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AMS Annual Workshop for Department Chairs and Leaders


Please join us in 2021!


About the Event

The AMS is hosting its annual one-day workshop for chairs and leaders of departments of mathematical sciences to be held in conjunction with the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Denver, CO.  You are invited to join us for this important workshop to be held on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center.

What makes a chair different than any other engaged faculty member in the department? This workshop will examine the chair’s role in leading a department. The day will be structured to include and encourage networking and sharing of ideas among participants.

Workshop leaders will be:  Luca Capogna, Head, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI); Kevin Knudson, Chair, Department of Mathematics, University of Florida; Gloria Marí-Beffa, Professor of Mathematics and Associate Dean for the Natural, Physical and Mathematical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Jennifer Zhao, Professor of Mathematics and Associate Dean for the College of Arts, Sciences and Letters, University of Michigan-Dearborn.


1.  Modernizing mathematics and mathematicians
     Mathematics departments must evolve to meet rapid demographic and technological changes.

  • Has your department’s curriculum changed in response to increased computational power and the changing demands of the marketplace?
  • Has your department adapted to serve a more diverse student population?
  • Are your junior faculty receiving appropriate mentoring to face a shifting work-life balance and what may be more stringent tenure requirements?

     We will discuss how departments are embracing and contributing to computational and quantitative programs being launched on campuses (e.g., in data science); how open access texts and online homework systems can help us better serve students from lower income families; and how more robust mentoring along with more flexible work assignments can help guide junior faculty to a positive tenure decision. 

     These issues are not insurmountable, but require thought, and cognizance of the balance we must achieve in the context of our desire to maintain the rigor and rich history of our discipline. This session will help chairs know where to begin.

2.  Evaluating teaching

     There is no simple system for evaluating teaching. However, careful thinking about the
purposes of evaluation, and crafting multiple methods of evaluation that meet these varied purposes, can lead to evaluation systems that are fair, reliable, and valid. Questions we will consider include:

  •  What is the goal of evaluating teaching? This perhaps seemingly naïve question must be answered before evaluation design. At the least, evaluations should:  provide insight for reflection and improvement and be valid and fair when used for personnel decisions.
  • What should be assessed? For classroom teaching, we can use students’ evaluations, peer classroom observations, and reflective comments of those being evaluated. But “teaching” includes activities broader than classroom instruction. How do we evaluate, for example, development of curricula, new courses and course materials?
  • An increasing number of faculty have developed inter-departmental programs. How should these efforts be evaluated and by whom?

3.  Difficult conversations

     How do we deal with difficult situations and difficult colleagues, in the department, elsewhere on campus, and at the community level? What are some guidelines for conflict management and resolution? This session will focus on two aspects of this encompassing topic.

  • Difficult colleagues. We will discuss best practices for conversations with, and approaches to high-maintenance colleagues, including transparency, clear policies, and effective use of committees.
  • Sexual misconduct. Each Institution has its own policies and procedures to deal with sexual harassment. What is the role of the Chair during and after an investigation has concluded? We will discuss basic principles to prevent sexual harassment from happening, and best practices to bring sexual harassment cases to a closure within the department. We will also look to guidance from outside the mathematics community to examine other science societies’ guidelines for addressing sexual harassment. We will have a discussion on establishing community guidance.

4.  The “entrepreneurial” mathematics department
     Departments can benefit from collective projects to improve the education offered, and from funding to support such projects. Smaller departments and/or poorly resourced departments can be particularly challenged to undertake such projects.

  • How can a department find out about NSF and other funding opportunities?
  • How can a department give sufficient support for grant writing?
  • How can a department support managing grants that enable group efforts to improve the education of its students?

     One suggestion is to look for allies across campus to team-up on educational opportunities or in research proposals; or towards external entities, be they local industry, departments in nearby institutions, to the professional societies, or through the broad network of NSF math institutes.