NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Faculty Recruiting – Diversity

Diversity among the faculty is an important factor in student as well as faculty success, particularly among those who are not well represented among those groups (e.g., people of color, women).

Students seeing other students who look like them often find compatriots with whom they can discuss experiences that they cannot do as readily or openly with others. Importantly, students who see faculty who look like them, find it easier to imagine themselves achieving high levels of education and success.

When it comes time to recruit a diverse faulty member, it is easier if they see people like them among the faculty. The tenants of fairness and equity that we cherish in the academy alone dictate that we do what we can to minimize factors that limit diversity and actively pursue approaches that increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. Even beyond that, more and more studies are showing that greater diversity in any setting leads to greater novelty, innovation, and success. This applies as much to academia as industry.

Ensuring Applicant Pools are as Large and Diverse as Possible

These efforts are not at all about a compromise in quality, as some have posited, but rather are efforts to ensure that the applicant pools are as large and diverse as possible. We cannot hire someone who is not in the pool. This requires active participation in recruiting efforts, not just at the time of reviewing applications, but from the very beginning of the recruitment process.

Search committee members must each play a role, NOT just the committee or department chair. They should each help to identify and reach out to people and places who have potential candidates, particularly those who have the diversity in which we are deficient. This includes contacting PIs and chairs at places with potential applicants, professional organizations and their groups/programs for women and underrepresented minority members, and use of any other creative means to get people to apply.

We are in one of the most diverse cities in the country, at a university with the most, or one of the most, diverse student bodies in the country, yet our faculty diversity does not reflect it very well.

Further, these deficiencies in diversity make it difficult to maintain the level of diversity that we do have because we are not always good at inclusion, which drives women and diverse faculty away. We must and can get better at all of this. It will take intentional planning and specific actions.

University/College Process to Increase Diversity

The University and the College embarked on a process to increase the diversity among newly hired faculty. This has involved a multi-pronged effort including:

  • Specification and implementation of specific efforts during the search process for enlarging and diversifying the applicant pool.
  • The College, Provost, and EOS must review/approve the specific pool-size and diversity efforts. EOS must review/certify the pool prior to review.
  • Mandatory biannual search committee training for everyone on the committee. Note that the training is in awareness of implicit bias, efforts to increase applicant pools, diversity, and more.
  • The use of rubrics during evaluation of applications and also during interviews in order to try to ensure equal and fair evaluations.
  • Implementation of programs and policies that makes us more welcoming to a more diverse faculty.

UH’s efforts were the focus of a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on hiring and retention, Diversity without Dollars (free sign up required to view article). Amy Sater commented in the piece on the benefits of UH’s revamped recruitment process.

In recent years, we have hired more female faculty than before, although we have also been losing female faculty. Recently, we have hired Black and Hispanic faculty. These have been good outcomes of our diversity efforts. We appear to be on a better trajectory than before for increasing the diversity of our faculty, but it is a long timescale process and we have to work hard to ensure that our departmental and college cultures and structures are conducive to faculty success and retention.

Faculty must be included in departmental operations and governance, particularly those faculty who are underrepresented. Our new NSM Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will work on improving climate and culture.

Resources for Faculty Recruiting

The University has created a very useful and extensive tool for use in faculty recruiting. I encourage all of you who are involved in a faculty search and/or who are in a department with a search, to read through this document and see how you can help.

Recruiting the PowerHouse Faculty

Faculty who have ideas and/or concerns about recruitment or retention are invited to contact Jim Briggs (jbriggs@uh.edu), Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, or Dan Wells (dwells@uh.edu), Dean.