Professor Vicki Baker shares sage advice for aspiring department chairs
November 16, 2023
In a recent opinion piece featured on Inside Higher Ed, Professor Vicki Baker shares invaluable advice for educators aspiring to take on the role of a department chair. Drawing from her own experiences, Baker emphasizes the importance of developing a diverse skill set when stepping into this leadership position. She underscores the need for effective communication, strategic decision-making, and a collaborative mindset to navigate the complex challenges that come with overseeing a department.
“Autonomous work in teaching, scholarship and service will not be all that’s required if you take on an administrative role, such as department chair. Simply put, what got you there won’t help you be successful now and in the future,” said Baker, E. Maynard Aris Endowed Professor in Economics and Management and chair of the economics and management department at Albion College. “Instead, if you become a department chair, your success will be based on a new triumvirate: leadership, management and personnel development.”
Professor Baker’s guidance extends beyond the technical aspects of administration, delving into the interpersonal dynamics that shape successful leadership. Acknowledging the significance of fostering a positive and collaborative culture, Baker encourages aspiring department chairs to prioritize relationship-building among faculty members. Her advice serves as a roadmap for educators looking to not only excel in administrative responsibilities but also to create a supportive and thriving academic community.
“In conclusion, department chairs are the first position in the leadership pipeline of the academy and they need strategic professional development—an area widely viewed as requiring further investment, yet with limited knowledge about specifically what to invest in,” added Baker. ”
Baker’s insights culminate in a call for continuous learning and adaptability. She urges prospective department chairs to embrace change and remain open to evolving methodologies in higher education. Professor Vicki Baker’s advice for those navigating the challenging yet rewarding path to departmental leadership offers practical wisdom that extends far beyond the confines of academia.