It’s late June in hot, steamy Washington, DC–and a dedicated group of department chairs from communication departments across the nation have gathered together for the 2nd NCA Chairs’ Summer Institute (CSI). In pursuit of one of its strategic objectives–“to increase support for communication administrators”–NCA has hosted the Chairs’ Summer Institute for two straight summers, welcoming almost fifty department chairs in two years to Washington for an intensive weekend of discussion and dialogue. The theme of the 2013 Institute was “Building Connections, Creating Community: Best Practices for the Communication Department Chair,” and the Institute featured in depth discussions of interdisciplinarity, the Basic Course, conflict and difficult personnel and other important concerns facing department chairs.
After a rain-soaked journey to the NCA National Office for an opening reception, the CSI began in earnest with a keynote presentation from Bryant Keith Alexander, dean of the College of Communication & Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University. Dean Alexander highlighted the relevance and importance of the department chair in the success of the communication discipline, drawing upon his own considerable experience in a variety of institutions and positions.
Addressing the relevance of interdisciplinarity for communication departments were Linda Aldoory, Director of the Herschel Horowitz Center for Health Literacy at the University of Maryland, and Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance. Cheri Simonds, from Illinois State University, added a discussion of the role and relevance of the Basic Course for department chairs. Simonds chairs NCA President Steve Beebe’s Task Force on Strengthening the Basic Course, and provided the participants of the CSI with a personal and insightful presentation about the Basic Course as the “front porch” of the discipline.
Two members of the NCA Chairs’ Advisory Council, Carl Cates and Jon Hess, led an afternoon open dialogue about the challenges and rewards of serving as a department chair and the institute concluded with a discussion of managing conflict and dealing with difficult personalities in the contemporary academic environment.
Attending the 2013 CSI were Cynthia Cooper (Towson University), Cheri Hampton-Farmer (University of Findlay), Andrew Hayes (DePauw University), Kenneth Lachlan (UMass-Boston), Noemi Marin (Florida Atlantic University), Chad McBride (Creighton University), Kristan Moran (University of San Diego), Bala Musa (Azusa Pacific University), Anne Nicotera (George Mason University), David Petroski (Southern Connecticut State University), Rhonda Sprague (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point), Tim Steffensmeier (Kansas State University), Helen Sterk (Western Kentucky University), April Trees (St. Louis University), Jill Tyler (University of South Dakota), Claire Van Ens (Kutztown University), and Shawn Wahl (Missouri State University).