The Faculty Search Support Team (FSST) came together in Spring of 2021 with the aim of supporting academic hiring search committees. Given that hiring is such a high stakes opportunity for departmental and university growth, FSST was established to help support search committees through this process. Over the course of two meetings and email exchanges, FSST works with search committees to develop inclusive job descriptions and inclusive recruitment strategies, and work collectively identify and mitigate bias in the design, implementation, and evaluation of candidates materials and interviews. These trainings are dynamic and unique to each unit and often result in engaging and challenging conversations.

screen-shot-2022-03-25-at-10.26.43-am-768x562.pngThis collaborative work was born from a Provost’s initiative to remedy persistent retention and recruitment gaps between Black, Latinx, and white students at UMKC. While 55% of white students at UMKC graduate in 6 years, only 49% of our Hispanic/Latinx students and 37% of Black students do so. While it can be difficult to discern the cause of these discrepant numbers, the fact that our faculty and staff do not racially or ethnically reflect the student body or the KC metro demographics may be a contributing factor. For example, our Black and Latinx students’ student-to-faculty ratio is 24:1 compared to white student-to-faculty ration of 9:1. As such, FSST specifically focuses on inclusive recruitment and hiring strategies with a goal of increasing the diversity of faculty at UMKC. Although FSST only works with search committees during the active hiring process, they make recommendations that might impact changing cultures and policies more broadly, including strategies to receive and respond feedback in productive ways, to recognize and reward labor (e.g., mentorship) that is often overlooked in tenure and promotion decisions, to identify and mitigate the influence of bias in social interactions. Alongside other initiatives seeking to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion among students, faculty, and staff, this hiring initiative is aimed to promote a more intentionally supportive and equitable environment at UMKC where all members of our community may thrive.

About the Author

Michelle Smirnova, PhD, (she/her/hers), Associate Professor of Sociology, Affiliate Faculty of Race, Ethnic, and Gender Studies, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Provost Faculty Fellow