Departments across campus search for new faculty


Photo credit: Genevieve Humphreys

Departments across Trinity are currently conducting searches for new professors this year. In each department — political science, computer science and English — the search looks a little different.

In the Department of Political Science, the search for a new faculty member was extremely specific. Faculty members were looking for someone to fill Keesha Middlemass’s position since she left the department in May 2018. With specific courses to teach like American Politics, Public Policy and Urban Politics, the new hire would need to have similar expertise and areas of research.

David Crockett, chair and professor of the Department of Political Science, spearheaded the search to fill the new tenure track position.

“On one hand, she’s an American political scientist — an Americanist in the sense that she studies American politics. She was also hired to teach courses that were cross-listed with the urban studies interdisciplinary program. When she left, we had to find someone who could do both those things,” Crockett said.

Crockett put out a job listing in the fall on the American Political Science Association website and received about 80 applications by the September deadline. After that, Crockett designed a search committee of three faculty members to narrow down the applications to about 30. After this, the department created a rubric to help narrow the search further.

“It had the most important items listed in terms of ‘teach American politics,’ ‘teach Congress,’ ‘teach urban politics,’ those kinds of things. You try to find the individuals who come closest to that,” Crockett said.

After this, the department invited the top three candidates to campus to meet students and teach mock lectures, similar to the process in other departments.

“It becomes now a question not just of trying to figure out which one you want to teach here but also trying to seem attractive to them. Because these are people that quite possibly are interviewing other places as well. So if you’re going to spend the money to bring them to campus, we want to make sure that we sell ourselves to them as much as they’re selling themselves to us,” Crockett said.

In January, the department offered the job to one candidate, received a verbal acceptance, and now they are waiting for the contract to be signed. Until the contract is signed, the candidate’s name cannot be disclosed.

The Department of Computer Science has a similar process. Yu Zhang, chair of the department, posted a listing for the tenure track position in the fall of 2018. The listing was pushed to all major computer science journals and websites.

The department received about 50 applications by December. After that, the search committee began submitting their evaluations of the applicants, leading to a smaller pool of candidates.

“We selected 19 people for phone interviews, and we just performed the phone interviews. This week we did a lot of interviews. Eventually, we are going to say ‘These people are who we want to bring to campus,’ and they are going to do an on-site interview,” Zhang said.

The position requires candidates to be able to teach introductory courses, but Zhang also expects candidates to create new and engaging classes.

“As a department, we are able to provide a lot of elective classes for our students. So the new person is either going to enhance our current elective pool or they’re going to extend it. That totally depends on their expertise,” Zhang said.

The final three candidates will present to students in the computer science colloquium over the next few weeks.

The Department of English hired a new tenure track professor last year, Kathryn Santos, who specializes in the Shakespearean time period and literature. However, the department is also currently undergoing a search for another professor with a specialty in anglophone literature.

At the initial stage of application, Santos had to submit a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, a writing sample and three letters of recommendation.

“They call for a pretty substantial portfolio, and the idea is to show your background in addition to your education, explaining your research agenda, explaining your experience with teaching. At that initial stage, I think the committees in my field receive somewhere between 100–150 applications,” Santos said.

At the Modern Language Association convention interview, Santos discussed her research and teaching style with the search committee.

“That conversation was a mixture of questions about my research, both what I’ve published and what my plans are for future research projects. And a conversation about my teaching both about what I’ve already taught, the experiences that I’ve had and how I’d see myself fitting into the courses at Trinity,” Santos said.

Since coming to Trinity, Santos has enjoyed how interested students are in doing first-hand research.

“In both of my courses, I gave assignments that invited students to engage in primary sources. In all instances, students found things that I hadn’t discovered before or they brought new interpretations to those texts,” Santos said.

Claudia Stokes, chair and professor of the Department of English, created job listings for both Santos’s position and the current open position, which were posted to the MLA website.

“We work together as a department to determine those specific needs. It’s my job as chair to communicate those needs to the administration and request hire. It doesn’t happen automatically. We have to make a really persuasive case for this need for the new faculty member,” Stokes said.

In the fall of 2017, Stokes and a search committee went to New York to interview candidates for the position now held by Santos. However, with this current search, the department is making an effort to make interviews more available to candidates. The department interviewed candidates in December 2018 at Trinity.

“The way the pressure’s moving is there’s a recognition that it’s a real financial hardship on graduate students to have to travel to big expensive cities to get a job interview. If we’re serious about hiring faculty from diverse backgrounds, we have to do our part to be accessible,” Stokes said.

The Department of English is currently hosting the final three candidates on campus to meet with interested students.