General Information

The Academic Chairpersons Conference is an annual forum where academic chairpersons, administrators and faculty from all areas of higher education share the most successful, innovative ideas and strategies to assist each other in becoming more effective in their positions. The conference format includes concurrent sessions of interactive workshops, best practice presentations and roundtable discussions. The emphasis of every conference is to provide practical, usable information in a climate of open discussion and collaborative exchange.

Who Should Attend

Attendance Statistics (2017 Conference):

Total registered 484
Female participants 49%
Male participants 51%
Department chairs or heads 71%
Deans 6%
Other (professor, associate professor, etc.) 23%

Institution Size

1500 or less 3%
1,500 – 3,000 8%
3,000 – 6,000 15%
6,000 – 10,000 19%
10,000+ 50%
No response 5%

Length of Time Serving as Chair

More than 3 years 26%
1 – 3 years 28%
Less than one year 25%
Not a chair 14%
No response 7%

Conference History

The Academic Chairpersons Conference has been offered by Kansas State University to department chairs throughout the country since 1983.

The original conference themes alternated each year between assessment and departmental management, and provided department chairs with practical, usable information and skills.

The conference is constantly evolving and in the last 10 years the focus of the conference has turned more toward assisting chairs with finding success in leadership roles. The longevity of the conference can be attributed to the provision of great educational opportunities combined with strong networking between participants. While this conference isn’t discipline-focused, most participants find there is a great degree of satisfaction in the ample opportunity to network with department heads from around the country.

The idea of the conference originated from the Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development (now known as IDEA Education), which was housed with K-State’s Division of Continuing Education, currently known as Global Campus. The conference was created to meet the need for departmental leadership development opportunities and was a part of the series of Issues in Higher Education Conferences. The Academic Chairpersons Conference Advisory Board still includes several founding members.  The conference’s longevity can be partly attributed to the efforts through the years of the K-State coordination staff that has worked extremely hard to keep this an affordable conference.

Educational opportunities focus on departmental leadership including dealing with faculty and other personnel, determining effective budgets, handling student issues and developing pertinent curriculum. Conflict management, legal issues, fundraising, grant writing, finances and trends in higher education are conference topics of importance. New and seasoned department chairs receive tools that help them to deal with current situations and prepare for the future.

The department chair is a unique position on college campuses; it’s the higher education version of middle management. Chairs report to their dean while supervising their staff and faculty, and they have numerous responsibilities related to students. Regardless of institutional size, generally, the overall challenges for chairs remain the same whether they serve in private, public, liberal arts or research institutions.