Pilot Project to Test Open Recruitment for Faculty

Searches Will Be by College or School, Not Department

Student with hand raised in lecture
A student raises her hand during a lecture this fall. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

In a ground-breaking effort to better serve the diverse student population, the campus will conduct eight college- and school-wide searches to hire more underrepresented faculty members.

The pilot project — which eliminates the requirement of most departmental searches that candidates have a specific disciplinary specialty — will also provide special services for candidates during the recruitment process and incentives to support the careers of those hired.

It has been awarded $422,000 of some $7 million that the UC Office of the President is investing systemwide to increase faculty diversity. The campus is also using $3.4 million over five years in salary support already part of other campus programs that promote diversity.

The searches will cast a broad net and reach out to candidates who are contributing to enhancing diversity and inclusive environments through their research, teaching and service.

“The searches are designed to increase the potential for highly diverse pools,” said Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, who is the principal investigator for the grant. “But what will make the campus most attractive to the kind of people we want are the values that the program itself promotes, underscoring our commitment to inclusive excellence.”

No disciplinary requirement

The searches will not predetermine the disciplinary expertise of the successful candidate. They need only find a home somewhere in the participating school or college.

Instead, the emphasis will be on identifying and hiring candidates who have already demonstrated significant commitments to diversity, equity and/or inclusion among underrepresented students or communities. For the pilot, foremost among those underrepresented groups are African Americans, Latinx, Chicanx, Hispanics and Native Americans.

“We want people who are committed to advancing diversity,” said Phil Kass, vice provost for Academic Affairs. “This elevates the importance of diversity as a singular qualification in these searches. They have to have that.”

Emphasis on contributions to diversity

Front and center in the hiring process will be a candidate’s record of related research, teaching and/or public service in the Statement of Contributions to Diversity, already mandatory for faculty applicants.

Greater emphasis will be placed on its use in selecting applicants for consideration and those who will be interviewed, Kass said. Each search committee will decide how to evaluate the diversity statements and the evidence of contributions.

Kass said that gender and ethnicity are not disclosed on the application forms that search committees review.

Unique services offered to finalists and hires

The pilot will also include two special features to help candidates learn about the campus and life in the area. Finalists will have the opportunity to ask questions of one of two faculty members serving as confidential advisors and with no role in the selection process. They will also be able to consult with the Capital Resource Network, a service that helps prospective and new employees get familiar with the area and, for those who are hired, settle here.

For successful candidates, the pilot also offers up to $12,500 for hiring students, travel or writing workshops as well as enrollment in the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity’s program for research productivity and work-life balance.

Participating colleges and schools

The proposed faculty hires are in addition to the 45 ladder-rank positions already allocated to the eight colleges and schools for the current academic year.

Participating are the colleges of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Engineering; the Graduate School of Management; and the schools of Education, Law, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. The project has been endorsed by their deans.

Academic Affairs will coordinate the searches and lead them with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in partnership with the office of the dean for each college or school. Search committees will soon be formed, and Kass said he aims to have the new faculty hired by July 1.

The central campus administration will pay up to $85,000 toward the salary of each successful candidate. The hiring school or college will be responsible for any salary above that cap and, after five years, the full salary.

Concept backed by research

Kass said he learned about the open recruitment concept about five years ago on a visit to the University of Michigan and, as associate vice provost, he discussed it with UC Davis deans.

Research shows, he said, that open searches are best equipped to draw a more diverse pool of applicants who are likely to make significant contributions in new ways to a university.

“The wider you cast a net, the more likely you are to fill a gap or open up an exciting new area,” Kass said. ”But you won’t know that until you go out and look.”

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