Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

D’Shaun Vance, EdD

Academic Affairs

 School of Medicine and Health Sciences at George Washington University

Obtaining a doctoral degree is no small feat, and building connections and professional relationships can be equally daunting and exhausting. Here, we outline tips for helping doctoral students and candidates develop and maintain lasting professional relationships. We note that these are just some strategies and tips doctoral candidates can explore. Additionally, we welcome more suggestions and advice for what works for doctoral candidates and recent graduates. Review the bottom of this post for how to join and continue the conversation.

Perspectives from a Recent Doctoral Candidate, Dr. Vance. 

Tip #1:

As a recent doctoral candidate who started their program online due to COVID-19, it was extremely difficult to build relationships, but not impossible. What worked for me was meeting with my professors outside of class hours to further discuss my interests, experience, and how they could help me navigate the higher education field, which is much larger than one can imagine. In these meetings, they would share their networks with me, introducing me to their colleagues who they felt would have an impact on my career trajectory. In these meetings is also where I was given a sneak peek or further look into speakers coming to class or who have already been to class to be introduced separately for more questioning and in depth conversations. These conversations have led to job opportunities, conference presentations, and relationships I am now cultivating on a consistent basis. As professionals, we can help each other. Just because you are/were a student does not mean your knowledge and experience is not valued; you just have to be intentional about putting yourself in spaces so your voice can be heard and seen as a value add.

Tip #2:

Conferences! If your program or professors are not pushing you to go to and attend conferences, please take this as your push! Prior to the pandemic, I had not attended any higher education conferences, but knew I should have been. I joined some professional organizations, but skipped the conference portion. At conferences is where my knowledge expands and networks grow. There can guarantee there are people from all types of institutions you interact with and start to find a needed connection. There are instances where you can help them solve a problem or vice versa. Going to conferences is a definite way to build a professional network. The key: do not be scared to talk to people. If you are attending with your institution/organization, try to sit with other groups during meal times to further conversations on topics either being discussed at the conference or pain points in your operations to get outside perspectives and thoughts. 

Perspective from a Full-Time Faculty Member and Dissertation Advisor, Dr. Tomlin

Tip #3

Fail Fabulously! This goes for all relationships. Be it romantic, platonic, mentorship, or relationship with your dissertation or doctoral project, lean into failing fabulously. Graduate students, particularly doctoral students, often feel they know everything. This feeling of thinking you need to know everything can create a lot of anxiety and stress throughout the doctoral journey. So, fail fabulously. This is the notion that we will not know everything, which is okay. It is not about the mistakes we make during the journey but what we do with the lessons learned from the errors that matter most. Furthermore, I am not saying to fail literally; I am saying to hold your journey lightly and be open to learning from all challenges and mistakes made. This is one of the ways to fail fabulously.

Tip #4

Give 110% to what you say yes to! Your word is your bond, and your bond is your reputation. Be mindful of what you are committing and saying yes to. AND, when you do say yes, be sure to give 110%. You never know how your work may reach rooms, people, and places before you. You always want to put your all into your commitment, as your work will speak for you when no one else is around. So, do not overcommit; give your all to what you commit to. Your work ethic, personality, and research/scholarly work are what may attract many relationships before others even know your name. Remember, always put your best foot forward. 

Have anything to add? Feel free to continue the conversation with us on Twitter: @TomlinAntione

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

D’Shaun Vance, EdD, manages Academic Affairs in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at George Washington University. Dr. Vance is also an up and coming speaker in the area of Academic Advising.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Build Your Dossier With Interfolio.
Advance With Confidence.

Applying for academic programs or positions requires many artifacts. Put your best foot forward with Interfolio.

Start building your dossier for free today.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Gretchen B. Rudham, EdD

Assistant Professor

Morgan State University

While getting organized can seem daunting, it does not have to be. Here we offer tips for both students and faculty colleagues on how to bring lightness and fun to successful organizing. As faculty and previous students, we understand how crucial it can be to bring organization to personal and career goals. Therefore, we approach this piece and offer advice from student and faculty perspectives.

Tips for Students

Tip 1: Super Nerd Systems Check 

Having a system for thinking through content before writing is not talked about enough. Half of the battle is knowing yourself and then creating a system that is realistically aligned with you and how you work best. Setting up a clear system of where, how, or when you work best is crucial.

There are multiple parts of the systems check to consider: accountability, technology and information storage, creativity and inspiration, brainstorming, drafting, and revision as well as moral support. Do you need high-tech, low-tech, or a combination of both? How do you save your reading materials? How and when do you read? Where do you record your sudden (and sometimes fleeting) brainstorms and ideas? Do you need an accountability system that is automated (deadlines on a calendar or alarms on your phone) or personalized (accountability/writing group)? When do you think, discuss, chew on ideas, and outline? Alone or with others? Where and when are you most productive?

Inspiration can hit while walking or driving, or at specific times of the day, or at different locations. Pay attention to place, space, and windows of productivity.

Tip 2: Writer’s Block: All Super Nerds Can Get Stuck

All super nerds can experience feeling blocked or stuck during the writing process, whether that is doubt during the infancy of the idea, imposter syndrome as you pitch or seek a home for your writing, feeling stuck in the middle of writing, or hitting a wall as you trudge through the revision process. Creativity in multiple forms is the key to becoming unstuck in these moments. I follow a lot of different writers and artists on social media, and seeing folks create across many different mediums inspires me.

Stepping away from the books and engaging with art, music, films, museums, local artists, or the beauty of nature; all can get your brain off the track it may be stuck on and shift your thinking. And, part of this process includes rethinking what counts as part of the writing process. Creative recharging is not taking away from writing, but rather can become part of your practice as a writer. Part of the organization process of academic writing includes planning for the inevitable ebb and flow of ideas and inspiration. Beyond creative recharging, designing structures or space for conversations, collaboration, brainstorming, and inspiration can be helpful.

Talking through ideas or concepts with a brainstorming partner can be built into your writing practice. You can lean on technology to record and talk through ideas or stuck points. Using Canva or other digital tools can help you conceptualize and organize ideas before they make it to the draft.

Tips for Faculty Colleagues 

Tip 3: Find A Mentor/Ask For Help

As faculty, we often feel we must have it all figured out. We also do not acknowledge how challenging transitioning to a full-time faculty role can be and the stressors that new and junior faculty face. In addition to getting acclimated to a new institution, it could be daunting to keep up with faculty requirements and obligations (i.e., teaching loads, research, and family/personal life balance). With all the learning and transition that comes with accepting new faculty appointments, it can be extremely difficult to keep up with not only all the paperwork and documents your institution may require (professional development documentation, grant/funding applications, conference and travel reimbursement, etc.) but it can also be difficult to keep up with your personal academic documents (curriculum vitae, teaching philosophy, research interest, project proposals, etc.).

If all of this feels overwhelming, you might you find a mentor and ask for help. Remember, you do not have to have it all figured out. We advise you to get comfortable with asking for help when you need it. This will save you a lot of time as you learn the expectations of your institution and role as a faculty member. Moreover, do not reinvent the wheel when you do not have to. We encourage you to find someone who you trust to help. Permit yourself to ask for what you need to be successful. Once you permit yourself to ask for what you need, we challenge you to put it into practice. Yes, we encourage you to go and start practicing asking for help; no matter how big or small the ask, go practice!     

Tip 4: The Cloud!  

Another simple, yet crucial, piece of advice we offer is to back up your important documents to a cloud-based platform. This simple piece of advice may save your life. How often do we tell our students to save, save, save, AND back up their work in multiple places or to a cloud? What we have found is that we faculty are sometimes guilty of not taking our own advice. So, take your advice and back up your important document to the cloud.

If you have not done so already, we encourage you now to create folders in Google Drive or other cloud-based software; this way, you can access all documents from any device. Additionally, your documents will be saved and backed up in case anything happens to your computer. Furthermore, have some fun with this process. While it can seem uneventful to back up your files, we challenge you to think about how you might bring some fun and lightness to this process.

Lastly, create a system or schedule for when you will dedicate time to updating your files so that you have the most recent and up-to-date information saved.  

Have anything to add? Feel free to continue the conversation with us on Twitter: @TomlinAntione @bmttbaltimore

Authors’ Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Gretchen B. Rudham, EdDis an Assistant Professor at Morgan State University in the School of Education and Urban Studies. Her research interests include social justice leadership, Digital Humanities, and dismantling white supremacy in curriculum, schools and society.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Interfolio Dossier

Use Interfolio’s Dossier to manage and send recommendation letters, CVs/resumes, and other academic career materials.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Tasha Wilson, MSW, MEd

Case Manager, Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity

Towson University

Engaging in the job search process is a job itself. We know how daunting the process and journey to securing new employment can be. This article will explore tips for organizing and preparing for the job search. If you are actively looking for new employment or just casually exploring options, the tips offered here might be helpful to you. As higher education professionals, we encourage you always to stay ready as opportunities develop quickly.   

Self-Assessment & Analysis

Sometimes life experiences can challenge us to desire more for ourselves in the professional arena. Priorities may have shifted in our personal lives that provoke us to seek out opportunities that have more autonomy in our schedules, higher compensation, or a work environment that is not necessarily location bound. We know that engaging in the job search process serves as a benefit, but we are often unsure as to how we should initiate it. Introspection will guide the direction of your decisions on which positions to aim for. Be honest about what you are looking for in a position and what you need in an employer. Identify your career goals. What are the things you’re most passionate about? What core elements are important to you in an organization that will align with your aspirations toward professional advancement? We recommend creating an action plan to help keep you disciplined with tracking your progress of application submissions, callbacks, and interviews.


Relationship building is essential in your job searching process. It is a transformational skill that can bring you confidence, a sense of belongingness, and well-being. Being intentional in connecting with people and fostering relationships promotes collaborative efforts and opportunities within organizations you may be interested in working for. You may be invited to serve as a speaker, a guest to attend upcoming events, or a collaborator for a special project.  People can provide referrals, give you intel about upcoming vacancies and offer insight contributing to your professional journey. We recommend actively seeking opportunities to engage with people and establish sustainable partnerships. Research organizations and professional networks whose core values and mission support your desirable career outlook.

Save the Job Description

So often, we come across a posting that intrigues us, and we mark it to apply later. While we may come back to apply, it is equally as essential to save the posting as a PDF or screenshot. Most places of employment remove the posting after the applicant pool is officially closed. Keeping the description to access it later may help with interview preparations. It may also help with remembering the position when some employers might take months to contact you for an interview. We recommend keeping a digital folder with all the job postings/descriptions you applied for so you can quickly review it when needed, even if it has been removed from the internet.

Update Often

Remembering everything you have done or updating your resume or CV with trendy buzzwords can take time and effort. We recommend you update as you go. Even when not looking for new opportunities, get into the flow of updating your documents often. If you want to be committed to keeping up with things, we suggest updating your records at least once a month. Setting aside time once a month to update your document can save you a lot of time in the long run. Updating often also helps you to stay ready for any unexpected opportunities that may come your way.

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione.

Authors’ Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Tasha Wilson, MSW, MEd, is an innovative change agent with expertise spanning policy implementation, educational equity, and compliance. Tasha currently serves as a Case Manager in the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity at Towson University. Additionally, she is an Adjunct Professor at Anne Arundel Community College. Outside of her career in Student Affairs, Tasha is internationally recognized as a trailblazer in the marketplace. She is a published author, entrepreneur and speaker who has made appearances across the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2016, Tasha was presented with the Governor’s Volunteer Service Certificate by The State of Maryland. In 2021, she was featured in VoyageBaltimore Magazine as one of Baltimore’s Inspiring Stories. As a mental health advocate, she served on Grammy Award-winner Michelle Williams’ launch team for the book “Checking In.”

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Interfolio Dossier

Use Interfolio’s Dossier to manage and send recommendation letters, CVs/resumes, and other academic career materials.

A faculty search committee is a committee appointed within a higher education institution or organization to oversee recruitment and hiring for a specific faculty opening or multiple vacancies (in the case of cluster hiring). The search committee handles everything from creating the job posting, to reviewing applications, conducting interviews, and selecting the final candidate(s).

Below we detail search committees’ responsibilities, how to select a search committee and its chair, and how search committees can most effectively carry out their duties.

The Role of a Faculty Search Committee

Create the Job Posting and Place Advertisements

In some cases, before a search committee is appointed, the department may create the job description, requirements, and other language that will be used in the job posting listed on the institution’s website. However, in other cases, the search committee creates this language, which will also be used for external advertisements of the position on third-party sites or in third-party publications.

Once the language advertising the opening is created, the search committee selects sites and publications to advertise in, often with the goal of attracting a diversity of candidates, including candidates from underrepresented groups.

Establish Evaluation Criteria

The search committee agrees upon the criteria it will use to rank candidates and may rank its selection criteria in terms of departmental priorities.

Review Applications and Select Candidates from Whom to Request More Materials

As candidates begin applying to the position, the search committee reviews all applications and begins selecting candidates from whom to request additional information, such as teaching evaluations and sample syllabi.

Discuss Applicants and Select Finalists 

The search committee discusses applicants, rating them based on their evaluation criteria. The committee may also conduct remote interviews as it narrows down the list of candidates to select finalists.

Interview Finalists on Campus

The search committee arranges for on-campus interviews, which often includes a campus tour and a teaching demonstration to students. The search committee coordinates with other administrators and department members to schedule the various meetings each candidate will have over the course of the typically two-day campus visit. The series of meetings includes the job talk, in which the candidates present about their research.

Select Candidate to Hire

After the on-campus visit, the search committee reconvenes, collecting information from all those who meet with the candidate. Weighing all of the information before them and their evaluation criteria, the search committee votes for a final selection and documents the basis for their decision.

How to Select a Faculty Search Committee and Chair

Given the central role of a search committee in the faculty recruitment process and the considerable responsibility and time commitment of serving on a search committee, it’s important that departments appoint well-composed search committees. 

Below are a few tips to guide you in creating effective search committees:

  • A smaller group ensures that everyone will be able to participate and contribute in a meaningful way
  • Having an odd number of members prevents the risk of a deadlocked vote.
  • Enthusiasm for serving on the committee is required, given the importance—and demands—of the work.
  • It’s critical your committee is made up of a diversity of members, including members of underrepresented groups in faculty.
  • Because the search committee chair often chooses the other search committee members and has the greatest responsibilities of all committee members, choose wisely in appointing a chair and make sure your chair knows the significant time commitment they will be making. 

Empower Your Faculty Search Committees With Interfolio

As this article shows, serving on a faculty search committee is a significant undertaking. Anything your institution can do to make committee members’ work easier will be welcomed.

Interfolio Faculty Search saves your search committee time and makes the search process easier and more efficient for everyone involved in university faculty recruitment.

  • Interfolio makes it easy to create a job posting and to collect demographic information from 100% of applicants.
  • Interfolio enables your search committee to create specific evaluation criteria and to assign star rankings to each candidate.
  • Documenting the entire search process and having a standardized search workflow is easy when you’re using an online platform devoted to faculty hiring, as Interfolio is.
  • Reviewing application materials is also much simpler when your search committee uses a tool purpose-built for faculty searches.

These are just some of the ways Interfolio Faculty Search can empower your academic hiring committees. To learn about these advantages and others of the module, please schedule a demo today.

If your institution is using general, sector-agnostic faculty recruiting software to recruit candidates, you’re likely missing out on quality candidates.

And that’s not the only cost you’re suffering. Trying to adapt a general software platform to the very specific needs of faculty searches results in a number of pain points, which Clemson University discussed during an Interfolio webinar.

We examine the most common problems below — as well as what you can gain from using a software tool purpose built for faculty recruitment.

A Bad Application Experience Means Lost Applicants

If the software you’re using makes for an aggravating online application experience, applicants are going to abandon their applications and focus their energy on applying to institutions that offer better application experiences.

Clemson University witnessed this firsthand when they were using general faculty recruiting software for faculty job postings. “Our user experience was less than desirable — and that’s putting it very lightly,” says Danielle Arrington, Director of Talent Acquisition at Clemson University. “In this day and age, if an application process or an application system is not user friendly, your applicants are less inclined to complete an application — so this was a major issue for us.”

This shortcoming of their recruiting software led Clemson University to switch to Interfolio Faculty Search, which is purpose built for faculty recruitment in higher education and provides an easy, efficient application experience for applicants. 

“With Interfolio Faculty Search, we’ve been able to drastically improve our overall hiring experience for all parties – including applicants, hiring managers, and search committees,” says Arrington. “We also receive 90% less questions from faculty applicants compared to staff applicants, who are using a different recruiting platform.”

In addition, Interfolio Faculty Search enables institutions to put their branding on the job board and applicant interface, so that your applicants feel they are on your website. 

“We wanted the applicant experience to still feel like you’re working through a Clemson site, so that’s been great for us,” adds Arrington.

General Recruiting Software Makes It Difficult to Establish Evaluation Criteria

Search committees often create custom evaluation criteria for each faculty search, but this capability is often absent from general faculty recruiting software.

With Clemson University’s old recruiting software, “there was no universal way to create evaluation criteria and rate candidates based on those criteria,” says  Arrington. “As a result, departments would create their own paper forms, and when each department is doing its own thing, that leaves the door wide open for biases to creep in.”

In contrast, with Faculty Search, each search committee can create custom evaluation criteria, which are documented and reviewable by administrators and hiring managers. 

In addition, “Interfolio automatically aggregates the ratings and provides an overall rating for each candidate, which can be very easily exported via the reporting function into a neat, user-friendly graphic that can help guide those search committee discussions,” explains Ms. Arrington.

Before implementing Interfolio, Clemson University was creating these reports manually, which took a lot of time. “This new capability has completely opened our bandwidth, making the evaluation process easy, but it also helps engagement among your search committee members,” adds Ms. Arrington.

Viewing Applicant Materials is Challenging with General Recruiting Software

With general faculty recruiting software, your search committees and hiring staff may not be able to easily view the many files that each faculty candidate submits as part of their application. 

“With the general recruitment software we had, there wasn’t a simple way to view applicant materials,” explains Ms. Arrington. “You literally had to click individual attachments one by one, pulling each up in separate windows, which is especially problematic for larger applicant pools. It was a very tedious process.”

Now, Clemson University’s faculty and staff enjoy a much easier process. “We’re able to review applicant materials seamlessly in a single window,” says Ms. Arrington. “You can skip from applicant to applicant or from material to material, whether it’s their cover letter, their CV, letters of reference, etc., which saves you an incredible amount of time. That saved time helps our committees to evaluate their applicant pools more thoroughly.”

Letters of Reference from the Applicant Have Less Valuable Feedback

Another unique aspect of faculty recruiting is collecting letters of reference, something that is generally uncommon when recruiting in other sectors.

Before Clemson implemented Interfolio Faculty Search, their software didn’t enable them to directly request letters of reference from the reference; instead, they had to collect letters of reference from the applicant. Because the reference knows that the applicant will see the letter of reference, the references likely won’t be inclined to say anything critical. 

With Interfolio Faculty Search, on the other hand, hiring committees can send the request to the reference directly, and the process, including request reminders, is automated. Moreover, the applicant cannot see what the reference writes unless you chose to share the letter with the applicant.

Under these circumstances, “you may get more valuable feedback,” says Ms. Arrington.

Reporting Capabilities of General Recruiting Software Are Lacking

Institutions of higher education have many reporting obligations, including to the federal government and accrediting bodies. General recruiting software may not have sufficiently user-friendly or robust reporting capabilities to meet these needs.

With their old recruiting software, Clemson “did not have a user-friendly way to assign and report out applicant dispositions, which we are required to do under federal law,” explains Ms. Arrington. “Moreover, the reporting function on applicant data in our software was incredibly tedious, and you basically needed to be a super user to run the most basic reports.”

Since implementing Interfolio Faculty Search, Clemson University’s “ability to comply with federal reporting requirements has increased tenfold, and a lot of that’s just because of the ease of use,” says Ms. Arrington.

Want to See Faculty Search’s Capabilities in Action?

If you’d like to see how Faculty Search helps institutions like Clemson University more efficiently carry out faculty searches, you can watch the webinar Clemson University on Getting Faculty Hiring Right, which features a demonstration of Faculty Search.

Or you can request a demo of the product here.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd

PhD Student

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Attending graduate school can be fun, exciting, and nerve-racking all at the same time for students. This is especially true for students during their first semester in a graduate program. This piece explores four tips, two for students and two for faculty, on how students can be successful and how faculty can support their students during the crucial transitions that graduate school requires.  

Student Tip #1: Know and Be Known

Graduate school is a meaningful experience that has the potential to shape one’s journey in a variety of ways.  It’s not always about the physical work but also about the self-work needed to progress through. With that, making meaningful connections with constituents within and outside of the institutions you are committed to becomes valuable. Ensure that you are making a conscious effort to get to know others in the research arena and beyond. This can serve as a gateway to make your name known in circles that could help expand your research and help you traverse through critical moments within your study. Getting to know others and allowing others the opportunity to know you opens up a realm of vulnerability that could be beneficial for you now and in the future.

Student Tip #2: Encourage Yourself

Many may have moments and feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you didn’t write as much as you had wanted. Maybe the quality of your work didn’t meet your own expectations. Or maybe you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for. All of these are real experiences one could undergo, but it’s essential to realize that these moments do not determine the totality of who we are. Find ways to encourage yourself throughout the week. Make encouraging notes.  Speak good things about yourself, even when you may feel like a failure—which you are not! Get the proper help and support to ensure your well-being is on track to sustain the rigors that may come with a grad program.

Faculty Tip #1: Get and Stay Curious 

While getting to know your students professionally and personally is essential, this is sometimes a small, overlooked necessity. Take the time to learn what you can about your students, where they see this degree taking them, what research interest they hold, and what excitement, nerve, and fear they bring to the journey. Taking the time to ask curious questions will help to remove any assumptions we may have as faculty, as curiosity will aid in the removal of barriers. 

Faculty Tip #2: Let Go! 

This tip is easier said than done. When we say let go, we mean it. Let go of the ancient ways of instructing, grading, approaching supportive techniques, and mentorship. Lean into innovative trends, strategies, and practices. We are not suggesting that you change everything immediately; however, as educators, we must change our approaches to meet the needs of our students. So, we encourage you to examine your practices and see if they truly align with the mission and goal of aiding student success. Then, we encourage you to seek and implement one new practice that will continue to support student success. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione and @LvnDvs

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd, is a current PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program, focusing on sociolinguistics and how language grants or denies access. He has been working in higher education for nearly 10 years and serves as an Assistant Director for Communication and Learning at Georgetown University. In addition, he also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Anne Arundel Community College in the Academic Literacies Department.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Over the last decade, more and more colleges and universities have expressed their intent to increase faculty diversity.

Higher education is focused on this goal because faculty diversity brings many benefits. These benefits include improved support of students from underrepresented groups and increased intercultural competence of all students.

This article looks at these and other benefits while also presenting tips on how to increase faculty diversity.

What is Faculty Diversity?

Faculty diversity means more than just racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. A diverse faculty should also represent a diversity of abilities, social statuses, sexual orientations, religions, viewpoints, and scholarly interests.

The Importance of Faculty Diversity in Higher Education

Having a diverse faculty brings several demonstrated benefits for students, for the institutional community, and for the faculty themselves.

Improved Student Engagement and Retention

Achieving faculty diversity enhances underrepresented students’ educational experience. For example, minority faculty can serve as mentors of students from underrepresented groups. Moreover, students from underrepresented groups may feel more comfortable talking about their challenges to faculty members with whom they share a background or experiences. 

In general, minority faculty provide much needed support and opportunity for growth and development to students from similar groups.

Consistent with these observations, a study found that 96% of minority students say that studying under minority professors has a positive impact on their education.
Not surprisingly, a more supportive and inclusive educational experience results in improved academic performance. In fact, increased faculty diversity leads to better graduation rates for students from underrepresented groups.

Enhanced Learning Environments

When your faculty come from a variety of backgrounds and have varied interests, your institution can offer a greater diversity of programs and research opportunities. Faculty diversity also broadens classroom discussions, with more perspectives shared.

In addition, when you have a diverse faculty, you attract more students from underrepresented groups to your institution, which itself has a host of beneficial effects.
For example, students’ learning outcomes improve when they informally interact with other students from different racial groups. In particular, these students’ outcomes improve in intellectual engagement, self-motivation, and citizenship and cultural engagement. Students’ academic skills in critical thinking, problem solving, and writing also improve from interacting with students from different backgrounds.

Increased Opportunity and Better Preparation for the “Real” World

The skills students develop in interacting with a diverse faculty and student body also prepare them to successfully interact with the diversity of people they encounter in the real world.

Students graduate into a multicultural world, where the majority of work settings will involve interacting with people of different races, faiths, abilities, and viewpoints. To succeed in these settings, students must recognize the value of different experiences and know how to communicate in a way that is sensitive to these differences. 

Students exposed to diversity during their time in higher education are also more engaged citizens as adults.
In short, students that experience diversity in higher education are better prepared for all facets of adult life.

How to Close the Diversity Gap

Given its many benefits, it’s easy to understand why colleges and universities are eager to increase faculty diversity. 

Nevertheless, many institutions have struggled to make significant progress. Improving diversity in higher education requires addressing multiple challenges, including shortcomings in recruitment and promotion practices as well as pipeline problems (that is, an insufficient number of new PhD graduates from underrepresented groups). 

Below we look only at a subset of the responses needed during faculty recruitment and professional evaluation processes to increase faculty diversity:

Recognize and Guard Against Unconscious Bias

One threat to increasing faculty diversity is unconscious bias: social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness

To combat this threat, institutions should provide staff with needed resources and education. It’s also important that you examine your policies and practices for any potential discriminatory effects. 

Focus on Education

Of course, you should also provide all of your employees with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. Your training program can include multiple levels, including materials that establish a baseline of knowledge and programs that enable faculty to deepen their understanding of DEI issues. Oregon State University is one model of this multi-level approach.

Rethink Hiring

In addition to targeted training and education on DEI issues, an essential step to increase faculty diversity is to improve your hiring practices and policies. You can find concrete ideas on how to make faculty hiring practices work for your diversity goals — rather than against them — in these Interfolio resources:

Promote Diversity in Higher Education With Interfolio

While improving your hiring practices is one important part of increasing faculty diversity, making progress at your institution also depends upon examining your academic review policies and processes.   

Interfolio can help you with that as well. Universities that hire faculty through Interfolio gain a new level of applicant pool data, equitable committee work, and consistency that enables them to reach diverse academic hiring outcomes. 

And institutions like Emory University and others use Interfolio to track DEI-related faculty activities and account for them in the evaluation process.
You can learn more here about how we can support your institution reach its diversity goals — and enjoy the many benefits that come from faculty diversity.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Hiawatha D. Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor, Literacy Education

University of Wisconsin River Falls

Graduate school is an investment in your future. More specifically, it has the potential to positively impact your salary, career opportunities, and knowledge within your field of study. Applying to graduate school can be fun, exciting, frustrating, and anxiety-provoking all at the same time. As faculty who have experienced the infinite emotions that potentially arise when applying to graduate school, we pull from our personal experience to offer four tips to consider when completing the process. During this process, you will want to think about the financial aspects, the admissions requirements, and the benefits of graduate school, but this post moves beyond this to highlight tips that we feel are underlying keys to success. While applying for graduate school can bring some stress, we also encourage you to think deeply about how you may be able to bring joy to this essential decision-making and doing process.  Moreover, whether you are applying to a master’s or doctoral program, we are sure that these tips will aid in supporting both processes.   

Tip #1: Investigate the Program. Is it a Mutually Good Fit?

This tip might seem like common sense, but it is often overlooked. Therefore, we urge you to complete a thorough investigation of the program you are contemplating before completing an application. It is important to understand the program’s requirements, features, and outcomes, as well as your goals/needs from your graduate experience. These program components are inconsistent across universities and therefore merit a solid exploration. Here are some ideas to consider when exploring and applying to a program. What is the format of the program? Is it face-to-face, hybrid (regular or intermittent meeting schedule), or fully online? What are the requirements for completion? Is there a thesis, research project, practicum, or external assessment required to complete the degree requirements? Last, what are your goals for the program? Are you interested in a new career, career advancement, or advanced certification? After investigating these, ask yourself if this is a mutually good fit.  

Tip #2: Chat with Students & Faculty in Your Desired Program

A tip that could be reasonably simple—yet take you a long way—is to make an effort to connect with students and faculty affiliated with the graduate program under consideration. Connecting in this way could not only put your face with your name for faculty when making decisions about acceptance, but it could also give you some inside perspective on if this is indeed the right program for you and your life. Remember, just as much as your desired program is taking a chance on you, you also need to be sure the program feels like a good home and fit for you. Lastly, folks closely aligned and affiliated with your program are uniquely positioned to help you understand the journey to and completion through the graduate program. So, we say, use your resources, and work smart, not hard.   

Tip #3: Ask an Alum to Write A Letter of Recommendation 

We admit this tip is more strategic than a traditional must-do for your application. Securing a letter of recommendation from a graduate of your desired program shows your potential institution and program your passion and connection to the content area.. Having a letter from someone who has completed the program you are applying to serves as a gesture of goodwill and ability. You are signaling to the program that not only do you believe you can, but others who have successfully done it believe you can as well. Lastly, asking an alum to write you a strong letter of recommendation also puts the program in a position to justify why they went against the better judgment of someone they trained themselves, should they decide to deny your application. If “real recognize real,” then having an alum to highly recommend you in a letter should make your application for admission even stronger.   

Tip #4: Plan your Personal Statement

This statement has many names, but it has a single goal, to showcase you for the reviewers. This essential component of the application process is a snapshot of who you are beyond the other application materials. It highlights your intentions and goals, how you fit within the program, and why you should be admitted to the program. With the importance of this document, you should carefully plan this statement. Read then reread the prompt(s) for the statement. Be sure you understand exactly what it is asking you to do. Next, jot down notes to be sure you answer all components. Then, think about what makes you unique, what makes you stand out? Integrate this within your written narrative, highlighting the unique qualities that make you a good candidate for the program. Last, are there faculty you wish to work with during your program? Identify them for the reviewers. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Hiawatha D. Smith, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy education at the University of Wisconsin River Falls. In addition to his teaching responsibilities within the teacher education department, he is the director of the graduate elementary education program.  Dr. Smith is a member of the Diversity Scholars Network at the University of Michigan and a 2022 NCTE Early Career Educator of Color award recipient.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Each faculty hiring decision is an opportunity to strengthen your institution. Securing top talent attracts students and research funding and brings new perspectives to your campus.

That’s why it’s critical to have an effective faculty recruitment process in place.

To help your institution achieve this goal, this article guides you through best practices for each stage of recruitment.

The Faculty Recruitment Process

Develop A Position Description

Creating a position description will guide your efforts in all subsequent faculty recruitment steps because the description is a specific statement of what type of candidate you need for the role.

The challenge is to strike a balance between broad, inclusive language and specific details on what your institution wants. The former will encourage a diverse pool while the latter will help others understand the role and the attributes you value most.

To be welcoming, you should state your institution’s and department’s commitment to diversity and encourage applications from individuals whose research, teaching, and service will foster academic diversity and excellence. 

To achieve specificity, the position description should detail responsibilities, minimum requirements, and the department’s or school’s values and mission. You can also provide a sense of how much flexibility the role will offer in course design and other responsibilities.

Form and Train a Search Committee

Once your department has created a position description, you’ll need to form a search committee with a diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds. Members of the committee should include members of underrepresented groups.

If appropriate, you may also want to consider including faculty from outside the department with relevant expertise.

It’s also preferable to have an odd number of members to avoid deadlocked votes.

To guide each search committee, your institution should establish a uniform training program that teaches the institution’s procedural, ethical, and legal guidelines for searches as well as any best practices your institution has developed.

The more you establish uniform practices, procedures, and training in your faculty recruitment process, the more likely you’ll achieve your institution’s faculty recruitment goals.

Develop a Search Plan and Agree on Decision Criteria

Once the search committee is in place and trained, they can develop a search plan to find the right candidates that match the position description. 

The search plan should detail how you will advertise the job and build awareness among relevant groups. 

Make sure to build diversity into the search plan by including steps that involve actively reaching out to groups and networks to attract diverse candidates. You can find specific resources on how to attract a diverse candidate pool in this article.

The search plan should also specify how the search committee will ultimately pick a candidate for the position and what criteria it will weigh. The committee can rank its selection criteria in terms of departmental priorities. In addition, committees should agree upon the system of ranking applicants (such as on a scale from 1 to 5).

If your institution has specific requirements for how searches should be conducted and how hiring decisions should be made, the search plan would also need to include these requirements.

For example, if your institution requires a certain number of interviews or a practice lecture before students, be sure your plan explicitly incorporates these steps.

You’ll also want your search plan to spell out the hiring timeline, which is built backwards from when you want the new hire to start.

Implement the Plan and Monitor the Candidate Pool

With the plan in hand, the search committee should post the job opening on all planned platforms and begin personal outreach to increase applications.

To ensure you’re on track to achieve your diversity goals, you can regularly monitor the number and diversity of applications received. You may also want to compare the diversity of the candidate pool to the known diversity within a field.

For example, if the opening is in biology, you would want to compare the relative percentage of female applicants in your pool to the relative percentage of female graduates with a biology PhD (which was 51.4% in 2019).

If only 25% of your candidates for this position are female, then you’ll want to take corrective actions to increase the percentage of women in your pool before the submission period closes.

Review Applications, Conduct Interviews, and Select a Candidate

Your search committee likely will have begun reviewing applications while the submission period was open, and after the submission date closes, the search committee would review any remaining applications.

If you still haven’t met your diversity goals, you might also solicit applications from specific qualified individuals.

Depending on your search plan, you might then create a long list of candidates based on the previously established criteria and conduct remote interviews. This process would in turn inform your short list of candidates.

The remaining steps of the process, including interviews and candidate selection, would follow the procedures you established in your search plan.

As you begin to weigh candidates, be careful not to commit these cognitive errors, including over-reliance on a first impression or falling prey to group-think.

Conversely, be sure to follow these additional best practices, including having a core set of questions you ask in each interview and interacting with faculty candidates in more than one context. 

You can also find best practices for this stage of recruitment and all the other stages in the Interfolio White Paper: The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

A Modern Approach to Faculty Recruitment

Before you start working on a massive Excel spreadsheet or binder to capture all the details of your new faculty recruitment process, you should consider that it’s much easier to capture and implement standard procedures through a digital platform.

With Interfolio Faculty Search, your institution can establish an easily accessible digital source of truth for applications and faculty hiring procedures and create digital workflows that ensure academic hiring follows those procedures across your institution.

At the same time, individual search committees can customize their search in a number of ways: establishing the exact evaluation criteria they will be using for their search; creating the position description and list of required materials; and pushing the job posting to specific groups and sites.

If you’re not sure where to advertise the position, the module can help with that too by collecting data on where applicants are finding your postings. You can then prioritize advertising spending on those sites that yield the biggest number of applicants.

Once the position is published and you begin receiving applications, you can easily monitor the diversity of the candidate pool because Faculty Search collects real-time, self-reported, anonymous demographic survey responses.

You can read more about how your peer institutions have benefited from adopting Faculty Search’s digital advantages by reading this eBook: Achieving Faculty Excellence through Recruitment and Hiring.

And if you’re interested in seeing firsthand how Interfolio Faculty Search can help you modernize your institution’s faculty recruitment, you can request a demo of the module.

What does it mean to have a diverse faculty in higher education? A diverse faculty is one that brings diverse experiences and backgrounds to their roles as educators and researchers; represents a diversity of races, ethnicities, genders, ages, sexual orientations, and abilities; and includes a diversity of scholary interests, viewpoints, and learning styles.

You likely already know how such diversity can improve student body diversity and success as well as broaden scholarship and human understanding. Many colleges and universities have robust plans in place around diversity, equity, and inclusion — but how many are realizing their goals for faculty diversity?

To help more institutions in higher education fulfill their vision of greater faculty diversity, this article outlines key steps to take that will enable both short-term progress and long-term success.

The Benefits of Having a Diverse Faculty

Research shows that faculty diversity in higher education supports the success of students from underrepresented groups as well as all students’ intercultural competence

Moreover, female students feel that they receive more help and support from faculty of the same gender. Given that 59.5% of U.S. college students are women, having more female faculty is essential to making the majority of your students receive the help and support they want.

Faculty diversity in scholarship and research also expands societal knowledge and understanding, whether through an African-American researcher uncovering the reasons for racial disparities in blood pressure, a scholar from a disadvantaged community studying the effect of early-childhood stress on life outcomes, or a professor with a disability publishing about disability justice. 

How to Increase Faculty Diversity in Higher Education

Increasing faculty diversity depends upon success in multiple areas: 

  • ensuring a campus-wide commitment to diversity efforts;
  • improving hiring practices; and 
  • developing resources that support the success of faculty members from underrepresented groups.

Below we elaborate on how to succeed in each of these areas.

Ensuring A Campus-Wide Commitment to Faculty Diversity – and Policies that Support that Commitment

Higher education administrators and department chairs should weave their institution’s commitment to faculty diversity into strategic plans and mission statements — as well as institutional policies.

For example, institutional policies relating to faculty workloads and faculty review, promotion, and tenure need to be reexamined in light of how they impact faculty diversity. Institutions may need to adjust these policies to improve attraction and retention of diverse candidates. 

Administrators can also remind all community members of their institution’s diversity goals by reaffirming them during campus talks and meetings. 

Of course, realizing a commitment to faculty diversity also depends upon making specific changes to hiring practices.

Five Steps in Hiring Practices to Increase Faculty Diversity

Faculty affairs administrators and departments have the ability and responsibility to actualize their institution’s faculty diversity goals. 

The first step each department should take is to set goals for diversity and inclusion by:

  • Discussing long-term goals related to faculty diversity and inclusion in hiring;
  • Assessing past successes and failures with diversity goals — which informs practices going forward; and
  • Discussing ways that faculty recruitment and selection processes can be more inclusive.

For example, for business schools that lack faculty from underrepresented groups, departments might discuss dropping the requirement of a Ph.D. for tenure-track candidates and instead consider candidates based on their business experience and/or possession of an MBA degree.

One outcome of this initial broad discussion is that your department will likely recognize the importance of this second step in hiring practices:

  • Electing an inclusive search committee and implementing strategies to encourage multiple opinions.

If your department’s current make-up is not especially diverse, you can always include members from other departments to achieve an inclusive search committee.

The third step is for the hiring manager and search committee to develop a broad and active recruitment plan.

This plan would naturally have the goal of attracting a large and diverse pool of applicants. The plan would also include specific recruitment strategies that would ensure wide dissemination of the opportunity. For example, the plan would likely call for the search committee and hiring manager to identify resources that would ensure wide distribution of the position announcement.

“Most fields have listservs, email groups, and other resources that can help you identify or reach qualified underrepresented candidates,” notes this UCDavis resource

In general, search committees must actively seek out diverse candidates, as this University of Washington resource argues:

“Transforming the search process requires that the committee do more than simply place ads and wait for applicants to express interest. Search committees can use personal and professional networks of existing faculty and students, and discipline-based organizations, and take advantage of publications and web sites that specialize in the recruitment of diverse faculty members.”

This list of resources for finding underrepresented faculty candidates is one place to look.

Personal outreach is another strategy that can be included in the plan.

Once you have your plan, the fourth step naturally is to implement and monitor the recruitment plan.

Make sure job announcements reach a broad audience by including outlets such as minority-serving publications, listservs, bulletin boards, and blogs. For example, you will likely want to post on the DiversityTrio job boards, which receive high traffic from faculty candidates from diverse backgrounds.

You can also use personal and professional networks to find leads for potential minority candidates. For example, you might reach out to your institution’s black alumni association and similar networks to spread the word about the opportunity.

It’s also critical that you monitor the diversity of the candidate pool while the submission window is open, not after. You want to preserve the ability to redouble your efforts if your initial results are lackluster.

As you implement your recruitment plan, you’ll also want to take this fifth step: create an inclusive advertisement.

To achieve this, make sure the job advertisement clearly indicates your institution’s commitment to equity and diversity. Research shows that this practice is more likely to result in the hiring of a candidate from an underrepresented group.

In addition, define the position in the broadest possible terms consistent with the department’s needs. Try not to define overly narrow experience requirements and to instead indicate your openness to non-traditional career experiences and pathways. For example, if you are hiring a professor of public policy, you might note in the posting that you are open to candidates with extensive public policy experience and that you do not require either a master’s or Ph.D.

Providing Support for Faculty Members from Underrepresented Groups

To attract and retain a diverse faculty, you must also make your institution appealing for candidates from underrepresented groups. 

To do so, you must look at your institutional policies relating to faculty workloads and promotion, as mentioned earlier, as well as create an inclusive culture with practices that support faculty members from underrepresented groups.

For example, creating mentorship programs dedicated to these faculty is just one approach that could enable these faculty members to flourish.

Your institution may also want to pursue discussions and relationships with local and national minority organizations and other associations. These conversations can focus on other potential strategies for supporting faculty members from underrepresented groups.

How Interfolio Can Help You Deliver on Faculty Diversity

The Interfolio Faculty Information System supports your efforts to increase faculty diversity at every stage.

When you are trying to recruit a diverse pool of candidates, Faculty Search offers you the capability of assessing your pool during the submission window and intervening if the pool is not diverse enough. That’s because Faculty Search enables you to collect real-time, self-reported, anonymous demographic survey responses from 100% of applicants.

In addition, if your search committee has devised specific evaluation criteria, such as whether candidates offer real-world experience, Faculty Search enables you to make such custom criteria part of your digital workflow.

As you hire more faculty members from underrepresented groups, Review, Promotion & Tenure helps you support them because it provides a documented review process that increases consistency and transparency.

The Faculty Activity Reporting module also makes it easy for faculty to document activities relating to student support, service, and diversity. 

Need Additional Help in Implementing Your Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Goals?

Download Interfolio’s Best Practices Checklist: Achieving Diversity Across the Academic Lifecycle to see whether you’ve adopted the best strategies for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty candidates.