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Interim Chair

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I served as Interim Chair of the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of North Texas for two years from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2011. I was initially appointed for a single year, but when the external Chair Search failed in 2010 I was invited to serve for a second year until (thankfully) my replacement was found.

First, some context. The difficulty of the job depends very much on its environment.

The University of North Texas, located in Denton, TX, describes itself as a "student-centered, public, research university". As one of Texas' largest universities, it offers 97 Bachelor's, 101 Master's and 48 Doctoral degree programs. UNT has 36,000 students, of which 7,600 are graduate students, including 1,600 PhD students (all figures approximate).

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers undergraduate degrees in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Information Technology; Master's degrees in Computer Science and Computer Engineering; and a PhD in Computer Science and Engineering. It has 374 undergraduate majors, 105 pre-majors, 139 Master's students and 56 PhD students.

The Chair is the chief executive officer of the department, which has 20 tenure track faculty, 6 lecturers, 1 Adjunct, 3 Teaching Fellows, 10 Teaching Assistants, 3.5 Administrative Assistants, and 2.25 technicians.

Evaluation

So how well did I do? The challenge was taking a divided and fractious faculty still smarting from a long-serving autocratic Chair, and holding them together for long enough to recruit an outside Chair. I think I succeeded in that. We recruited a new Chair with superior skills who so far (based on his performance in his first semester) seems to be doing an excellent job.

The Department's Personnel Affairs Committee, which is made up of the tenured Associate and Full Professors, decided to evaluate me as Interim Chair in the traditional way by means of an anonymous evaluation form that includes 19 questions in 4 categories, and a 20th "How well did he do overall" question. Responses of Strongly Agree (5), Agree (4), Neutral (3), Disagree (2), Strongly Disagree (1), and No Opinion were allowed.

This evaluation is in violation of UNT Policy 15.1.25, Procedure 5, which states: "Department chairs and deans shall be evaluated each year, except that no administrator will be evaluated during the first or last year of appointment". The Department PAC ignored University policy and went ahead and evaluated me twice anyway. Nonetheless I managed to do better than my predecessor. The following scores for 2010 and 2011 are mine, while the ones for 2005-2009 are for my predecessor.

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The Dean's evaluations for 2010 and 2011 were very different (only the sections on Service in those documents are relevant here).

Achievements 2009-2011

Here are some of my achievements as Interim Chair. I'm probably forgetting some of them.

Assembled new administrative team:

Signatory authority for all department accounts: Established new faculty-friendly procedures aimed at increasing faculty productivity: ABET Review of Computer Science program: Review of policies and procedures: Tenure and Promotion: Hiring and Firing: Curriculum issues: Faculty Evaluations: Outreach: Staff: Miscellaneous issues:

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