Asa Daniels, senior staff writer
Presently, Berry College has 11 open faculty positions and 18 open staff positions. The openings are for various jobs around campus, according to the human resources’ employment opportunities page, including a tenure track position in applied mathematics, reference services librarian, an admissions counselor and special events coordinator.
Provost Mary Boyd explained that most faculty position openings occur because people either retire or leave Berry for other reasons, such as another job opportunity. Also, additional faculty may be hired if a particular major has come into high demand.
Lindsey Taylor, dean of students, added that staff positions may open for similar reasons, though this year’s high numbers are likely a combination of variables, such as the expanded need of staff services, causing the high number of open positions.
Boyd explained that, due to the present freshman class and its large size, additional faculty were hired who will remain with Berry for one to three years to provide additional sections of classes that freshmen take.
Boyd explained that the faculty hiring process begins with a dean sending in a search request, with the department in question explaining why that position needs to be fulfilled. These requests are then reviewed by all of the deans, who assess the urgency of these positions. The requests are then sent to the provost, who communicates with the president. Departments are then notified whether their search can continue or if they can further justify why the job needs to be filled.
If the search can continue, departments draft a job posting, also explaining where this posting will go and to whom. The provost and the president then review this and decide whether or not to approve the posting. Search committees are then made, and these committees, along with the dean, provost and human resource director, begin to review applications through an evaluation criteria. The criteria is also reviewed to try and eliminate bias from its questions.
Departments then list around 10 candidates to have a preliminary interview through Zoom. The list must be approved by the provost and president before candidates are contacted. A new set of questions and evaluation criteria are made for these interviews. From here, three candidates are selected to come to campus, and are evaluated by the dean, provost and president.
Once on campus, the candidates meet the dean, provost, president and students and will have teacher presentations, possibly teaching a class as well. After this, the search committee reviews all of these groups’ reviews of the candidates and makes a preferential list of who to hire. This is checked by the department’s dean, provost and president. The president makes a job offer to the candidate, and if approved, they are hired onto faculty.
While it sounds like a lot of steps, Boyd explains that it is an effective system to look at applicants fairly.
“It sounds like a lot but it’s really a very specialized process which is intended to eliminate bias and so that we evaluate all of the candidates as objectively as possible,” Boyd said.
For Boyd, it is important to consider why potential faculty are interested in Berry and what they can bring to students and the research being done at the college.
“I’m really looking for candidates to articulate why they’re interested in Berry College,” Boyd said. “How do they engage with students? What’s their teaching philosophy? It is really important to me that candidates have commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And, also, that they have a research agenda that is doable at an institution [like] Berry.”
Boyd added that she believes the present hiring process is effective, as it has brought in a diverse and experienced faculty.
“Forty percent of continuing faculty who were hired last year are people of color, so I think that really shows that when we have good search protocols, it can bring us a really diverse, well qualified, applicant pool,” Boyd said.
The process is similar for staff positions, though they report and work through different people other than the provost. Furthermore, there are background checks done on applicants. The only exceptions to this process are for internal promotions, Taylor explained.
Recently, the student affairs office has been asking applicants to submit a statement about DEI.
“We’ve asked for a statement of diversity, equity and inclusion, and their philosophy for student support,” Taylor said. “[This] has been very helpful not only in who to interview first but in the questions and conversations when they’re on campus.”
Currently, there is a process being led by Boyd to bring in at least one person on every staff search committee who is an advocate for DEI to make sure that the right questions are being asked and that bias is avoided, Taylor explained.
Alan Hughes, interim dean of the Charter School of Education and Human Sciences, added that the hiring process includes the making of a recruitment plan, aimed at diversifying the applicants by attracting a large number of people.
“So, in terms of the pool of candidates, you want to have a good representation of folks in that pool,” Hughes said. “If you have a pool of 30 people, you want that pool to not just be a bunch of white males. The question is, how do you try and make this job interesting and attractive to people of various backgrounds?”
Hughes said that the nursing program is seeking to fulfill open positions left by five faculty members who left Berry for various reasons over the years. He added that they are looking in particular for individuals trained in nursing education and who have teaching experience at the undergraduate level, to ensure that delivery is quality for students.
“You’re teaching such critical content, these people are going to go out and take care of people in potentially life-threatening situations, you have to be really skilled, from day one, at delivering that content,” Hughes said.
Professor of Psychology, Kristen Diliberto, the chair for the search committee of a tenure track psychology professor, said that the department is interested in a professor with a PhD in experimental psychology, who will be able to engage students with research.
“We want someone who will engage our students, especially our undergraduate students in research, [by] involving students in their research program,” Diliberto said. “We are looking for someone whose research interest may be on implicit bias or look at stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, those kinds of areas.”
The psychology department has seen a number of changes recently, including faculty being promoted to higher positions, so they have less availability to teach classes, or leaving Berry. To help manage the present curriculum load on the psychology department, three Berry graduates have been hired.
Diliberto said that timing can be of the essence with the hiring process, as some highly sought after applicants may be hired elsewhere before Berry can provide a job offer to them.
“The longer you wait, you may lose very strong candidates potentially to other places that maybe got the ball rolling a little sooner and they had interviews sooner or reached a decision, so sometimes you end up losing strong people you wanted,” Diliberto said.
Diliberto further explained that student input is wanted, since students work directly with faculty members.
Hughes believes it is important for students to appreciate the fact that the hiring process is a detailed and very important process that cannot be taken for granted.
“It’s a very expensive process, it’s a long process, it’s a competitive process,” Hughes said. “The department[s] want to get a new member who is a good fit, who is good for students, who will be good colleagues, good at work, a great teacher and who really has a good career.”