December 14, 2015

Dr. G’s #AGU15 Spotlight – Heads and Chairs Workshop

Posted by Laura Guertin

IMG_0800Today was a full-day workshop for Heads and Chairs, typically held on the Sunday before the official kickoff of the AGU Fall Meeting. Here is the workshop description on the meeting website:

This one-day workshop provides an opportunity for heads and chairs of Earth and Space Science departments to discuss issues and strategies for building a strong department, meet other heads and chairs, and learn more about current issues.

As a future department chair, I was drawn by the title of the workshop. The workshop description, it turns out, doesn’t even come close to the wealth of information and topics that were covered!

There is a full program, along with links to all of the PowerPoint presentations, on the SERC website. I won’t reproduce all of the information on the website or from the presentations here on GeoEd Trek, as there is so much information, and each person going through the information would take away something different from the content. Some of the items I took away from today’s speakers:

  • It is no longer a two-body problem, but should be referred to as a two-body opportunity when discussing dual-career couples. Additional information can be found on the AGU/AGI Heads and Chairs Webinar from March 2015.
  • The work/life balance is anything but among academics. More are working the new Night Shift (online answering emails and working 8PM to 11PM). Academics experience higher stress than the wider population. And academics have more sick days due to mental health problems than any other health issues.
  • Strong quantitative skills are even more important in our department graduates, especially those entering the environmental sector. More students need statistics.
  • Employers are looking for undergraduates to know systems thinking, understand processes (such as thermodynamics), and have an awareness of tools.
  • “Assessment will indeed make your life better” —  David Mogk, Montana State University (Dave’s words, not mine)
  • If something is worth learning, students need multiple exposures and opportunities (rule of 3’s… or 4’s….)
  • You should align your departmental role and scope documents with your institutional mission statement
  • The three items higher education needs to address when it comes to the culture of a department includes isolation, stereotypes, and lack of inclusiveness
  • Make your department a stop on the campus tour!
  • We (the NSF, as well as our discipline) cannot take it for granted any longer that we are valued and understood (by the average citizens, as well as those on Capitol Hill)

My take-home message from today… visit this website, and go through all of the materials!  Even if you are not a current department chair, the information is incredibly valuable to think about the role and function of departments and their individual faculty. And it is worth going back and exploring some of the AGU/AGI Heads and Chairs Webinars, too.