Getting Started

Immediate and important resources as you begin your role

Where do I even begin?

Suggestions to get you started: 

1. Add these orientation sessions to your calendar:

  • In August, attend the New Heads and Chairs Academy 
  • Throughout the year, attend biweekly UMass LEAD + sessions (Leadership Enhancement for Academic Departments).  These valuable sessions provide leaders the opportunity to hear from campus administrators and learn about policies and resources.  

2. Schedule meetings with the important people around you: 

  • Previous Heads/Chairs and Associate Chairs:  review this toolkit together and get access to all their past files, e.g. OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint.
  • Your Dean
  • Your staff: How did they work with the previous head/chair?  How will you work together going forward? 
  • Your faculty: Ultimately, you serve the faculty and you can only do that if your know what the faculty think are the main goals and issues.  
  • Peers: Schedule regular get-togethers with peers who are also department leaders. 

3. Get access to the online financial, academic and HR systems for approvals:

  • Review this (somewhat daunting) list with your department's office manager and request access to the various systems.
  • Make sure you have access to all the past files from the department's head/chair in OneDrive or TEAMS, and prepare to add your own.

4.  Review guiding documents:

5. Familiarize yourself with the local support from your school/college:

  • Each college provides support to their department chairs in a variety of ways. (e.g. onboarding meetings and individual meetings with college administrators, monthly leadership meetings, and/or mutual mentoring groups of 'new department leaders'. 

6. Take a deep breath and think about what's important to you about being a department leader:

  • What are one or two goals you have for this year?
  • Schedule time each week for your research and writing.  Just a few hours of protected time will provide some necessary balance to your work.

UMass Amherst administrative offices and administrators:  

Organizational Charts of UMass administrative offices:

Guidance on accessing systems:

Resources regarding department leadership expectations:


You don't need an answer or make a commitment right away for most things. Practice saying 'I will get back to you on that'.