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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.


12. Dual Careers


The issue of dual-career couples, sometimes humorously, sometimes crassly, referred to as “the two-body problem,” is fast becoming one of the top concerns of faculty search committees across the country, complicating an already complex process.

“The phenomenon of dual-career relationships…has a particularly adverse effect on women inside the academy. This is especially true for women in the sciences, who are more often partnered with other academics” (Clayman Institute).

In a report describing the results of a survey of faculty candidate who declined offers at U.Va.  it was noted:

When considering the Charlottesville area, “spouse/partner career opportunities” was by far the most important and most significant issue for candidates.  This was particularly true for individuals from underrepresented groups with 82.4% (14/17) reporting that “spouse/partner career opportunities” was one of the “most important” factors in making a decision. In addition, when asked to consider all offer attributes and Charlottesville characteristics together, “spouse/partner career opportunities” was most consistently ranked as one of the most important factors. 51% (N=29) of all respondents ranked “spouse/partner career opportunities” in their top three important attributes. No other attribute came close to appearing as frequently in the top three.

While it is very important to (a) let the dean and central administration know about dual-career candidates as soon as possible and (b) to refer candidates who bring up dual-career issues either to the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention if both members of the couple are academic, or to the Human Resources Office of Dual Career Recruitment if the other member of the couple is not an academic, it is equally important from a legal perspective that the committee itself not get into a discussion of dual-career status with the candidate. This could be construed as discussion of marital status and a candidate who was not offered a position could file a complaint saying the position was turned down because of their marital status.

A very good strategy would be to include in the packets that go to every candidate the brochure from the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention (available online at\vpfrr\DualCareersVPFRRbrochure_final.pdf or in printed format from your dean, and the brochure from the Human Resources Office of Dual Career Recruitment (ODCR), available from ODCR by calling Donna Kauffman at 942-4717 or Rachel Spraker at 243-2205 (NSF ADVANCE, University of Michigan; Scott-Scurry).

The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention (VPFRR) works with the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP), the Human Resources Office of Dual Career Recruitment (ODCR), and deans and department chairs to try to find employment for dual career partners. Under some circumstance EOP, in consultation with the VPFRR, can approve an exemption for a position to accommodate a qualified dual career partner, including a second position in the same department as the primary hire. If the accompanying spouse is hired into a different school/department. the Provost’s office, the department of the primary hire, and the accompanying partner’s department may share the cost of the accompanying partner hire, usually for a set period of time.   

The solution to “the two-body problem” is rarely simple.  Search committees, departments, schools and the University as a whole must deal with this concern in very attentive and creative ways if we are to stay competitive with our peers.


Dual-Career Assistance at UVa.

When both members of the couple are academics, deans, associate deans, or department chairs can contact Gertrude Fraser, Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention, to help negotiate offers that would require joint funding with other departments. This should be done as soon as the candidate raises the issue.

Gertrude Fraser

When the other member of the couple is a non-academic, the Human Resources Office of Dual Career Recruitment can offer assistance.

Donna Kauffman, Director

Rachel Spraker

Elsa Sherrill

The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention maintains several Web pages with information about various aspects of dual career hiring at U.Va.

Dual Careers at U.VA. – Brochure for candidates\vpfrr\DualCareersUVAbrochure.pdf

Flowchart of Dual Career Processes at U.Va.

Dual Career Frequently Asked Questions

Dual Career Information for Search Committee and Department Chairs

Dual Career Information for Candidates

A Regional Recruitment Network

The University of Virginia is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (Mid-Atlantic HERC). Mid-Atlantic HERC is one of a network of regional HERCS that have sprung up across the country in the last few years. Mid-Atlantic HERC is designed to “support the recruitment efforts of colleges, universities, and research centers in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia by increasing inter-institutional collaboration in the posting of open positions….Through the sharing of information, ideas, resources, and technologies, all members benefit from increased exposure of open positions, improved negotiation power with print and web-based job listing outlets, and a network of resources and contacts at participating institutions.”

Mid-Atlantic HERC members include the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and twenty-five academic institutions in the three state area, including Washington and Lee and University of Richmond. 

The Mid-Atlantic HERC offers a searchable database of all academic and non-academic jobs for all Mid-Atlantic HERC member institutions in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC areas, as well as a CV/resume database.

Mid-Atlantic HERC should be of particular interest to dual career couples
and to search committees that have dual career candidates.

Links to the Mid-Atlantic HERC Web site and the search engine are also posted on the Web site of the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention.

Dual-Career Research

In 2008 the Clayman Institute published a report based on surveys of over 9,000 full-time faculty at thirteen premier research universities in the U.S., including U.Va.

Dual Career Academic Couples: What Universities Need to Know
Executive Summary (pdf)
Full report (pdf)

Bombardieri, M. 2007. Dual careers worry academia. The Boston Globe. June 11, 2007.

Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Dual career academic couples. Stanford University. Retrieved on January 5, 2008 from

Dual Career Program, West Virginia University. Retrieved on November 14, 2007 from

Frank Fox, M. 2005. “Gender, Family Characteristics, and Publication Productivity Among Scientists.” Social Studies of Science, 35 (1): 131-150. Retrieved on January 6, 2008 from

Fraser, G. 2007. 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.

Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC). 2008. National portal page. Retrieved on February 12, 2008 from

Mid-Atlantic Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (MA-HERC). 2008. Frequently asked questions.

NSF ADVANCE, Columbia University. 2005. A proposal for recruiting and retaining dual-career couples. The Earth Institute ADVANCE Working Group on Science & Technology Recruiting to Increase Diversity (STRIDE). Retrieved on January 6, 2008 from

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

Office of Dual Career Recruitment, Human Resources, University of Virginia.

Scott-Scurry, D. 2008. Personal communication. Director of UVa’s Office of Equal Opportunity Programs.

Wolf-Wendel, L; S.B. Twombly and S. Rice. 2003. The two-body problem: Dual-career-couple hiring policies in higher education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. The UVa Library offers access to an electronic copy of this book at



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