Illustration by Amelia Madarang

Undergraduate faculty search begins for SOAN, psychology, mathematics

Lewis & Clark is in the search process for eight different undergraduate faculty positions, with new hires planning to start during the Fall 2023 semester.

The sociology/anthropology (SOAN), psychology and mathematical sciences (data science concentration) departments are searching for candidates to fulfill assistant professor positions. Other searches include visiting professor spots for economics, public health and entrepreneurship and leadership, as well as a position for a postdoctoral teaching fellow in Korean studies. The results of these searches will likely conclude near the end of the spring semester.

The process to start a search begins with applications from departments in the fall, which is earlier than in past years according to Associate Dean/Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies Daena Goldsmith who is in charge of faculty development. The college assesses enrollment data, trends in fields and vacancies in order to approve searches.

Associate Professor of Computer Science Peter Drake is the head of the search for a data science professor. 

“Since the college’s budget is finite, and a tenure-track faculty member is a long-term commitment, only some requests are approved,” Drake said via email.

The number of searches per year fluctuates, with some years in the recent past having none. However, this year’s number is slightly elevated and the college expects to conduct even more.

“Next year we anticipate having more (searches),” Goldsmith said. “It’s mostly about the demand and the enrollment pressures, but also the revenue that brings. It’s that balancing act of what is the appropriate size faculty for the size of school we are, in the size of student body we are. It’s also influenced by the needs of particular departments and faculty retiring or leaving for other reasons.”

According to Drake, the search committees are composed of two faculty members from the department that is hiring, two faculty members from other departments and one student. After training conducted by Goldsmith, one of the first tasks of these committees is to create a search ad.

“What that process is about is I help the committees write advertisements that will cast a really broad net so that we get a deep pool and a really diverse pool,” Goldsmith said. “Diverse in terms of the kinds of things they could bring to the college, diverse in terms of who they are and their backgrounds, diverse in terms of where they’re coming from, and their graduate programs or programs of study.”

After finding a pool of candidates, search committees hold interviews, dinners and other meetings to assess the candidates and gauge student input. At the end of the process, they make a recommendation of one or several people to the dean’s office, who then approve the request. Afterwards, the president must also approve the request before the dean’s office makes an offer to a candidate and negotiates salary and other details.

Associate Professor Diana Leonard said she was approached to be part of the psychology search committee because she is the most junior member of the department as she was hired in 2012. She said experiences like this prepare her to lead in the future.

“For me personally it was an honor to take part in shaping the future of this department,” Leonard said via email. “I love working with my colleagues and am looking forward to having another one join us hopefully this Fall! I think I brought a unique perspective to the committee as a fairly junior faculty member and a teacher-scholar of color whose discipline examines unconscious bias and its impacts on hiring.”

For Goldsmith, implicit bias is a large part of the training process that members of all search committees are required to undergo. She said this helps to expand search pools, which is important since the search process is intensive.

“There’s a lot riding on finding someone who is going to be happy here and successful here, finding someone who resonates with our students, someone who will fit into the intellectual needs (and) the larger configuration of what’s going on, on campus,” Goldsmith said. “Again, not only now, but looking forward, so it’s a really complicated process.”

Mei Bailey ’22 is the student on the SOAN search committee. The department’s previous search failed, so this year’s has extra importance. Bailey, in part, wanted to learn about the department’s innerworkings and gain work experience for the future.

“I was interested in being on the committee because I felt like it was a way to create lasting change in the department,” Bailey said. “I’m graduating this semester, so I was thinking it’d be really cool if I could have … this lasting impact, like in the future of the department, more than just my thesis presentation.”

Being on the committee, Bailey found out how unique her position is.

“I learned that not all institutions have students on their committees through this process, because some of our applicants were very surprised that I was on the interviewing committee,” Bailey said. “But I think at a liberal arts school, like Lewis & Clark, teaching is the priority for professors and that’s not the case, especially at big R1 universities where professors are mainly, honestly, there to do research.”

Goldsmith said LC’s “teacher-scholar” model, where professors focus on teaching primarily, but use their research to inform their pedagogical methods, lends itself to student search committee positions.

“Because that’s so central to what we do in comparison to some other places … in my mind, it makes a lot of sense to have students (on committees),” Goldsmith said. “The other thing is the caliber of Lewis & Clark students is that they can fulfill that role. They have a lot of important insight on the committee and they are a connection then to the other students.”

However, research does play a role in the selection process. Goldsmith mentioned that one advantage of search processes, whether they end up in a new hire or not, is that they allow the college to see the cutting-edge research of young professionals in their fields. For students and professors involved in the searches, research also piques interest.

Leonard, in particular, said she was searching for a mixed-method, liberal arts approach from candidates, as well as an identity-inclusive approach.

“For me, the ideal candidate pairs strong teaching ability with a promising program of research,” Leonard said. “They also share our department’s enthusiasm for training undergraduates in evidence-based inquiry using an inclusive and accessible teaching style, and they excel at mentoring students with diverse backgrounds and identities.”

Bailey echoed similar sentiments for the SOAN search, emphasizing that students are looking for professors with an investment in decolonial anthropology. She also mentioned the role of mentorship.

“One thing we’re looking for is someone who we (think) would be a good mentor to students, not just in terms of research, but what are you going to do for post graduation?” Bailey said. “How do I apply this research to the real world, even if I’m not going into academia?”

The results of the eight searches will be made available at their completion, sometime before the start of the Fall 2023 semester.

Faculty Positions

East Asian Studies: Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Korean Studies

Mathematical Sciences: Assistant Professor of Data Science

Psychology: Assistant Professor of Psychology

Sociology/Anthropology: Assistant Professor of Sociology

Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership: Visiting Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Economics: Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics

Center for Community and Global Health: Visiting Assistant Professor of Public Health  

Associate Professor Diana Leonard (she/her)

“I was approached to be on the committee in my role as the most junior member of the department (I was hired in 2012). I have learned so much from the experience and it provided me unique opportunities for mentorship from our current chair, Brian Detweiler-Bedell. Experiences like this help me prepare to lead.”

“As for my responsibilities, I helped with recruitment of the student committee member via a self-nomination process; consulted on the development of the job advertisement materials and shared them in my professional networks; attended search committee trainings organized by the Dean’s office; read over applications and helped make determinations on candidates’ quality and fit for the proposed position; participated in various rounds of interviews, including meeting with each finalist and attending their research presentations; listened to and helped collate departmental and search committee feedback and contributed my own feedback regarding the finalists as needed.”  

“Our process started in earnest in September, but the committee was put together over the course of several months. For example, we sent out the call for student member self-nomination in July.”

“For me personally it was an honor to take part in shaping the future of this department. I love working with my colleagues and am looking forward to having another one join us hopefully this Fall! I think I brought a unique perspective to the committee as a fairly junior faculty member and a teacher-scholar of color whose discipline examines unconscious bias and its impacts on hiring. I also hope I was able to provide a friendly touchstone for the finalists and insight into what a successful path to tenure can look like here. As much as we are evaluating them, they are also trying to assess if LC is a professional setting where they can thrive.”

“For me, the ideal candidate pairs strong teaching ability with a promising program of research. They also share our department’s enthusiasm for training undergraduates in evidence-based inquiry using an inclusive and accessible teaching style, and they excel at mentoring students with diverse backgrounds and identities. Finally, since LC is a liberal arts college, the ideal candidate will mix methodologies and topics in new and interesting ways that inspire our students to get involved at a deeper level.” 

“Although most committee meetings were held online, the process felt pretty normal up until the on-campus visits. We held preliminary interviews over Zoom, but if anything everyone’s familiarity with video conferencing was beneficial versus the inherent awkwardness of a conference call. Then, when we got to the on-campus phase, we were able to handle things safely thanks to the extraordinary support of our Departmental Administrator, Rian Brennan. Aside from wearing masks, the biggest difference I noticed was that we had dinners outside on patios in February (heat lamps helped!) and rather than one big group we split the dinners up into two nights per finalist – which actually worked out great in my opinion and was probably less daunting for the candidates.”

Mei Bailey ’22 (she/her)

“I was interested in being on the committee because I felt like it was a way to create lasting change in the department. I’m graduating this semester, so I was thinking it’d be really cool if I could have … this lasting impact, like in the future of the department, more than just my thesis presentation.”

Also curious about inner workings of the department, and creating connections w/ professors

“I learned that not all institutions have students on their committees through this process, because some of our applicants were very surprised that I was on the interviewing committee. But I think at a liberal arts school, like Lewis & Clark, teaching is the priority for professors and that’s not the case, especially at big R1 universities where professors are mainly, honestly, there to do research.”

Previous SOAN search failed

Decolonial anthro

“One thing we’re looking for is someone who we (think) would be a good mentor to students, not just in terms of research, but what are you going to do for post graduation? How do I apply this research to the real world, even if I’m not going into academia?”

Associate Dean/Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies Daena Goldsmith

Associate dean for faculty development

“I see faculty from the moment we start thinking about hiring them, and even kind of building the pools to attract people to apply for our jobs, all the way through the lifecycle of faculty.”

Works with committees, intensive training

“What that process is about is I help the committees write advertisements that will cast a really broad net so that we get a deep pool and a really diverse pool. Diverse in terms of the kinds of things they could bring to the college, diverse in terms of who they are and their backgrounds, diverse in terms of where they’re coming from, and their graduate programs or programs of study.”

Starts with the ad

Implicit bias, fair and equitable

Hiring going beyond simply finding a replacement

Committee recommends person/people to hire, dean negotiates and president must approve

Might result in a fail: timing, not a mutual fit, hired by other places, candidate’s personal preferences/life circumstances

“There’s a lot riding on finding someone who is going to be happy here and successful here, finding someone who resonates with our students, someone who will fit into the intellectual needs (and) the larger configuration of what’s going on, on campus. Again, not only now, but looking forward, so it’s a really complicated process.”

It’s okay if searches fail because its better to invest more time finding a better person to hire especially since they will likely be here long term

“Sometimes that’s the right outcome. It’s disappointing. It’s a huge investment of time and effort on everybody’s part, so you don’t want that to happen. But, sometimes when that happens, that’s what needs to happen and then you try again.”

Emphasis teaching 

“Because that’s so central to what we do in comparison to some other places … in my mind, it makes a lot of sense to have students (on committees.) The other thing is the caliber of Lewis & Clark students is that they can fulfill that role. They have a lot of important insight on the committee and they are a connection then to the other students.”

Good experience for students, especially those going to grad school, or faculty position

Another college called and asked about students on faculty search committees

“Next year we anticipate having more (searches). It’s mostly about the demand and the enrollment pressures, but also the revenue that brings. It’s that balancing act of what is the appropriate size faculty for the size of school we are, in the size of student body we are. It’s also influenced by the needs of particular departments and faculty retiring or leaving for other reasons.”

Proposals for faculty additions completed and submitted by departments in the fall

Advantageous to have more time to generate pools of potential candidates

Biology, art, theatre 

“I’m also really excited about this idea of bringing in a cohort of faculty together that’s fairly large”

“It’s nice to be able to bring in a group of people together to be mutual support for one another. As you look at our faculty who’ve been here for a little while, some of those relationships you’ve formed in that first year are really enduring and continue belong beyond the time when you’re a new person.”
Interdisciplinary cohorts

“The search process also I find really exciting in the way that you get to bring some really amazing young, cutting-edge scholars to campus and hear from them.”

Process involves enrollment data, trends in fields, assessing interdisciplinary fields on campus

Writing proposals makes departments think about 10, 20, etc years in the future

Associate Professor of Computer Science Peter Drake

“There is a separate search committee for each search. This particular search is for a faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, which includes mathematics, computer science, and statistics. As I am currently the chair of that department, I was a natural choice.”

“My responsibilities have included gathering the search committee as well as corresponding and meeting with the department, the Dean’s office, and applicants.”

“The entire process takes over a year. The steps are roughly as follows:

  1. The department submits a position request to the Dean’s office.
  2. Since the college’s budget is finite, and a tenure-track faculty member is a long-term commitment, only some requests are approved.
  3. The search committee is convened. It includes two faculty members from the department in question, two faculty members from other departments, and one student.
  4. A job ad is placed. Faculty reach out through their own networks, conferences, etc. to help recruit a diverse pool of strong applicants.
  5. The committee looks at the applications and, with feedback from the department, chooses 10-15 semifinalists to interview by phone or over Zoom.
  6. Again with feedback from the department, the committee chooses around three finalists to bring to campus.
  7. The finalists visit campus to give teaching demonstrations, give research talks, and meet with various stakeholders (faculty, administration, staff, and students).
  8. Once again with feedback from the department, the committee makes a recommendation to the Dean’s office.
  9. The Dean of the College approves the request.
  10. The President of the College approves the request.
  11. An offer is made to the candidate. Salary and other details are negotiated with the Dean’s office.
  12. If the candidate accepts the offer, Human Resources works with the new hire to resolve various bureaucratic details. If not, an offer may be extended to another candidate. (If the list of viable candidates is exhausted, the search may fail and have to be repeated in a future year; since candidates may be weighing various job offers and details, this does sometimes happen.)
  13. The new hire is welcomed into the department and begins teaching in the fall.”

“It’s quite complicated, but we’re hiring someone who is likely to stay with the college for decades. We want to make sure we find someone who will meet the college’s long-term needs and have a happy, successful career.”

“In general, it’s important for the committee to include faculty from the department who know about that academic discipline and the department’s particular needs. Faculty from other departments provide a valuable outside perspective and can provide links to potential collaborators in interdisciplinary work. Student members can help assess teaching quality and mentorship potential. Such a position is also valuable experience for students, who are likely to be involved in similar work if they become academics or managers later in life.”

“The pandemic has definitely made this search more challenging, but I can’t go into detail while the search is ongoing.”

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