University of Oregon

Defining a Faculty Position

Every tenure-related search affects the future of the department and the university for years, possibly decades, to come.  As a result, defining the position has long-term implications.  Discussion of new or replacement faculty positions can be a great opportunity to review current and future directions that are developing within the discipline/professional field and the department.

These can be difficult discussions because they can generate or revisit differing and strongly held opinions about departmental directions and resources.  Careful management of these discussions, ensuring that all perspectives are heard in a respectful environment, is critical in order to allow the important conversations to take place.

Current thinking on defining a faculty position:

Define a position consistent with current and future departmental needs, rather than by the expertise of the incumbent or by past positions.  Consider the following questions:

  • In what ways has our department evolved since our last tenure-related search or since the incumbent was hired?
  • Are there any departmental traditions or assumptions about this faculty position that need to be examined and/or challenged?
    • E.g. “Active outreach to diverse faculty is not necessary because our department’s academic ranking and reputation leads to a high volume of candidates.”
  • What have we heard from students, colleagues or others about what expertise or experience our department/program currently lacks?
  • How can we frame the position to attract candidates who will both expand departmental strengths, and attract and support underrepresented students

Think critically about whether the needs of the department, including the need to be responsive to an increasingly diverse population, will be best served by a search that is very broad or one that is more focused in terms of area(s) of specialization, rank and other specific requirements.

Define the position so it is more likely to attract candidates with the ability and experience to support an inclusive learning environment and effectively mentor peers and students from diverse backgrounds.

    For more specific information on developing the position announcement, click here.

    For more specific information on developing selection criteria, click here.


    Diamond, R. M. (2002). Defining scholarship for the twenty-first century.  New Directions for Teaching and Learning,  2002: 73–80. doi: 10.1002/tl.57 [PDF]

    Smith, D. (2000).  How to Diversity the Faculty.  Academe.  Vol. 86, No. 5 (Sep. – Oct., 2000), pp. 48-52
    Published by: American Association of University Professors.

    Trachtenberg, S.J. 2007. Goodbye to Procrustes and Goldilocks. Inside Higher Ed, October 18, 2007. Retrieved on October 19, 2007.

    Wheeler, Daniel.  National Academy for Academic Leadership. Critical components of departmental success.

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