Tufts Launches New Faculty Hiring Program to Advance Racial Equity

Fifteen new hires will occur in clusters organized around themes aligned with the university’s educational and research priorities

Tufts recently established Connecting the Community of Tufts Scholars (CCTS), a new university-wide faculty hiring initiative. Its aim is to recruit and increase the impact of faculty whose work contributes to Tufts’ pursuit of racial equity in its research, scholarship, and curriculum.

“Building a critical mass of faculty whose work centers race, racism, racial equity, and justice is core to Tufts’ pursuit of inclusive excellence,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Caroline Genco. “CCTS represents a significant investment from university leadership in bringing talented researchers together across disciplines and from diverse backgrounds to support their success through a network that provides mentoring, leadership development, and community.”

A major initiative of the Provost’s Office, CCTS is directed explicitly and exclusively toward Tufts’ educational and research mission, according to Augusta Rohrbach, associate provost for faculty initiatives. “Importantly, the program is designed to both have an impact on the education and research happening at the university today and at the same time to shape the institution going forward.” Rohrbach is currently serving as co-chair of the CCTS executive committee and has responsibility for operationalizing the program.

A New Approach to Hiring

The Connecting the Community of Tufts Scholars program will pursue those goals through a series of “cluster” hires. Over the next three to five years, it will hire three clusters of five faculty members each across Tufts schools, for a total of 15 new faculty members. The clusters will be linked to themes that align with the university’s larger goals.

The first cluster, to be hired this academic year and to start on campus next fall, will focus on the theme of climate.

Tufts has long had a significant commitment to climate research and education across its schools and programs, noted Monroe France, vice provost for institutional inclusive excellence. Along with Genco, France is part of the CCTS executive leadership team, which facilitates the work of the initiative’s standing committees and which partners with the deans of the university’s schools throughout the process. France also co-chairs the CCTS executive committee with Rohrbach.

“Now, with the first cluster hire of this program, we’re deepening our commitment to Tufts’ mission of providing transformational experiences in education, research, and scholarship,” said France. “CCTS puts diversity at the center of our academic pursuits—in this first case, our research on climate solutions. That is the kind of innovation that creates excellence.”

While the search for the first faculty cohort is underway, CCTS is calling for proposals for the second and third themes using a “grassroots” process that invites faculty input through a series of workshops convened university-wide, according to Rohrbach. “It’s crucial for us to access the widest range of proposals from stakeholders across Tufts,” she said. Those workshops will begin this fall.

“CCTS is one way in which we put resources toward our goal of institutional inclusive excellence... Ultimately, it brings us one step closer to creating more equity in our scholarly community—and a better Tufts.”

Caroline Genco, Provost and Senior Vice President

Support for New Hires—and All Faculty

Once a cluster has been identified, hiring departments at the individual schools establish search committees, using school-based processes to recruit and hire their new colleagues. In their searches, the schools have an additional CCTS resource: an equity advisor—a trained expert who works with the search committee to promote an inclusive and equitable hiring process.

The addition of equity advisors to the process is a research-based practice to support cluster-hire programs that creates consistency across the searches. The advisors bring their expertise to structural elements of the search, like the writing of inclusive job descriptions, ensuring job announcements are shared to a variety of outlets to attract a diverse candidate pool, and helping to create appropriate search criteria. Equity advisors are typically faculty or staff outside of the school of the hiring department.

As the workshops exploring options for other cluster hire themes get under way, a separate committee will devise mentoring and professional development programs designed with specific opportunities for the newly hired cohorts—and with the potential to ultimately benefit all university faculty.

The programmatic offerings will provide support and leadership training in a collegial environment. That’s by design, according to Rohrbach, as the CCTS cluster hires are intended to foster a culture of inclusivity and openness in which faculty can readily exchange ideas, findings, and best practices.

Creating “a Better Tufts”

Built into the design of the program is the intention to make strides that extend racial equity beyond Tufts’ campuses. “As we hire these groups in each theme, we are investing in their growth and development and supporting them in their research projects and other endeavors,” said France. “Then, when they are teaching in their classrooms and when they take their research into the world, they’ll be looking at their endeavors through a lens of racial equity. That has a broad impact.”

Rohrbach, too, cites “a ripple effect” for CCTS. “The research impacts will help build a culture, a world, that is more equitable and inclusive,” she said. “And students who have worked with these faculty will go out into the workforce. There are layers and layers of effects.”

With several groups working together under the umbrella of the program, there will be a strong foundation for implementing the program’s priorities and goals, Rohrbach said. The school deans play an active role in CCTS, including working with their department chairs and faculty to propose cluster areas, including ones that cross schools. They will also help to select committee members and support retention efforts.

The faculty recruitment committee has responsibility for overseeing the proposal selection process and faculty hiring to ensure transparency and best-practice processes. The faculty development committee plays a key role in both recruitment efforts and creating a sustainable network of support for faculty hires. An evaluation committee has been designed to track outcome data to support continuous improvement of the program. The executive committee will implement strategies to support the program and make hiring recommendations to the provost.

“Working together, these committees will have the potential to create a holistic depth from a pretty simple structure,” said Rohrbach.

And that depth, according to France, is part of a comprehensive strategy to create a more equitable institution. “We need to spread the work of creating equity throughout the institution,” he explained. “It needs to be embedded in all our practices, our teaching, our learning, how we work, where we do work, how we engage with our students, and our student leadership.”

In that sense, the Connecting the Community of Tufts Scholars program is one part of a much larger effort. “CCTS is one way in which we put resources toward our goal of institutional inclusive excellence,” said Genco. “Through CCTS, we’ve convened a dynamic group of people across the institution to help us think through all aspects of the program. Ultimately, it brings us one step closer to creating more equity in our scholarly community—and a better Tufts.”

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