One of the issues that we’re tackling within the ivory tower is the need for faculty diversity. Some programs are beginning to make strides with undergraduate college completion among people from underrepresented groups, and we continue to work on broadening participation of graduate students and postdoctoral trainees in STEM fields. However, the composition of college faculty is one of the remaining bastions of the old guard, one that is has very little diversity especially in STEM fields, and particularly in areas such as engineering and computer science.
Combat the deficit, flood the gates
I would like to issue a challenge, or perhaps it should be a charge to diverse students and postdocs, especially in STEM fields: flood the gates. Apply for the open faculty positions. Here are 7 reasons why you should apply for open faculty positions, beyond the fact that the numbers of diverse faculty are sparse.
- 100% fail without applicants. We will never have diverse faculty if diverse scholars don’t apply for the positions.
- Diversify your application portfolio. You should apply for jobs in a variety of sectors. Academe should be one of them. This year I’m asking all of my students to at least apply. I know that several will also apply to positions in industry, government, and non-profit sectors, but give the academic job a chance. Apply, get an interview, get an offer, and then make the decision.
- You have 4,633 choices. Don’t vilify the entire professoriate because of a less than stellar relationship with a dissertation advisor, or because the lab experience wasn’t ideal. You have a chance to make it better for your own students! It’s also important to note that there are several kinds of institutions. There are 4,633 institutions in the U.S. according to the Carnegie Classifications. Of those 4,633, there are colleges that award associate’s degrees, doctoral granting institutions, master’s colleges and universities, colleges that focus on bachelor’s degrees, tribal colleges, and institutions that focus their degree offerings on a particular set of related disciplines.
- Expand your horizons. Participating in campus interviews gives you a chance to learn more about different institutions and different kinds of people.
- Exposure is good for them too. Participating in on-campus interviews also gives other people a chance to learn more about you, and to learn more about things that are important to you from scholarly and cultural perspectives.
- Inspire students. As a professor, you will have a chance to inspire generations of students, who in turn will inspire others. You have an chance to have an an exponential effect on students and colleagues.
- Make your research personal. As a professor, you have a chance to create new knowledge and make strong contributions in your discipline that reflect your values. You have a chance to make your research count.
The statistics tell the story: 400 out of 27,700
Now let’s get back to the numbers. The numbers are sparse and the data can tell the surprising story. I am an engineer, so I regularly keep an eye on the engineering statistics. As a woman, I also keep an eye on the statistics for women in engineering. If we continue this trend, you can predict that my subsequent focus is on women in engineering from underrepresented backgrounds. Take a look at the chart from the National Science Foundation below. Note that there are approximately 400 engineering professors who are women from underrepresented groups. Shall I begin naming them? The “D” in the various columns means that the numbers are so small that the data is suppressed, so small that we would be able to identify the people. (The box around the underrepresented categories has been added for emphasis.)
The numbers are even smaller in computer science. Take a look at the numbers for your own field. Don’t you want to have a replicating effect?
Now that you’ve decided to apply, here are some tips
At the time of this post, UMBC has more than 10 positions open for faculty in STEM fields, including the social sciences. Here are some tips. First, look at the university’s criteria for hiring and for tenure. UMBC has the following sections in their faculty handbook:
6.2 UMBC CRITERIA FOR FACULTY APPOINTMENT AND PROMOTION
Faculty appointment and promotion shall be based solely on the merit of the candidates and should reflect UMBC’s mission as a doctoral, research university. The following minimum criteria will govern appointment or promotion to each of the professional ranks.
6.2.1 Assistant Professor The appointee shall ordinarily hold the doctorate or recognized terminal degree in the field of specialization. The appointee should show promise for superior teaching, research or scholarship, and service. In addition, the appointee’s record should show evidence of potential for offering graduate instruction and directing graduate research.
Breaking it down:
- Faculty appointment and promotion shall be based solely on the merit of the candidates and
should reflect UMBC’s mission as a doctoral, research university.
The mission. What is the mission of the university? In UMBC’s case, the mission is clearly stated on the “About” section of the university’s website. Read the mission of the university, and be sure that your values align with the mission. Think about what the appointment entails. To recap, the appointee shall:
- Hold the doctorate or recognized terminal degree in the field of specialization
- Show promise for superior teaching
- Show promise for research or scholarship
- Show promise for service
- Show evidence of potential for offering graduate instruction and directing graduate research.
Please note that most applicants don’t just show “promise” for the qualifications listed above, they show “evidence” of experiences. This means that you should gain these experiences during the graduate school and postdoctoral experiences.
The CV and the Cover Letter
As I serve on a variety of committees, I can tell my prospective colleagues that you want to be sure that your application and cover letter have the things that are expected by the search committee.
As an example, the Department of Public Policy at UMBC spells out the way that they want to see their letters:
We ask that, in their application letters, candidates discuss their principal area(s) of research and scholarship in the field of education policy and its relevance to the School and to this position. We also ask that candidates discuss the following in their application letters: 1) their records as scholars; 2) their current research programs and future research agendas; 3) their records of securing external research funding; 4) the courses that they would be likely to teach and their teaching philosophies; and 5) their academic leadership experience. REF: http://publicpolicy.umbc.edu/facultysearch/
The Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering Department wants applicants to clearly demonstrate a strong promise for interdisciplinary research, potential for collaboration with current departmental research, and the capacity to work effectively with a diverse faculty and student body. REF: http://cbee.umbc.edu/home/faculty-search-2015-2016/
“Clearly demonstrate” means that examples should be part of the cover letter and experiences should be part of the CV. Too often candidates focus solely on the sections regarding working with diverse students, and leadership in diverse organizations such as NSBE, SHPE, AISES, SWE, Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, SACNAS, etc. However, the faculty search committee needs to see evidence of your scholarship. For that reason, it is important to prepare now for evidence of teaching experience PLUS evidence of scholarly publications and presentations, with emphasis on the publications. If you are applying for a position at an institution that focuses on teaching, be sure that your teaching experiences are emphasized.
UMBC’s Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department is looking for applicants to show the following:
Applicants must have or be completing a Ph.D. in a relevant discipline, have demonstrated the ability to pursue a research program, and have a strong commitment to undergraduate and graduate teaching. Candidates will be expected to build and lead a team of student researchers, obtain external research support and teach both graduate and undergraduate courses.
In the guideline above, I’ve underlined parts that applicants tend to ignore. Please be sure that your letter and your CV adequately reflect the things that are being asked of the applicant. Some search committees like to see CVs that are in the formats that they are used to seeing for other faculty.
Consider this CV format that UMBC uses for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences:
(Update 10/19/2015: This format is also used by other departments in other colleges, e.g., engineering, IT.)
Accepting the challenge – apply for positions
UMBC has a number of positions available. The president, provost, and deans are very committed to faculty diversity. You will have to create an account through Interfolio: http://www.interfolio.com/. Follow the links that are in each position description.
College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Geography and Environmental Systems, Department Chair Open Field, Associate or Full Professor
Health Administration and Policy Program, Assistant/Associate Professor
History, Chinese History, Assistant Professor
Music, Lecturer (Update 10/19/15: New info from the Dean, this position has been filled.)
Public Policy, Education Policy, Associate or Full Professor
Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering, Biotechnology/Bio-engineering, Assistant Professor
Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering, Biotechnology/Bio-engineering, Lecturer
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Open areas, 3 Assistant Professor
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Lecturer
Information Systems, Artificial Intelligence/Knowledge Management, Assistant Professor
Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing and Materials Processing, Assistant Professor
Physics, Theoretical or Computational, Assistant Professor
I hope that many of you will accept the challenge and will apply. Don’t think that this is not something that applies to you. It does apply to you. I’m asking my students to promise that they will at least apply. I ask the same of you. We can increase faculty diversity if you apply for the positions.
Updates to this post will be added as they become available. Some updates may be added in the comments section. Faculty are welcome to add more tips to the comment section.