New Initiative Works to Diversify Faculty

Faculty Search Support Team works closely with academic search committees

A new initiative to create a more diverse faculty is now underway at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

A Faculty Search Support Team now works closely with search committees working to fill full-time faculty positions. Led by Makini King, interim vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion; and Diane Filion, vice provost for faculty affairs; the team helps search committee members implement evidence-based inclusive hiring strategies to recruit a diverse pool of applicants and to reduce bias in the review of applications.

The concept was developed by a faculty diversity task force initiated through Roos Advocate for Community Change, a Chancellor’s Office program working to help ensure UMKC is a welcoming place where all can thrive.

“The process produced very intentional and specific recommendations,” King said. “The Provost and Chancellor have been very supportive – it’s a high priority for leadership.”

Acting on the task force’s recommendations, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jennifer Lundgren approved the hiring of two Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fellows to participate as members of the team. The Fellows are Michelle Smirnova, associate professor of Sociology; and Sandy Rodriguez, associate dean of Libraries. Rounding out the team and providing critical guidance on HR hiring processes is Susan Hankins, the campus Academic HR Specialist.

Step one for the new team was to research best practices in faculty diversification, consulting with J. Luke Wood, Dean's Distinguished Professor of Education at San Diego State University, a nationally recognized expert in the topic.

“We identified the top two places where we can have an impact,” Filion said. “First is the wording of job descriptions along with how and where ads are placed. Second is how search committees evaluate applicants, with a focus on strategies to reduce bias in that process.”

The team developed written guidelines for faculty search committees and meets with each committee during the search process to discuss and guide implementation.

The materials include a how-to on writing inclusive job descriptions. Search committees are advised to clearly and explicitly communicate factors such as the university’s commitment to the recruitment, retention, and promotion of underrepresented faculty; consideration of applicants who have had nontraditional career paths; and willingness to offer broad opportunities for candidates to demonstrate evidence of teaching effectiveness. The document points out that student evaluations are frequently biased against women, faculty of color, and those from other historically marginalized groups.

Materials also include an Inclusive Recruitment Plan Worksheet. UMKC requires faculty searches have an Inclusive Recruitment Plan (IRP) as a component of the search process. The IRP requires search committees to list specific actions designed to attract a diverse applicant pool, such as identifying scholars in the field from underrepresented backgrounds and requesting they circulate the job posting to their professional networks; and identifying graduate programs recognized for having high numbers of underrepresented graduates in the field and reaching out to those departments with a request for the job posting to be shared with their advanced doctoral students and alumni.

Throughout the process, the team works with search committee members to review strategies, devise inclusive interview questions and avoid common mistakes, with an emphasis on identifying biases and minimizing their impact. 

Published: Feb 16, 2022

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