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Over the last year, Hillsdale College will be filling in eight faculty openings. Wiki­media Commons

Stu­dents are not the only ones who endure the rigors of exam­i­nation at Hillsdale College. For over a year, the Hillsdale faculty has been con­sumed with the process of filling eight faculty openings for the upcoming aca­demic year.

This year’s com­mittee looked to fill posi­tions in psy­chology, pol­itics, English, history, finance, biology, math­e­matics, and theater. Seven of the spots have been filled. In one case, two pro­fessors were hired in antic­i­pation of a retirement in the finance department next year. The one search that is still going is for an opening in the pol­itics department. One can­didate has already been inter­viewed and two more can­di­dates will be coming to campus this month.

Assistant to the Provost Mark Maier said that this process is ordi­narily com­pleted by now, but this year there were some searches that stretched out.

The process is extensive, taking the entire aca­demic year prior to the professor’s first semester teaching. According to Maier, the admin­is­tration is typ­i­cally notified of a retirement or a need to search sometime between this time of year and the summer — about a year in advance.

Maier said Provost David Whalen and the Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn meet every summer to review and approve depart­ments asking to search for new faculty. Once they receive approval, the department chairs will advertise in journals and online beginning in the fall. Appli­ca­tions are typ­i­cally open until December and they requires the usual cur­riculum vitae, letters of rec­om­men­dation, teaching statement, tran­scripts, and — unique to Hillsdale — a response to the mission statement.

“That mission statement response is some­thing we all read and take very seri­ously because we want our faculty to buy into what the college is trying to do,” Maier said.

Each department must take a list of can­di­dates num­bering in the hun­dreds and whittle it down to three or four can­di­dates, whom the department invites to campus to interview in the spring. That’s when the hiring com­mittee gets involved.

Whalen and Maier appoint three people to the search com­mittee from outside the hiring depart­ments that rep­resent each of the three divi­sions: natural sci­ences, human­ities, and social sci­ences.  

A search com­mittee is made up of all full-time tenured or tenure-track members of the department who com­plement the dean of the division that the of the hiring department: Dean of Faculty Daniel Cou­pland, one member of the division not in the department, and two members from the other two divi­sions.

“I think the fact that we require so many people outside of the department to be a part of the hiring team makes our process unique,” Maier said.

When can­di­dates come to campus, their schedules are booked for the duration of their two day visit. On top of inter­views, they are required to teach a class, give a formal research pre­sen­tation, and have lunch with stu­dents selected by the department, and lastly, an informal interview dinner with the com­mittee. The candidate’s inter­views usually consist of about four 30-minute one-on-one inter­views with members of the com­mittee and about an hour-long interview with the provost and an hour-long interview with the pres­ident.

John Willson, retired Hillsdale College History Pro­fessor Emeritus, was involved in the hiring process during his 30 years as a faculty member before his retirement in 2005. Willson said that there is an extra burden for hiring at Hillsdale because they aren’t just looking for cre­den­tials.

“They look for certain com­mit­ments to both teaching and to the rela­tionship of edu­cation to the broader culture and to the her­itage and tra­di­tions of our common culture,” Willson said.

At this point in the process, com­mittee members, like Cou­pland, really get involved. Cou­pland has been on all eight of this year’s com­mittees and said his role on the com­mittee is to rep­resent the college and the college’s interests. Cou­pland inter­views each can­didate indi­vid­ually and attends all of the teaching pre­sen­ta­tions and any other public events. He laughed that he hasn’t been able to attend all of the informal dinners — because that would be a lot of dinners away from his family.

Cou­pland said during his inter­views he keeps his own hiring expe­rience in mind. He said the process is dif­ficult due to the number of people the can­didate meets with and the number of one-on-one con­ver­sa­tions they have.

“That’s intim­i­dating, and I keep that in mind when I interview them,” Cou­pland said. “I try to be sen­sitive to the fact that it’s a grinding two day processes.”

Cou­pland also tries to create small oppor­tu­nities to engage in non-aca­demic con­ver­sa­tions that  allow him to get to know the can­didate.

“That said, we have two days to interact with this person so it shouldn’t just be all fluff,” Cou­pland said. “We want to get to the heart of the matter, and you need to be pointed in your ques­tions at times.”

Cou­pland said he is pri­marily inter­ested in whether the can­didate under­stands, sup­ports, and is willing to teach the college’s mission. He also wants to see how the can­di­dates gel with faculty members, and if they can interact with a wide variety of people.

After all the can­di­dates leave, the com­mittee meets and ranks the can­di­dates as a whole in order of pref­erence.

“It’s amazing how con­sensus will typ­i­cally come out of those con­ver­sa­tions,” Cou­pland said.

The provost will then talk to the pres­ident on his thoughts and an offer will be made.

“When you have eight searches, that’s 30 plus can­di­dates on campus in a small window; it gets pretty crazy,” Maier said.

Cou­pland said most day in the month of Feb­ruary con­sisted of one or two visits a day, but, “as long as you enjoy talking to people, it’s not going to be too bad.”

Maier insisted that the college wants can­di­dates to fit with Hillsdale’s mission.

“The reality is that you want faculty who want to stay here for their entire career. We don’t want to turn over faculty every five years looking for new people. It’s not that they’re com­mitted to stay here for the next 30 years of their life, but we hope that’s the case.”