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Provost's Search Committee Tutorial: A Primer

Please Note: This is not the tutorial but a narrative version of tutorial materials, a primer if you will. Reading through this material will NOT give the necessary certification for serving on a faculty search committee. It is designed instead to offer all who are interested a chance to become familiar with the material covered in the tutorial prior to taking the tutorial and/or a chance to review material and references for individual topics after you have taken the tutorial.

If you would like to actually take the tutorial please click here.


11. What Do We Do Well at U.Va.?

Faculty search committees at the University of Virginia have used a variety of “best practices” in the quest for an outstanding, diverse pool of applicants. They have cultivated possible candidates for 2-3 years before a position was available and invited a strong potential candidate as a guest lecturer, or even as a guest professor for a semester or year. They have maintained attractive, informative, easily navigable Web site or Web page related to their search, kept contact with undergraduate and graduate students and recruited them as faculty members after they had completed their terminal degrees and/or spent a few years at another institution. In some departments a group has visited top candidates for more senior positions on their “home turf” to let them know how much they mattered.

The Efficacy of Ongoing Relationships. The development of ongoing relationships with potential candidates is considered a very good way to improve acceptance rates (sometimes known as yield rates) when offers are eventually made. Research at one university on why faculty candidates decline offers indicated that while 39% of those without any previous relationship to the university declined an offer, only 17% of those who had a previous relationship declined (Rachac and Maruyama).

Web sites. Web sites are becoming a more and more important source of information for candidates—especially younger/newly minted faculty (Fraser, 2007a; Olson).

Do Trusted Networks Work? Search committee chairs at U.Va. note that trusted networks of colleagues are usually the best source for potential candidates (Fraser, 2007b). But, as search expert Caroline Turner says, “people of color are [often] overlooked because they are not part of the primary networks of senior faculty and administrators” (Turner, p. 9). Establishing long term connections with potential faculty candidates outside our normal networks can help expand those networks.

Grow Your Own. While there is some debate on the issue, a number of institutions are realizing the value of “growing their own” faculty. The way departments recruit and cultivate graduate students, as well as postdoctoral and other fellows (particularly those from under-represented groups), can have an impact on future hiring. Departments can work to retain top students as future faculty members rather than grooming them to go elsewhere, or encourage them to apply for open positions following a year or two of postdoctoral work at another institution. Departments can also utilize current students to learn about and gain access to other degree candidates, through networks established, or conferences attended, by those students (Mannix; NSF ADVANCE, University of Michigan; Rikkers).

College of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia. 2007. Personal communications.

Fraser, G. 2007a. Newly hired faculty focus group transcripts. Examining the experience of faculty search committees and newly hired faculty in order to improve the search process, IRB-SBS Protocol 2006-0358-00. Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment & Retention, University of Virginia.

———. 2007b. Search committee chair focus group transcripts. Examining the experience of faculty search committees and newly hired faculty in order to improve the search process, IRB-SBS Protocol 2006-0358-00. Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment & Retention, University of Virginia.

Mannix, M. 2002. Facing the problem. American Society for Engineering Education Prism, 12 (2): 18-24. Retrieved on February 27, 2008 from

Moody, J. 2004. Faculty diversity: Problems and solutions. New York: Routledge. UVa Call number LB2332.6 .M66 2004.

NSF ADVANCE, University of Michigan. Handbook for faculty searches and hiring, 2007-2008. Retrieved on January 22, 2008 from

NSF ADVANCE, University of Washington. 2007. Faculty hiring: Diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand. Center for Institutional Change. Retrieved on January 23, 2008 from

Olson, G.A. 2007. Don’t just search, recruit. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 53(38). Retrieved on January 23, 2008 from

Rachac, C. and G. Maruyama. 2007. Weather or not to come: Faculty reasons for accepting or declining offers from a public midwestern research university. Presentation at a conference, Keeping Our Faculties IV Symposium: Recruiting, Retaining and Advancing Faculty of Color. April 12-14. Minneapolis, MN. Retrieved on January 23, 2007 from

Rikkers, L.F. 2003. Recruiting faculty: a science and an art. Surgery. 134(5). 738-740. Retrieved on February 27, 2008 from [table of contents]

School of Law, University of Virginia. 2004. Personal communication.

Turner, C.S.V. 2003. Diversifying the faculty: A guidebook for search committees. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities.


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