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Peer Circles for Department Chairs, 2021-22


The department chair is arguably one of the most difficult roles in a college or university. Chairs straddle the line between faculty and administrator, managing complex duties often with minimal training and support. The Department Chair Peer Circles Program offers a forum in which department chairs (and those in similar positions) from across the university can learn from and help guide each other by sharing practical strategies, ideas, and tools. These confidential spaces among co-equals also foster social support and enable candid counsel among participants. The benefits of peer circles can include decreased sense of isolation, increased professional confidence, and greater clarity of purpose in the departmental leadership role.   

In this program, circles of up to seven participants (including a designated peer facilitator) meet six times throughout the academic year for a combination of professional development seminars and informal conservations. Some common professional development topics include tenure and promotion, evaluations, course scheduling, and hiring. Each circle chooses its own professional development topics by agreement among members. Format, location, and schedule of meetings is up to each circle to decide. Throughout the year, program participants will be invited to attend additional professional development workshops, training, and networking events through the VISIBLE Campus Leaders Workshop. They will also be offered the option to participate, via survey and/or focus groups in an ongoing VIRS-led research study on faculty peer circles. 

Program Goals 

  •  Improve participants’ access to information, knowledge, and understanding of best practices related to the role of Department Chair 
  • Establish a learning community where Department Chairs can find inspiration in each other’s experiences 
  • Enrich the culture of social support among Department Chairs 
  • Augment participants’ sense of empowerment in the role of Chair and in their careers generally  
  • Develop the leadership skills necessary to foster environments where diversity and gender equity are the norm, as well as to build a network 


All Department Chairs, new and experienced, are invited to join. Participants are expected to commit to confidentiality, reciprocity, and respect in their engagements with each other. They also agree to attend a one-hour orientation and at least four of the six circle gatherings over the year. 

How to Join 

To enroll, please complete this questionnaire. (Problems with the link? Cut and paste the URL into your browser:

The questionnaire should take 5-7 minutes. We appreciate your thoughtful responses. We use the information you provide to place you in a circle that will best support your interests and needs. We are committed to forming circles that are inclusive, respectful, comfortable spaces for all participants. 

Deadline to submit questionnaires: EXTENDED to 5pm, September 20

We expect to hold orientation and launch circles by early October. 

Questions? Contact Janice Bially Mattern, Director of VIRS, or Noelle Comolli, co-PI of VISIBLE.

This program is a collaborative initiative of VISIBLE and VIRS. It builds upon the Department Chairs Peer Network established by VISIBLE in 2020 and the Faculty Peer Circles Program established by VIRS, also in 2020.