This research study explored the appointment of untenured faculty as department chairs in three two- and four-year colleges in one Western state's system of higher education. Eleven untenured faculty serving as untenured department chairs were interviewed using the qualitative methodology of grounded theory to analyze the data collected in the form of interview transcripts. At the two- and four-year colleges studied, an untenured faculty member's potential of achieving tenure does not appear to be negatively affected by serving as department chair before receiving tenure. A central finding in this research study is the presentation of an explanatory model that provides a framework for understanding characteristics and risk levels for untenured department chairs. The model integrates the factors of tenure standards and department chair duties to predict the risk to an untenured faculty member of failing to achieve tenure while successfully performing the roles of department chair. Four quadrants represent low to high risk. For the colleges studied, the risk of not achieving tenure for an untenured faculty member serving as chair varies according to (a) the institution's rigor of tenure requirements and standards and (b) the extent to which the chair duties as service to the institution, when taken as a whole, are weighted towards meeting tenure requirements. Additional findings present the untenured chairs' motivation for accepting the position, the benefits and costs that they encountered as a result of that appointment, and how being an untenured chair affected their ability to perform their various roles as department chairs.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Leadership and Foundations



Date Submitted


Document Type





untenured department chairs, higher education, educational leadership, education administration