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The Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment

Department Chairs Learning Community Enhancing Leadership and Productive Change

  • exchanging information and documenting the collective wisdom and "best practices" of participants
  • providing a support system for academic leaders
  • introducing participants to possibilities for leading colleagues in the enhancement of teaching, scholarship, and service
  • developing and implementing individualized leadership development plans
  • approval of dean required
  • facilitated by a graduate of 3 FLCs who is chair of Communication
description: This community offers department chairs and regional campus area coordinators a year-long opportunity to enhance their interests and skills in leadership through seminars, retreats, leadership development projects, and peer support from a learning community of administrators in other disciplines.
eligibility: You may apply if in 2008-09 you will be a department chair or regional campus area coordinator.
selection: A subcommittee of CELT will select up to eight participants.

Purpose and Description

This learning community will investigate and implement approaches to enhancing academic leadership effectiveness and satisfaction. Participants will determine the selection of topics for seminars and workshops during the year-long activities. The learning community will engage in regularly scheduled thematic discussions on topics of mutual interest that address the knowledge, skill, or affective needs of department chairs. Program goals include facilitating information exchange and documenting the collective wisdom and "best practices" of participants; providing a support system for academic leaders; introducing participants to the myriad possibilities for leading colleagues in the enhancement of teaching, scholarship, and service; and developing and implementing individualized leadership development plans.

Until recently, the academy has viewed the chair function much as it has regarded teaching: with the assumption that explicit preparation and continuing development is unnecessary. In relation to teaching, it had been widely assumed that attending to the intellectual content of one’s discipline was all that was necessary—quality teaching would naturally follow. This assumption about teaching has been successfully challenged. Miami has been a leader in adopting a new teaching development paradigm, as evidenced by several CELT Learning Community Programs, and this approach has been validated by Miami’s receipt of the prestigious Hesburgh Award and a FIPSE grant to disseminate the learning community approach to other campuses. Academic leaders now recognize that explicit preparation and thoughtful reflection about one’s performance is also valuable for chairing a department. This learning community represents another instance of Miami recognizing that enhanced leadership practices impact the effectiveness and satisfaction of the broader academic community.

Possible issues that the participants in this community might choose to study in depth include (but are not limited to): enhancing personal productivity (juggling the roles of administrator, faculty member, scholar, teacher, counselor, advocate, entrepreneur, mentor, politician, and friend); aligning administrative and faculty views of change; securing upper administration and faculty commitment to ideas; leading change; leadership styles; the difference between leadership and administrative roles; developing trust; turning groups into high-performance teams; personal empowerment; improving academic and administrative processes; defining academic quality; principles of continuous improvement; positive political skills; faculty assessment; mentoring junior faculty; and avoiding professional "burnout."

Lucas and Associates, in their book Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Departmental Chairs (2000, Jossey-Bass), refer positively to the learning community concept. Angelo, in his chapter "Transforming Departments Into Productive Learning Communities," distills seven transformative ideas (pp. 76-80): the social construction of knowledge, mental models, the learning paradigm, learning productivity, learning communities, the scholarship of teaching, and assessment. All seven are involved in CELT faculty learning communities. In the book’s final chapter, "The Academy as Learning Community," Senge concludes that

[T]he only way to continue this collective learning process was to work more collaboratively across many organizations. Only then would people see just how universal their deepest problems were. Only then would one company’s small steps be encouraging to others. Only then would the inevitable setbacks and crises that all organizations encounter not derail them—for they would be able to look at the progress that others were making and get themselves back on track. In a funny way we rediscovered a very old idea. In facing the challenges of profound change, there is no substitute for collaboration—people coming together out of common purpose and willing to support one another so that all can advance. Without actually intending it, we began to create a learning community. (pp. 280-281)

Gary Shulman, Communication, will facilitate this learning community. Gary has participated in several CELT learning communities, served and is currently serving as a department chair, and presented seminars for department chairs nationally. His disciplinary specialization is organizational communication.


Angelo, T. A. (2000). Transforming departments into productive learning communities. In A. F. Lucas & Associates (Eds.), Leading academic change: Essential roles for department chairs (pp. 74-89). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lucas, A. F. & Associates. (Eds.) (2000). Leading academic change: Essential roles for department chairs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Senge, P. M. (2000). The academy as learning community: Contradiction in terms or realizable future? In A. F. Lucas & Associates (Eds.), Leading academic change: Essential roles for department chairs (pp. 275-300). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Selection Criteria

A subcommittee of CELT will select up to eight participants. Criteria for selection include commitment to excellent leadership, level of interest in the program, need, openness to new ideas, potential for contributions to the program, and plans for use of the award year. Participants will be chosen to create a diverse group representing a variety of disciplines, experiences, and needs.

Application Procedure

You are encouraged to apply if you will be serving as a department chair or area coordinator in 2008-09. New and experienced administrators will find participation beneficial. Your application must have a letter of support from your dean or regional campus executive director. Please send an electronic copy of your application to Melody Barton and the original application with your signature page via campus mail to Melody Barton, CELT.

Recent Recipients


  • Lee Harrington, Sociology and Gerontology
  • Carl Paternite, Psychology
  • Elizabeth Mullinix, Theater
  • Jeff Potteiger, Physical Education, Health, Sports Studies
  • Gary Shulman, Communication, Facilitator
  • Marc Rubin, Accountancy
  • H. Jefferson Smith, Decision Sciences & Management Information Systems
  • Elizabeth Wilson, Comparative Religion
  • Steve Wyatt, Finance


  • Mary Cayton, History
  • Richard Green, Music
  • Dele Jegede, Art
  • Theodore Light, Business Technology
  • William Renwick, Geography
  • James Shiveley, Teacher Educaton
  • Gary Shulman, Communication, Facilitator
  • B. Kay Snavely, Management


  • Diane Delisio, Computing Technology-Hamilton
  • Osama Ettouney, Manufacturing Engineering
  • Charles Victor Ganelin, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Charlotte Newman Goldy, History
  • Gary Shulman, Communication, Facilitator
  • Mark Smith, Mathematics and Statistics
  • Bill Snavely, Management
  • Doug Troy, Computer Science and Systems Analysis

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