Tenure-track unpacked

Every year, members of the academic departments set out to hire new tenure-track faculty members, marking the beginning of a long and meticulous national search process.

“10 tenure-track searches [are being conducted] this year. We had probably eight last year.” Associate Provost Dan Dressen said. “It’s quite the process that departments have to go through.”

Every tenure-track search entails receiving input and assessment from varying individuals and groups across campus, from a student search committee to President David Anderson ’74. The political science department has recently concluded their tenure-track search which, at its earliest stages, began nearly two years prior to the final decision meeting.

“The very first basic step is that we actually have to get permission to hire, and that takes a lot longer than you’d think it would,” Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak said. “We started having meetings about this job two years ago …. We had to sit down and decide what kind of position we wanted and basically start a really bureaucratic process of putting things together.”

After the members of a department collectively decide on the specific and general qualities they will look for in a new faculty member, those involved create a proposal which is presented to the Dean’s Council. Provost Marci Sortor and the Associate Dean for each of the five faculties sit on the Council. The Council and Anderson are ultimately responsible for granting the departent permission to hire, approving the search.

The psychology department, like political science, is nearing the end of their departmental tenure-track faculty search. Associate Professor of psychology Shelley Dickinson, also the current chair of the psychology search committee, emphasized the importance of deciding what, or who, the search committee is looking for early on in the process. The set criteria are then reflected in the job advertisement, which is consequently distributed to relevant publications and conferences to solicit applications.

“Sometimes you cast a really wide net …. We went the other way this time and said we want someone who identifies as a social psychologist but who does research in this narrow area [of] discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping, social justice,” Dickinson said. “The goal for us is to try to make as many decisions as possible in advance about what you’re looking for, so that when you’re reading the applications you have something you’re evaluating them with.”

The application process for candidates is extensive, comprised of a formal letter, three letters from former advisors, two essays – one about their teaching philosophy and one about their research philosophy – and a writing sample. When the applications are turned in, they range from 50-100 pages each.