Guide to Departmental Culture and Climate

Version 1. January 28, 2021

Departmental culture includes the shared norms and values of a department. Departmental climate involves how people experience and feel about the departmental culture. This section provides guidance on how to create a departmental culture and climate in which all department members feel valued, respected, included, and supported. Department members include faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and postdocs. This section provides guidance on both how to actively create a positive culture and climate for all department members and how to prevent a negative culture and climate. It provides best practices for fostering inclusivity and proactively identifying and addressing problems with your departmental climate. For guidance on practices that support

in physics, see the section on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. For guidance on creating a departmental culture and climate that is likely to retain students, see the section on Retention of Undergraduate Physics Majors.

This section provides guidance on improving your departmental climate through a cyclic process in which you (1) engage the whole department in a review of your climate; (2) establish and communicate a collective vision for a healthy culture and climate; (3) create, nurture, and expect a culture in which everyone is welcome, included, and supported; (4) value and support healthy relationships among all members and groups within the department; and (5) create and nurture programs, processes, and policies that support continuous improvement. Parts 1 and 2 describe how to lay the groundwork to ensure that your efforts are effective, and parts 3–5 describe specific strategies improving your departmental culture and climate.

Benefits

The practices in this section can support your department in creating and maintaining a collaborative, friendly, empowering, fulfilling, and joyful environment for all department members. A department that takes care of its faculty, staff, students, and postdocs and helps them succeed (through tenure, success in courses, success in their careers, and professional development) will have more satisfied department members, which enhances recruiting and retention of students, faculty, staff, and postdocs. Members of departments with positive cultures and climates are more productive in research, teaching, and learning, and such departments will have positive relationships with graduates. Departments with inclusive and supportive cultures are able to function productively and make plans and decisions even when there are disagreements about directions or style.

Effective Practices

  1. Engage the whole department in a review of your climate

  2. Establish and communicate a collective vision for a healthy culture and climate

  3. Create, nurture, and expect a culture in which everyone is welcome, included, and supported

  4. Value and support healthy relationships within and beyond your department

  5. Create and nurture programs, processes, and policies that support continuous improvement of departmental culture and climate

Programmatic Assessments

The Cycle of Reflection and Action

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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