annual doctoral student progress reviews
  • Submit faculty search requests to Dean
  • Submit annual Chair’s report to Dean (June)


  • Appoint committees and assemble materials for lecturer appointments and reappointments
  • Periodically review faculty at Associate rank; appoint committees and assemble materials for promotions to Full



Amanda Woodward, Dean, Social Sciences Division (, 773.795.2572).
Maureen Muha, Executive Assistant to the Dean (, 773.795.2572).

Deputy Deans

Michael Albertus, Deputy Dean (, 773-702-8056). Mike helps oversee the Division’s processes for academic appointments, with a focus on instructional professors, postdoctoral researchers, visiting academics, and other academic appointees, and identify ways in which the Division can strengthen support for instructional faculty and other academic appointees.

Howard C. Nusbaum, Deputy Dean and Master, Social Sciences Collegiate Division (, 773.702.6468). Howard oversees undergraduate academic programs in the social sciences.

Leslie Kay, Deputy Dean (, 773.702.6174). Leslie leads the review of, and strategic planning for, the Division's research infrastructure, broadly construed.  She also has input into broader divisional projects and policies. 

Robert Vargas, Deputy Dean (, 773.834.2586). Robert focuses on graduate education. He works with students, departments, the Dean of Students’ team, and broader partners across campus to strengthen and sustain graduate programs in SSD.

Office of the Dean

Academic Affairs and Capital Planning

Josh Beck, Associate Dean and Chief of Staff (, 773.834.3156). In collaboration with the Dean and Deputy Deans, Josh works with department chairs to support faculty and OAA recruiting and retention. Josh also supports new academic initiatives and oversees strategic planning for the facilities and administration that support Social Sciences research and teaching.

Katie Kaftanich, Director of Academic Appointments and Faculty Affairs (, 773.795.2548). Katie advises departmental administrators on the academic search process and in the preparation of academic appointment cases. She manages the approval process for all academic decisions for the Social Sciences. Katie also supports special initiatives in faculty affairs, which aim to enhance faculty life and faculty career development.

Bart Longacre, Director of Social Science Computing Services (, 773.795.5921). Bart manages strategy and operations for Social Sciences computing, including research computing, data-security, and desktop support. Bart manages these support activities for Social Sciences in coordination with other units on campus as well as outside vendors.

Rohit Rijhsinghani, Manager, Business Data Analytics (, 773.834.1331). Rohit supports senior leadership with budget operations and financial planning, creates and implements new financial practices and analytic tools to support Divisional operations and strategic decision-making, and provides integrated analysis and strategic advice on short-term management and long-term planning.

Finance and Administration

Lisa Williams, Associate Dean of Finance and Administration (, 773.795.2554). Lisa has broad responsibilities for the administration and operation of the financial, human resources, business, and computing services functions of Social Sciences. Lisa oversees the management of all financial functions (ex: budget development, financial planning, accounting, reporting) along with the management of human resources, computing services, auxiliary services, grant management, and other support services.

Michael Kerstiens, Manager, Local Business Center (, 773.834.8212). Michael directs and oversees administrative services for Social Sciences faculty and students, including financial account administration, procurement, pre- and post-award grant administration, internal business services, reporting, and financial regulatory compliance.

Christina Klespies, Director of Human Resources (, 773.702.2390). Christina oversees the human resources function for Social Sciences and works with departments on staff recruitment, hiring, orientation, performance management (including annual performance evaluations), compensation, payroll, staff development, and succession planning. In addition, Christina advises/counsels supervisors and managers on employee/labor relations and disciplinary matters.

Research and Strategic Initiatives

Cate Goebel, Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Initiatives (, 773.834.2392). Cate works with faculty to strengthen their research programs—from planning and scoping research projects, to matching faculty with collaborators and university resources, to creating funding strategies and crafting competitive proposals. Cate also staffs faculty committees working on the Division’s research-related strategic initiatives, and partners with the Dean of Students and M.A. programs leadership on the Division’s graduate programs.

Dean of Students

Kelly Pollock, Dean of Students (, 773.702.8414). Kelly implements and manages student affairs policies, administers student fellowships and grants, oversees registration and enrollment status, develops graduate admissions configurations and targets, addresses student disputes, and manages disciplinary procedures. Kelly serves as Social Sciences’ primary interface with the University’s central Dean of Students in the Office of Campus and Student Life, with UChicagoGRAD, and with various university centers. The Dean of Students’ work with departments is often channeled through departmental graduate student affairs administrators, Directors of Graduate Study, and Admissions Chairs.

M.A. Programs

Jon Rogowski, Faculty Director, M.A. Programs in the Social Sciences ( Jon leads the strategic review and renewal of the division’s M.A. programs to articulate each program’s pedagogical mission, to evaluate operations and strategy, and to consolidate their position within the division. 

Chad Cyrenne, Managing Director of M.A. Programs in the Social Sciences (, 773.702.5885). Working with the M.A. faculty directors, Chad oversees admissions, student recruitment, administrative and academic policy, departmental coordination and relations, faculty questions or concerns, and academic and career placement for the M.A. program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS) and the M.A. program in Computational Social Science.

Alumni Relations and Development

Yasmin Omer, Assistant Dean for Development, Social Sciences Division (, 773.702.7175). Yasmin is head of the Alumni Relations & Development team for Social Sciences, and works with departments on matters ranging from engaging alumni to managing philanthropic interests and relationships with donors.


Elizabeth Braun Rush, Executive Director of Strategic Communications ( Liz develops and implements a comprehensive communications strategy that illustrates divisional priorities and opportunities to alumni, prospective students, faculty, staff, the UChicago community, and other supporters of the social sciences. The communications team is a resource for departmental and unit websites, event publicity, media relations, and other internal and external outreach needs.