So far the USU Instructional Technology department has done a poor job convincing me that I matter as a PhD student within the department. (No, this has nothing to do with COSL or my choice of program chair.) I've been at it for a couple years, and I'm not even in the student directory on the INST web page. Other departments I have seen have walls with photos of their students, including their names, where they are from, and when they started the program. We have an online version, and it is completely outdated and boring. But I have a suggestion.
When I visit other departments I see photos of their grad students on their walls. It's cool to look at, and it sends a message. "Our students matter." Something like would help us put names with faces. I see the need for both an offline and an online version. And with our online version we could do much better. Why not add rich student profiles to the department's web page? Like personal blogs, LinkedIn profiles, flickr or Google image accounts, and other things we want to share as part of our online identity? Do you think this would be hard to build? It's already done. It's called Ozmozr, and it was built right here in the USU Instructional Technology department. But I bet not many people in the department even know about it.
Don't get me wrong, I will succeed at my goals regardless of my "headless" department. This is not about students wanting to see their own photos in the hall in front of the Instructional Technology office. It's about interacting with faculty and grad students and sharing ideas. So an important question for any new department chair should be, "How do we convince students that they are a major focus of this department?" Start with a major overhaul of the INST website. Make the new site compelling and interactive for current students as well as alumni, with rich member profiles that leverage existing (free) online services and encourage sharing and interacting. And, just for old time's sake, put some student pictures up in the hall as well.