January 10, 2024

36 Higher Education Leaders Chosen for AASCU’s Inaugural Department Chair Leadership Institute

Travis Abercrombie
(202) 478-4654

WASHINGTON, January 10, 2024 – The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) has selected 36 higher education professionals for the inaugural cohort of its Department Chair Leadership Institute (DCLI), a program designed to address the unique needs of department chairs at state colleges and universities. DCLI was created in response to member feedback and requests for a robust professional development program to help department chairs cultivate critical skills to overcome common challenges, as well as prepare for future administrative roles.

The first DCLI cohort will have an in-person meeting in Washington, D.C., Jan. 10–11. The group will also participate in three 75-minute virtual sessions in February and March. The comprehensive curriculum, which was crafted to fill a vital professional development gap, covers how to lead a department based on an institution’s mission and strategic plan; navigate difficult conversations; grow and sustain a future-focused department; and maintain relevance as higher education changes.

“A study by the University Council of Educational Administration’s Center for the Study of Academic Leadership indicated that 67% of department chairs reported no training was received for their position, and yet chairs are the most critical front-line managers for academic and institutional effectiveness,” said DCLI executive sponsor and lead faculty member, Richard Helldobler, president of William Paterson University (NJ) and former AASCU board member. “AASCU is taking this issue head on with the development of this new program to help department chairs understand roles and responsibilities, finances, and navigating the complexities of university leadership. I am excited to be part of this new venture at AASCU.”

The response to and demand for the program was so high, the 2024 institute will be made up of two cohorts, with the second group participating in its in-person meeting in August and subsequent virtual sessions in September and October. AASCU Consulting also offers the Department Chair curriculum onsite for members who prefer to bring the program to their campus. That program was piloted at Central Connecticut State University in the fall and spearheaded by President Zulma R. Toro.

“We’re excited to add DCLI to our suite of leadership development programs and grateful for the support from our valued partners at Academic Search who made this possible,” said José A. Cabrales, AASCU’s Executive in Charge. “Our members asked, and we answered the call to further solidify our dedication to preparing the next generation of campus leaders for the rigors of serving institutions with an equity mindset and delivering the value students deserve.”

View a full list of participants.


The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of 350 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise.