Assessing & Enhancing Department Climate:
A Workshop Series for Department Chairs
Recent research shows that "climate" — the extent to which an individual feels personally safe, listened to, valued, and treated fairly and with respect — plays an important role in peopleís job satisfaction, effectiveness, productivity, engagement, and decisions to remain in or leave a department or area of study.
A recent survey of 4,500 tenure-track faculty at 51 colleges and universities found that faculty place great value on departmental climate, culture, and collegiality and that these qualities are critical to faculty retention.
Department chairs/heads can play an important role in developing and sustaining a positive, productive, and welcoming departmental climate. WISELI has developed a series of three workshop sessions for department chairs seeking to improve climate in their departments.
The workshop series is described below:
WISELI's workshop "Assessing and Enhancing Department Climate: A Chair's Role" is offered as a series of three sessions. Each session engages small groups of department chairs in discussions about climate in their own departments and provides them with opportunities to learn from each otherís experiences and ideas. A brief departmental climate survey administered between the first and second sessions allows chairs to identify specific issues of concern for their own departments. Participating chairs and facilitators work collaboratively to develop plans to address these issues. Each of the three sessions and the goals of the series are described below.
- To increase awareness of climate and its influence on the research and teaching missions of a department.
- To identify various issues that can influence climate in a department.
- To present research on how unconscious assumptions and biases may influence climate.
- To enable chairs to assess climate in their own departments.
- To provide chairs with opportunities to enhance climate in their departments by learning from each others' experiences and ideas.
- To provide chairs with advice and resources they can use to enhance climate in their departments.
Department chairs will engage in a general discussion of climate and the importance of fostering positive climates. Topics to be discussed include:
- Definitions of climate.
- Importance and benefits of fostering positive climates.
- Results from recent studies of faculty worklife at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Understanding climate from others' perspectives.
Introduction to web-based departmental climate survey.
Department Climate Survey — a brief survey will be adminstered to department members between Session 1 and Session 2.
- Chairs will consider the potential influence of unconscious bias, assumptions, and microaggressions on climate in their department.
- Chairs will receive survey results for their individual departments, spend some time reviewing these results, and have the opportunity to discuss survey findings. They may share with each other some positive results of the survey and comment on what they and members of their department are doing to achieve these results. They may describe a negative result and solicit advice or suggestions from other chairs, from the facilitator, and/or from provided resource materials. Chairs will also learn about resources and people on campus who can help them in their efforts to enhance climate.
- Chairs will discuss how to disseminate survey results to department members and how to identify areas of concern.
- Chairs will begin to consider possible actions to take to enhance climate and learn about resources and people on campus who can help them in this effort.
Department Chairs share aspects of survey results with department and identify areas of concern.
- Chairs will discuss how they shared survey findings with their departments and how they identified what areas of department climate need to be improved.
- Discussion will concentrate on development and implementation of an action plan to address areas of concern. Participating chairs, past participants, and discussion facilitators will share expertise, ideas and resources to aid in developing this action plan.
- Chairs will consider specific topics such as fostering collegiality and the influence of leadership styles, organizational structure, and decision-making practices on departmental climate.
The first session of the workshop series is scheduled for Wednesday, October 21, 2015 from 12:00noon to 1:30pm (lunch will be provided). The remaining two sessions will be scheduled in consultation with participating chairs. Registration is required. To register please contact Eve Fine by October 19, 2015.
- WISELI Publication: Benefits and Challenges of Diversity (PDF)
- BROCHURE — Enhancing Department Climate: A Guide for Department Chairs (PDF) (A revised, updated, and condensed version of "WISELI's Recommendations for Enhancing Department Climate)
- BIBLIOGRAPHY of articles referenced in this brochure (PDF)
- WISELI's Recommendations for Enhancing Department Climate (PDF)
- WISELI's Resources for Department Chairs (PDF)
- BROCHURE — Advancing Women in Science and Engineering: Advice to the Top (PDF)
- BROCHURE — Fostering Success for Women in Science and Engineering: Advice for Departmental Faculty (PDF)
- WISELI Publication: Case Studies for Discussion – Hiring, Retention and Promotion of Women Scientists (PDF)
- UW Provost's Office – Department Chairs' Toolkit
- UW Provost's Creating Community Webpage
- UW Policies on Illegal Discrimination and Harassment
- UW Policies and Resources for addressing Sexual Harassment
- The Department Chair — online newsletter published four times per year. (Click here for UW Madison subscription.)
Climate Workshops for Department Chairs
- Climate survey for individual departments (PDF)
- Department Climate Workshops: "Typical" Themes (PDF)
- Winchell, Jessica. June 29, 2009. "Issues and trends in department climate experiences: Evidence from WISELIís department climate survey." Revision of May 2007 Report. (PDF)
- Evaluation form for participating department chairs (PDF)
- 2003 – Evaluation of WISELI's climate workshops for department chairs (PDF)
- 2005 – Evaluation of WISELI's climate workshops for department chairs (PDF)
UW-Madison Campus Climate
- Sheridan, Jennifer and Jessica Winchell. 2003. "Results from the 2003 Study of Faculty Worklife at UW-Madison."
- Sheridan, Jennifer and Jessica Winchell. 2006. "Results from the 2006 Study of Faculty Worklife at UW-Madison."
1. Fogg, Piper (September 29, 2006). Young Ph.D.ís Say Collegiality Matters More than Salary. The Chronicle of Higher Education 53(6), A1. (Find in your library)
2. Bensimon, E. M., Ward, K., & Sanders, K. (2000). The department chair's role in developing new faculty into teachers and scholars. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing; Carroll, J. B., & Gmelch, W. H. (1994). Department chairs' perceptions of the relative importance of their duties. Journal for Higher Education Management, 10(1), 49-63; Lucas, Ann (1994). Strengthening Department Leadership: A Team Building Guide for Department Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (Find in your library)