Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

May 3, 2017

Fostering excellence: Faculty recruitment and retention

The University of Washington makes it a priority to recruit and retain faculty whose research, teaching and service enhance diversity, and in turn bring excellence. Already, schools and colleges across the three campuses recognize the importance of diversity in prioritizing faculty recruitment and advancement, and overcoming external and internal barriers to hiring.

Rickey Hall, vice president for Minority Affairs & Diversity and chief diversity officer

Rickey Hall, vice president for Minority Affairs & Diversity and chief diversity officer

“We are living in an increasingly global, multicultural world and it’s important to see people of color in many different positions within an organization,” says Rickey Hall, vice president for Minority Affairs & Diversity and chief diversity officer. “It’s especially important for a research-intensive institution.”

Hiring and retaining a diverse and inclusive faculty is a complex undertaking that does not occur in a vacuum. It is influenced by national contexts, including pipeline issues, applicant pools and fierce competition for top candidates, as well as internal search processes and implicit biases.

The hiring process, if left unexamined, can be stuck in ways that perpetuate institutional racism. Creating a welcoming climate that encourages potential candidates to accept an offer and stay at the UW takes continual commitment and work — but our students demand it, our faculty want it, and it’s the right thing to do. This commitment is also paying off in the progress made across all three campuses to increase diversity through past investments from the Faculty Advancement Initiative and other efforts. 18 faculty whose research, teaching and service contribute to diversity were hired in 2015-2016, for a total of 47 new faculty members over the last four years.

While we cannot change the faculty’s composition as rapidly as students, faculty and administrators would like, academic units can access existing tools to ensure consideration of diverse candidate pools, mitigate implicit bias in the hiring process and foster welcoming climates that ultimately encourage new hires to stay.

Taking advantage of the Office for Faculty Advancement

Chadwick Allen, associate vice provost, Faculty Advancement; Norma Rodriguez, director, Faculty Advancement. Photo: Leilani Lewis.

As a federal contractor, the UW is obligated to use best practices that increase the diversity of candidate pools for all hiring opportunities — and our commitment remains strong. This work stems from a nearly 50-year legacy of leadership, catalyzed by student demands in 1968 that led to the formation of the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D). Faculty advancement efforts have been moved forward through the decades by Samuel E. Kelly, the first vice president for Minority Affairs; Luis Fraga, the first associate vice provost for Faculty Advancement; and many unsung heroes at all levels of the UW. In 2012, the Office of the Provost began directly investing in improved recruitment processes by offering supplemental funds to units recruiting faculty whose research, teaching and service contribute to the UW’s diversity profile. Today, student activists have reenergized the call for inclusive hiring. President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost Jerry Baldasty are joining staff, faculty, department and dean leadership by renewing the University-wide commitment to faculty diversity. This includes additional funding to bring the Office for Faculty Advancement’s budget up to $1 million for recruitment and retention efforts.

The Office for Faculty Advancement also works with colleges, schools and campuses on long-term planning that considers the changing demographics and research interests of academic fields, and, in departments, teaching and research needs and anticipated retirements.

Using existing tools to recruit and assess applicants

The University stands ready to assist units in meeting the challenge of diversity in recruitment and retention. Key things to consider include the following:

  • Search committees can create opportunities for reflection on their unit’s hiring processes before recruitment begins, by asking: “Are we advertising where diverse candidates look for jobs and tapping into the right networks? Is there a plan for personal outreach to highly qualified candidates whose academic work, mentoring and outreach reflects the diverse issues and ideas that will benefit our unit?” Faculty Advancement can help guide committees through these considerations to ensure the best possible recruitment process.
  • Combat implicit bias in hiring by using tools in the Handbook of Best Practices for Faculty Searches located on the Faculty Advancement website, including recommendations for creating job descriptions that appeal to diverse faculty applicants, and many other new online resources.

“We know that student demographics will continue to be more diverse over time,” says Chadwick Allen, associate vice provost for Faculty Advancement. “As a university, we need to regularly ask ourselves: Are we meeting the needs of the students we have now and, as important, those we hope to recruit in the future? We’re always striving toward that goal.” Faculty diversity is an important part of creating a culture that is more welcoming to students, so Allen and the Office for Faculty Advancement recommend using multiple strategies to attract highly qualified faculty candidates.

Strengthening your offer beyond the benefits package

Often, highly rated prospects field multiple offers from institutions across the nation, including private universities that can bring more financial incentives to the table. In this context, it’s imperative to assemble a hiring package that explicitly recognizes the candidate’s broad needs and how the UW can address them.

  • Share specifics such as the UW’s Diversity Requirement, Diversity Blueprint and unit-level diversity commitments to demonstrate that candidates will be working in a supportive, connected and collaborative environment.
  • Identify the prospective hire’s allies on campus — and across all three UW campuses — to show visiting candidates that networks of support already exist. This may include offering faculty mentorship, resource support, coaching and clear prospects to work with faculty from other departments who share similar research interests. Faculty Advancement and OMA&D can work with committees to identify and articulate these opportunities.
  • Request supplemental funds from Faculty Advancement to make a more attractive offer and strengthen the potential for innovation and interdisciplinary scholarship. These Faculty Recruitment Initiative funds also provide symbolic support by showing candidates that the University and provost are invested in their hires. Since becoming available four years ago, the funds have contributed to 47 successful recruitment efforts in 30 units across the three campuses.

Maintaining a continuous cycle of recruitment and retention

“The Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity and Faculty Advancement want units to think not only about recruitment, but also about how to create an environment that supports retention,” says Norma Rodriguez, director of the Office for Faculty Advancement.

Once hires are made, the work to promote diversity and inclusion must continue. Retention requires ongoing effort, especially since competing universities will notice the work of talented junior faculty members. The best defense against poaching is showing commitment to faculty by proactively identifying and building connections to ensure the UW is a supportive environment where all faculty can thrive.

Faculty Hiring graphic REI3View “How does a faculty member get hired” as pdf