Heads, Chairs, Directors 

Roles and Responsibilities

Academic units at the University of Arizona are essential to the delivery of the university's teaching, research and service missions. Effective and inspiring leadership of departments is vitally important to ensuring that our academic departments operate at the forefront of their disciplines, deliver world class impacts, and are financially and operationally sustainable.

Heads / Directors represent the department or unit in many settings, articulating the unit’s strengths within the campus, in the community, and in relevant professional settings, as well as fostering interdisciplinary collaborations. They are charged with fostering excellence across all aspects of the unit’s operations, with establishing the future directions of the unit, and with upholding the University's commitment to expanding diversity and inclusion.  These efforts are carried out with appropriate faculty consultation, via formal processes and governance procedures, as well as via ad hoc discussions. Heads / Directors maintain an inclusive and respectful departmental climate that promotes vibrant discourse, creativity, innovation and exemplary disciplinary impacts.


Heads / Directors have a unique responsibility to establish the strategic directions of the unit, often as part of a college leadership team, while also ensuring effective unit level operations. They are responsible for managing resources to build capacity and advance disciplinary innovations. It is expected that they will involve staff and faculty in the formulation of objectives and goals of the unit. The activities of Heads / Directors may vary to some extent based on the mission of their unit; yet, the following list includes typical activities of Heads and Directors:

  • Provide leadership in vision setting and strategic planning at the unit level, aligned with the college and university strategic plans, to develop and expand the unit’s strengths and ensure that disciplinary excellence is achieved.
  • Pursue open, transparent and regular communication with unit faculty, staff, students and stakeholders.
  • Maintain positive working relationships between the unit, the college and the University.
  • Communicate unit strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to campus leaders, seeking support for the unit from the campus community when needed / appropriate.
  • Communicate college and university information within the unit, providing context as needed.
  • Maintain unit level shared governance to facilitate curriculum decisions, student admissions, personnel annual reviews and promotion decisions.
  • Oversee personnel, including workload distributions, annual performance reviews, promotions, salary decisions, and disciplinary actions. Ensure that promotion and tenure policies and procedures are followed at the unit level.
  • Appoint other unit leaders as needed, e.g., academic program directors, committee chairs and committee members, and other administrators, in collaboration with college leadership.
  • Maintain a respectful, inclusive, productive working environment for all.
  • Recruit, retain, manage, and support a productive, engaged, and diverse group of faculty and staff.
  • Recognize accomplishments of faculty, staff and students, and support nominations for acknowledgements and awards.
  • Oversee student recruitment, retention, and degree completion.
  • Manage unit level student services.
  • Lead academic program reviews, as appropriate.
  • Oversee regular curricular assessments, reviews, and continuous improvement processes.
  • Make budgetary decisions in concert with the business officer assigned to the unit.
  • Manage capital, financial, and human resources ethically, prudently and responsibly.
  • Work with appropriate development personnel to identify and pursue fundraising opportunities.
  • Ensure all unit operations are in compliance with University policies.
  • Manage and engage in community, state, national, and international outreach.
  • Attend departmental, college, and University events.

Heads and Directors are University of Arizona employees with administrative appointments (UHAP Chapter 5) to lead academic units at a department, institute, program, or sub-college level. Heads / Directors typically have a 0.50 FTE or higher workload assignment for their administrative role. They are normally leading members of the relevant disciplinary community, with established professional stature at the national and / or international level, as befits a leading research university.

Heads / Directors of academic units with tenure-track faculty must be Full Professors on the tenure-track. Heads / Directors of academic units with continuing status faculty (but not tenure-track faculty) must be Full Professors on the continuing status-track. Heads / Directors of units that do not have tenure track or continuing status faculty should be Full Professors on the career-track or in some cases hold staff positions, depending on specific oversight and leadership responsibilities. In these units, the Head / Director must have an appointment or position at least equal to that of highest rank of personnel to which they are providing oversight. Further, the Head / Director must have appropriate academic qualifications and experience to oversee all academic programs offered by the academic unit. Exceptions to these conditions for Heads and Directors are expected to be rare and temporary and such appointments require written approval from the Vice Provost – Faculty Affairs and Provost.

It is the responsibility of heads and directors to align the mission, vision, and values of their unit with those of their college and the university. They are assessed per UHAP 5.2 Annual Review and UHAP 5.3 Five Year Review in the following key areas: Building trust by communicating a guiding vision, operating in an ethical manner, being accessible and responsive, maintaining composure, and acknowledging the lessons to be learned from missteps. For details on the process of annual review or five-year review for administrators, please go to this link.

  • Fostering collaboration by effectively managing conflicts, forging partnerships and advancing shared purposes in a manner that includes diverse perspectives in collaborative decision making;
  • Maximizing resources by recruiting and retaining high quality coworkers, helping them develop through coaching and assessment, improving operational effectiveness, and advancing data-based planning;
  • Achieving results by identifying opportunities, challenging received assumptions, taking strategic risks, and advancing innovations in a decisive and strategic manner that is attuned to the priorities of the unit and university.
  • Fostering Inclusive excellence by building an equitable, interdisciplinary work climate that values collaboration and empathy, advances and supports diverse perspectives and experiences, and responds to bias.

Heads / Directors typically work broadly across the institution to advance the activities of their academic unit. Listed below are some core university-level unit relationships that Heads / Directors are likely to require to be effective.

  • Dean of Students Office:
    • Student and Faculty Code of Ethics.
    • Student Disciplinary Processes.
    • Grade Appeals.
    • Bias Education Support Team.
  • College and University Business Offices
    • Developing the unit’s annual budget.
    • Understanding funding patterns and distinctions between types of funding and allowed uses.
    • Purchasing & Contracting:

      • P-Card responsibilities / oversight / fraud reporting.
      • Surplus equipment / Federal Excess Property Program.
      • Bid requirements and thresholds.
    • Financial Services:
      • Misuse Policy.
      • Credit Cards & Data Privacy: PCI-DSS.
      • Signing Authority.
  • Human Resources:
    • Hiring policies and supports.
    • Staff performance reviews.
    • Personnel discipline processes.
    • Sexual Harassment Training and Compliance.
    • FLSA, Nepotism, Whistleblowing, and FERPA.
    • Family Medical Leave Act; Disability Resources.
    • Vacation Pay, RASL sick leave pay.
  • Marketing and Communications:
    • State open records law and FOIA.
    • Privileged communications.
    • Media, corporate, constituent, and community relations.
    • UArizona branding and websites – Trademarks & Licensing.
    • UArizona logos, and guidelines for use.
    • Marketing and brand management.
    • Copyright and resources for images.
  • Research, Innovation and Impact Office:
    • Conflicts of Interest and Commitment.
    • Grants and Contracts Award Accounting and Reporting.
    • Pre award proposal preparation and submission supports for grants and contracts.
    • Indirect cost recovery (also known as F &A, ICR or IDC).
    • Risk Management.
    • Tools to identify funding opportunities, e.g., Pivot.
  • UA Foundation and Alumni Relations:
    • Coordination of Development Efforts.
    • Coordination of Alumni Supports.
  • Faculty Affairs:
    • Sabbaticals / Faculty Leaves of Absence.
    • Faculty Personnel Issues.
    • Annual Review Procedures for Faculty and Administrators.
    • Faculty Promotions.
    • Faculty Mentorship.