Being Chair

This is my first year as chair of my department. The consensus is that being chair sucks, and one only should do it when it is “your turn.” However, I have enjoyed my time as chair this year for the following reasons:

  1. I am learning a lot about how the school runs.
  2. I am learning a lot about how the department runs.
  3. I am learning how to effectively run meetings (we had a meeting yesterday, and I learned a couple of key things that will help us out in later meetings).
  4. I enjoy interacting with people outside of Mathematics more frequently.
  5. I am forced to think about what I think is important for the department (and then set the meeting agendas to reflect this).

The best part of being chair, however, is that I can help students in ways that I didn’t think would be possible. I am able to arrange things to get students into classes when are full-but-not-too-full. If the class is too-full, then I have usually been able to give them an alternate solution that works roughly as well. I find that I am doing a lot more advising, which is a part of the job I really enjoy; students come to the chair by default if they are a non-mathematics major who needs help thinking about mathematics.

Of course, there are parts of the job I dislike, but (so far) the benefits have outweighed the costs. I hope that this continues.

I am writing this because I typically hear mathematicians grumbling about having to be chair (at schools other than mine, too), and I want to provide some balance to the discussion.

9 Responses to “Being Chair”

  1. thehabyss Says:

    Top 5 chair we have had this year.

  2. Joss Ives Says:

    I love this positive framing. I’m taking on a leadership role in one of the programs with which I’m associated, and it is a great reminder that there are many positive aspects to these roles.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    At our university, the chair and the undergraduate director are different people. The student interaction is almost all with the undergraduate director, while the chair deals with higher administration, fighting over space, and trying to get the faculty to do their jobs. I much prefer being undergrad director, though the is no stipend or course relief for that role (unlike chair). I have no patience for the higher admins at our university.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Yeah, undergraduate director sounds a lot better (even without the course relief).

      To be sure: there are parts of this job that I don’t like. But it could be worse—I could be chair at your school 🙂

  4. Quick Update | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] department chair, I have been going to the other campus twice per week so that I would be available to everyone. I […]

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