Leadership Planning for Chairs

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University of Toronto Scarborough’s strategic plan calls on the campus to “advance a culture of leadership that is bold, empathetic, shared, transparent, inclusive and transformational, thereby enabling our collective aspirations.” Department chairs can embody this goal in their unique position as the leaders of academic units and liaisons between faculty and administration. At UTSC, like other contemporary universities, chairs also play a crucial role in supporting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in their departments; chairs are indeed a “fulcrum for diversity change”.

The Vice-Dean Faculty Affairs, Equity, and Success (VDFAES) aims to support current chairs in their important, yet often challenging roles, while also promoting leadership capacity in faculty to build a strong pool of future potential chairs.


Developing Leadership Skills in Faculty

A first step toward supporting future academic chairs is building the leadership capacity of all faculty members. At the University of Toronto Scarborough, like other Canadian universities, the chair role is temporary and service-oriented, and all faculty members might take on the chair role at some point over their careers and return to teaching and research afterward. Faculty should thus have access to leadership training throughout their careers to prepare them for the possibility of becoming a chair. Even if not all faculty members eventually serve as chair, a strong culture of leadership in a department will help support those who do serve and encourage more equitable distribution of service work.

VDFAES Funds: Various VDFAES funds could be leveraged toward leadership preparation, such as the Mentorship Initiative Fund, Professional Academic Coaching Fund or National Centre for Faculty Development and Diversity's Faculty Success Program.

U of T Provost’s Leadership Academy: Launching in Fall 2023, mid-career faculty who have not yet held an academic leadership position will be invited to participate in a 2-year program involving professional development seminars and job shadowing of senior administration. The program seeks to build leadership capacity in faculty who are Indigenous, Black and racialized; women; persons with disabilities; and people of diverse sexual and gender identities.


Succession Planning for Chairs

Succession planning is a regular practice in the business world, but has not been taken up in academia as much. However, without a clear succession plan, the departure of a chair can leave a department in an organizational crisis.

Succession planning also helps in ensuring a university administration that reflects the faculty, student, and staff communities that populate the university. Becoming a department chair is often a first step on the ladder to appointments to decanal and other higher administration roles, where women and racialized faculty continue to be underrepresented. Succession planning is key, then, not only to the functioning and health of the department, but also in creating equitable representation across academic ranks.

These worksheets provide detailed steps toward succession planning that current chairs may find useful in identifying and developing potential future leaders.


Supporting Incoming and Current Chairs

In 2023-24, the VDFAES launched the Chair's Workshop Series aimed at supporting new and continuing chairs in their roles as unit leaders. Chairs often report feeling unprepared as they transition from their faculty roles into leadership positions; they report greater job satisfaction when they have access to training and mentorship opportunities.

The series included five workshops designed to: support chairs’ need for training in specific job responsibilities; build a community among UTSC chairs; and strengthen relationships between the OVPD and chairs. Topics included getting started as a department chair; working with faculty; students and curricular matters; working with staff; managing department resources; and professional and personal development for chairs. All current chairs were invited to participate. 

Chairs are also encouraged to apply for VDFAES funding to attend training offered by other institutions, such as: