Cherry Blossoms

Natural Sciences: Notes for Chair search committees

College of Arts and Sciences
Division of Natural Sciences
Chair Search committee information
S. Hawley, January 2018

What is your charge?
We are asking you to answer two questions:
(1) What are the major issues facing the department?
(2) Who should lead the department?

What is the expected product?
We want a report to the Dean consisting of two parts, corresponding to
the two questions. Part (1) should be suitable for sharing with the
new Chair and the department. Part (2) is confidential (to the extent
allowed by law). We want an unranked list with two or more names,
together with an assessment of the candidates' strengths and
weaknesses and the level of support they enjoy among the members of
the department. Willingness to serve is not a criterion when
evaluating candidates --- convincing a candidate to serve is the
Dean's job. Part (2) can also address issues of a confidential nature
not suitable for Part (1). 2-3 pages for Part (1) and 1-2 pages
for Part (2) would be a typical length for the report.

What is the role of the internal department member of the committee?
The function of the internal department member of the committee is to
serve as a liaison to the department and as a source of information
for the external committee members. The internal member does not
participate in the interviews with department members and in the
writing of Part (2) of the report.

What is the process?
- Familiarize yourselves with the department by reading the most
recent annual report (will be made available to you) and the report
from the last Academic Program (10 year) Review, and by discussion
with the internal committee member. Academic Program Reviews can be
found at

(see link near bottom of page for archived documents, 2013-present)

- Send an email to the department members soliciting anonymous input
via Catalyst WebQ or other similar online resource, and asking them
to sign up for interviews. (sample email attached below)

- Conduct interviews with faculty, staff, students, and other

- Write the report.

The most important part of the process is the interviews. EVERYBODY
TO BE TREATED CONFIDENTIALLY. It is probably a good idea to start
by meeting with the current Chair, with the Associate Chairs or
others who have important leadership functions, and with the
department administrator.

The most efficient way of conducting the remaining bulk of the
interviews is a "surgical strike": Choose a day or two with enough
lead time, clear the decks for those days, and spend all day on
interviews. Twenty minute slots should be ok, with regular breaks for
you to catch your breath and to buffer time overruns. If the
department is large it may not be possible to have everybody meet with
all the externals committee members; you may have to split up. You
should prepare a schedule. The actual signup (filling the slots)
should be handled by the department.

Instead of meeting with individual graduate students, you may want to
propose meeting with them as a group, or meeting with
representatives. The same applies to postdocs and staff. However,
anybody who requests to meet with the committee individually should be
accommodated, and you should always emphasize that the interviews will
only be useful if the interviewees are completely frank, and that all
communications with the committee will be treated confidentially.


Sample email to department

From: Astronomy Chair search committee
To: Astronomy faculty, staff, and students
Re: Astronomy Chair search

Arts and Sciences Dean David Hodge and Divisional Dean Ron Irving have
appointed a committee to conduct a search for the next Chair of Astronomy.

The committee consists of:

Julianne Dalcanton, Associate Professor, Astronomy (internal member)
Paula Heron, Associate Professor, Physics
Werner Stuetzle, Professor, Statistics (Committee Chair)

We are soliciting input from all faculty, staff, students, and other
departmental stakeholders. We want your views on what are the most
significant current issues for the department, what its priorities
should be for the next few years, and who you think would be most
able to effectively guide the department. YOUR COMMUNICATIONS WILL

(Information about WebQ survey here.)

We have set aside Tuesday, January 17 from 9am-1pm and Thursday,
January 19 from noon-4pm for meetings with individuals or groups.
Meetings will be with the external committee members only and are
expected to take about 20 minutes. Astronomy Administrator Stan
Vlcek (221-7295, stan@astro) will handle the scheduling. Please
contact him for an appointment. If you have any comments or concerns
about the search, please contact the Committee Chair.