Economics, Government, and History Hiring New Faculty

Since last spring, three of CMC’s largest departments—Economics, Government, and History—have been working toward hiring new faculty members. These faculty searches came about due to recent vacancies, a growing demand in these areas, and an interest in expanding course options. The Government department needed a new faculty member to fill the position of International Relations Professor Edward Haley, who recently retired in 2015. The History department needed to replace Professor Arthur Rosenbaum, who is retiring this year, and sought a Chinese history expert given the “growing demand for Chinese and East Asian history,” according to Chair of the History Search Committee Albert Park.

Professor David Bjerk, Chair of the Economics Search Committee, explained that the economics elective courses are limited, so “we, as the department and the college, want to respect that students want to be able to get into small classes, so there’s a demand that we have to fill with respect to core econ required classes.” The department hopes that the new faculty member can cover an area of study that is not currently offered, including public economics (the role of government, public goods, externalities, taxation), health economics, or higher-level econometrics.

Each position, though different in skill set and field of knowledge, requires a certain attitude and ability to acclimate to CMC students and the institution. Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin said, “It takes a particular model of being a teacher-scholar, which means that we want people who are good scholars, and to be in touch with current age debates, methods, and questions. But we also want them to be really committed to being good teachers.”

Government Department Chair Andrew Busch also added that the ideal candidate is “someone who would be well-suited to the small liberal arts college environment and demonstrates an interest and aptitude in this kind of environment.”

In each of the search and hiring processes, one of their main priorities was addressing the diversity issue on campus. Park found that the history department is one of the most diverse departments on campus—both racially and gender-wise—and expressed a strong desire to continue the tradition of being sensitive and open while studying different cultures, ethnicities, identities, and people. One method of doing so was by utilizing a student search committee, composed of three history majors, to interact with and give assessments on all final candidates: “That was really important to hear what the students thought about them. It’s one thing for faculty because we might have particular needs and wants, but students are a different matter.”

In the fall, Dean Uvin also conducted an implicit bias workshop for the entire faculty to give them a sense of how unconscious human bias influences behaviors and reasoning; he believes that this workshop influenced the search committees to be more proactive and mindful in their process. In the same vein, Professor Busch said that the government department advertised the position on venues that were targeted to minority groups to expand the pool of applicants.

However, the search committees expressed that these sentiments about considering diversity were not new since last semester. Professor Bjerk said, “We’ve been aware of the lack of diversity in economics and the department and have been trying to remedy that to the best of our ability over the last several years. We have especially been trying to highlight this issue this year, as the Dean has been particularly encouraging of such efforts." Though he expressed concern that the pool of candidates does not necessarily reflect the diversity of our students, Bjerk says the department hopes to hire "someone who will bring a unique and important perspective."

Professor Park added, “We are always thinking how can this person continue our tradition of studying these diverse subjects, these really difficult questions, and help students to try to work things out through a historical lens.”

The search and hiring process was standard. First, positions were advertised in their respective fields (American Economic Association, American Political Science Association, American Historical Association, Chronicles of Higher Education, etc.); the search committees conducted informal and formal interviews; candidates attended academic association summits; the search committees invited three to five candidates to campus for job talks; each department met twice behind closed doors to discuss which candidate was the best fit; and the top candidate was then submitted to Dean Uvin for negotiations.

As of right now, the Government department has already chosen the International Relations professor who will be arriving in the fall. The Economics department has a candidate coming in the next few weeks for a job talk, and the History department has chosen their professor, but Dean Uvin is still in the midst of negotiating.

All in all, Uvin expressed that there was no difficulty in the search process, especially because he had a hands-off approach and emphasized faculty autonomy: “This is the nature of academic freedom; the notion that it’s not up to the powers-that-be to interfere in the way scholars decide on what good scholarship is. Good scholarship and good scholars are identified through processes of open feedback and critique that scholars develop. In many ways, it's a decentralized, nearly anarchical situation, but it's powerful and it works.”