English, VAPA students help evaluate potential faculty

Feb. 29, 2016

Rachel Librach
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When a professor or instructor is hired, it isn’t often thought that students have a role in the process. But with the English and VAPA departments, students have a voice.

Students can fill out evaluations on candidates and a search committee takes these comments into consideration when making the final decision.

Lesley Ginsberg, English Department chair and associate professor, said that although these student evaluations are not the biggest factor taken into consideration, they are still important to the committee.

VAPA instructor Leah Chandler-Mills said the search committee reads the student evaluations on the potential hire, which helps filter their hiring decision.

“It’s not the only factor, but they are important because we value teaching as well as the candidate’s research and we want people who will reach students and be well equipped in the classroom,” she said.

Chandler-Mills said students tend to become very involved in this process and are excited that they are able to contribute to the decision made by the committee.

“Some (students) take advantage of going to the job talks and lunch with the candidate,” she said. “Student input can be very revealing due to the varying perspectiv

Chandler-Mills said the VAPA candidate search begins with a national and international job posting that accepts all who apply with proper credentials. Within the department, a search committee is then formed that reviews 40 or more applications.

After the search committee narrows their choice down to around a dozen people, the candidates are offered a chance to tour the college. Chandler-Mills said some candidates withdraw their application based on elements such as area, climate or altitude.

Once three or four candidates have been selected, they are invited back to the college to give a job lecture to a large group of students.

This tests their presence in a classroom and their ability to convey information to students in a professional and compelling manner.

Chandler-Mills believes that having candidates deliver a job lecture to a large group of students is a way for students to observe their future professor’s background and gain insight into their research.

She said the student opinions are taken seriously.

“Within the department, people like to take the pulse from student’s reactions to certain candidates because, at least in the Arts department, we believe creativity is an intimate thing and students should understand where their professors are coming from,” she said.