In 2014, Dr. Jeffery Aper became Provost at Millikin University and led the school through a transitional period regarding its partnership with Interfolio’s solution for supporting faculty hiring processes. Transitional, in part, because since 2013, Millikin adopted Interfolio’s Faculty Search platform, then decided to build a homegrown system due to internal budget constraints, and then went back to Interfolio.
Dr. Aper agreed to sit down and tell us about his leadership role and his experiences using the system. Take a look at what Provost Aper had to say!
Tell us about Millikin’s relationship with Interfolio and how it has transitioned from on, off, and on again.
Millikin University first adopted Interfolio’s Faculty Search in 2013 to support management of their faculty and staff hiring processes. In 2015, the end of my first year, Millikin decided to drop Interfolio’s platform due to budgetary reasons. A team at Millikin had been working with our IT staff and developed a homegrown faculty hiring platform used for receiving application materials and storing them on a shared drive to support an internal process. However, the in-house system did not meet our needs. People couldn’t access it. It just didn’t work. It didn’t make us more efficient.
During the period when we we tried using our in-house system, the comments we received included: “Why did we drop Interfolio?” “Can we go back to Interfolio?” And I had department chairs and deans imploring me to do what I could to get the university into the use of the Interfolio system.
So I pressed the case that as soon as possible we needed to re-up with Interfolio because the product had worked well for us in the past. Thankfully everyone on campus agreed, so we were able to re-adopt Interfolio and use it to run our hiring searches again.
Were you familiar with Interfolio’s faculty hiring platform before taking the provost’s position at Millikin?
I had been familiar with Interfolio’s Faculty Search, but only at the individual level, having submitted letters of reference for candidates seeking positions at other institutions. It was not until arriving at Millikin that I experienced Interfolio from the institution’s perspective.
What were your first impressions with Interfolio’s platform from the institution’s perspective?
I was very pleased. This was such a vastly better approach to hiring than the traditional method of keeping all kinds of paper files, trying to maintain the security of those files, and trying to make sure members of the search committee had access to the documents while trying to maintain the confidentiality of those materials. The solution gave us so many better options for managing those processes.
Have you used the system in workflows other than faculty hiring?
Yes, we use Faculty Search for faculty and staff hiring processes, and for faculty honors and awards given by the University. Using the solution for these internal applications has been very valuable.
I ran a search for a new dean two years ago. We used Interfolio extensively for receiving and warehousing materials and allowing committees to access materials in a confidential way. The system was a real value to us because it made it so much easier to keep track of the appropriate records, make sure those records were maintained in a secure way, and give the committee access.
Similarly for staff positions, we use Interfolio for even administrative assistant searches because it helped us be more efficient and effective in maintaining those records and making sure we’ve got all the documents assembled.
We were able to set up an internal application process for faculty awards, honors, and professional development opportunities. For example, we’ve got eight endowed professorships that rotate among faculty members who qualify for the awards. All of those involve the submission of a significant amount of background materials. We used to be handing boxes of paper to committees and the committee was supposed to keep it secure. We were trying to make sure confidential materials did not end up left on tables in conference rooms.
Using Interfolio has been an immense improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of those review processes—allowing us to set up an online format to submit their materials for all of these competitive processes. Using Interfolio has benefited us significantly. I am definitely a fan.
What about Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) data?
That’s information we will keep track of no matter what system we’re using, so it’s a benefit to have a system to assemble those kinds of data. Any time you’ve got an automated system collect a consistent record of your activities, instead of having an individual in the HR office compile a report, there’s a benefit. Faculty and staff time is a precious commodity. Anything we can do to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of collecting, managing, and reporting data is beneficial for us.
What problems were you seeking to solve in deciding to select Interfolio’s Faculty Search?
I’ve overseen scores of faculty searches over the years as the commissioning officer. Having done that many, many times, the chronic challenges to make sure you have a very accurate systematic way of receiving materials, compiling and maintaining those materials, and making them available to committees—but also maintaining their confidentiality and securities—are constant headaches with paper systems. The Interfolio application, in many ways, solves the headaches in those processes, and to me that’s just golden.
Are faculty buying in to the system?
In the last four years, we’ve used Interfolio as a basis for maintaining our records on searches. We’ve done at least 25 to 30 searches involving many committee members and have not received one complaint, and that’s quite a statement in itself.
Faculty members are not reticent about sharing their opinions about what works and what doesn’t work. I haven’t had a single faculty member say, “Well, I like using Interfolio… but we should have done this”; “I wish we could use something different”; “I wish we could go back to the paper method.” Not once. And we’ve run a lot of searches.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?
Faculty Search has worked very well for us. This is one of those things where you could go around campus and talk with faculty, staff, and administrators who’ve used the system, and I don’t think you would get a single negative comment—and that’s saying something.
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