Assessing & Enhancing Department Climate:
A Workshop Series for Department Chairs
"Climate" — the extent to which an individual feels personally safe, listened to, valued, and treated fairly and with respect — plays an important role in people’s job satisfaction, effectiveness, productivity, engagement, and decisions to remain in or leave a department or area of study.
Because department chairs/heads play an important role in developing and sustaining a positive, productive, and welcoming departmental climate. WISELI has developed a workshop series for department chairs seeking to improve climate in their departments.
WISELI's workshop "Assessing and Enhancing Department Climate: A Chair's Role," a series of three sessions, engages small groups of department chairs in discussions about climate in their own departments and provides them with opportunities to learn from each other’s 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. The three sessions are described below:
Department chairs engage in a general discussion of climate and the importance of fostering positive climates. Topics 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 consider the potential influence of unconscious bias, assumptions, and microaggressions on climate in their department.
- Chairs receive survey results for their individual departments, spend some time reviewing these results, and begin discussing survey findings.
- Facilitators provide advice and guidance for disseminating survey results to department members and for involving the department in identifying common areas of concern.
- Chairs 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 discuss how they shared survey findings with their departments and how they identified areas of department climate in need of improvement.
- 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 typically scheduled during October of any given year. The remaining two sessions will be scheduled in consultation with participating chairs. Chairs at UW-Madison interested in participating during the 2016-17 academic year can contact Eve Fine to be placed on a wait list. We will do our best to schedule the first session at a time convenient to chairs on the wait list.
- Enhancing Department Climate: A Guide for Department Chairs (PDF)
- BIBLIOGRAPHY of articles referenced in this publication (PDF)
- WISELI's Resources for Department Chairs (PDF)
- Other relevant WISELI publications:
- Advancing Women in Science and Engineering: Advice to the Top (PDF)
- Benefits and Challenges of Diversity (PDF)
- Fostering Success for Women in Science and Engineering: Advice for Departmental Faculty (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
- UW Policies and Procedures for addressing Hostile and Intimidating Behavior
- 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 WISELI’s department climate survey." Revision of May 2007 Report. (PDF)
- Pribbenow, Christine Maidl. July 14, 2005. “WISELI’s Climate Workshops for Department Chairs: Evaluation Report.” (PDF)
- Pribbenow, Christine Maidl. November 14, 2003. “WISELI Department Climate Workshops: Formative Evaluation Report.” (PDF)
UW-Madison Campus Climate
- For information and reports see WISELI's Study of Faculty Worklife at UW-Madison.
Publications and Presentations
For publications and presentations related to department climate, visit this page.
1. 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)