Academic Leadership: The Online Journal


Patricia Phelps


No one becomes an academic department chair in higher education without first having been a faculty member. After eighteen years as a faculty member at the same university, I was named interim department chair in 2005. With this administrative appointment came the assumption of what I perceived as a Janus job. In Roman mythology, Janus was the god associated with doorways and gates. He was frequently portrayed with two faces–one looking forward and one looking backward. Rather than being viewed as two-faced, Janus is more accurately described as vigilant. This image seems to fit aptly the role of academic department chair, which Rud (2004) has identified as an understudied administrative role. In this essay I describe this particular leadership role and present questions for self-assessment.