How we hire: breaking down Jewell’s tenure and hiring practices

Hiring new faculty members and giving tenure to current ones are detailed processes that involve peer review, departments collaboration and Dr. Anne Dema, Provost of William Jewell College.

When a full-time faculty position opens, a description of that position is written and posted both in the “Chronicle for Higher Education” and on the William Jewell website. Depending on the discipline of the position, it may be posted in a more specialized publication, such as the “American Chemical Society.” One of Dr. Dema’s first roles in the process of hiring a faculty member is helping the search committee chair decide where the job listing needs to be posted.

The search committee contains both several members from the department that is seeking new faculty member and a faculty member from an adjacent department. There are around four to five people on a search committee. In most cases, the chair of the department is also the chair of the search committee. A student can become part of the search committee, which happened this past January when the Biology department formed a search committee.

“I think that worked out really well for the search committee,” Dema said.

Once the position has been posted, the committee identifies what each applicant needs to send to Jewell to be considered for the position. That information is sent to Human Resources. Files that are sent from applicants are then reviewed and a smaller group of people is selected for either phone or Skype interviews; this is the initial screening of applicants.

“It is up to the search committee to decide how many people they speak with, but it’s not unusual that they would talk with seven to ten individuals. They use the same set of questions, so the process is standardized,” Dema said.

Committees will reconvene after the completion of the phone interviews and discuss whom they favored. At that point, those names are passed to Dema, who rechecks each applicant to see if they truly are qualified for the position. HR then calls those individuals to give them more information about the job, such as the salary and benefit packages, and a sense of the institution. If both the search committee and the applicants are still interested, the on-campus interview process begins.

Every on-campus visit by an applicant includes a teaching presentation and a research presentation. This allows students to talk with the potential faculty member and learn more about their work.

“[Student input] is very important because the search committees and the faculty value the students’ perspective. They get a gauge on whether or not this person’s style in the classroom is effective,” Dema said.

Some departments have the teaching demonstration consist of the applicant teaching a lesson in an actual class; in others, there is a mock-teaching scenario set up. All potential faculty are also required to do a research presentation.

“Engagement in their discipline and engaging and involving students in projects that are interesting to them is an important perspective for our students to have,” Dema said.

There is a time after these two presentations in which the applicant is able to talk with students. The feedback from the students is discussed within the search committee and plays a role in the committee’s ultimate decision which applicant to hire. Dema later stated that this entire process would be the same if a former faculty member at Jewell wanted to return.

Once a faculty member has been at Jewell three years, they then have the opportunity to apply for tenure.

“Tenure is a commitment between a faculty member and an institution. It’s sort of like a marriage, if you will, it’s saying ‘I intend on vesting myself in you,’ Both the person and the institution are saying that to the other,” Dema said.

Tenure is not important because of job security, but rather the long-term commitment of the faculty member and the institution to each other. The guidelines to earn tenure revolve around the success of the faculty member in their area of study, scholarship and teaching methods.

“It’s quite the elaborate process,” Dema said.

A formal peer review occurs the second or the third year a faculty member has been working at Jewell, and they must stand for tenure after their sixth year of teaching. If they do not earn tenure, Jewell policy states that it is their last year at the institution.

Every year, each faculty member must write a self-assessment of their year, keeping in mind the areas of scholarship, teaching and service, and how they are collecting feedback from their peers through the year. This annual self-assessment is sent to the department chair, which the chair offers a written response. Every annual report from each department is sent to and read by Dema. During the third year of employment, the faculty member must create a pre-tenure dossier stating why they think they should be awarded tenure. The department chair writes a letter for the faculty member, their peers can voice their support, and Dema writes a letter concerning the faculty member.

“That entire packet goes to the Faculty Development Committee, which is committee of six faculty members selected by their peers, and what they then do is read and assess the dossier and give feedback,” Dema said.

The sixth year of employment, the faculty member must go through this entire process again, compiling their self-assessments and arguing why they should receive tenure. The deparment chair provides a recommendation regarding whether or not the faculty member should receive tenure, and that recommendation goes to Dr. David Sallee, President of William Jewell College, and Dr. Dema.

“If it is a positive recommendation, we will take it to the Board of Trustees and ask them to approve the awarding of tenure,” Dema said.

Jesse Lundervold

Jesse is a senior chemistry and studio art major and the Lifestyle Editor for the Hilltop Monitor.

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