Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
A cluster search seeks multiple faculty members from across disciplines who are working in a particular interdisciplinary field with the potential for broader social impact. Cluster hires have the potential to expand the University’s diversity and to reduce discipline- and institution-generated barriers to research. These searches are conducted collaboratively by several schools or departments. Rather than focusing on a particular school or particular “line,” the search committee reserves judgment on the appropriate tenure home (or homes) for the faculty members until after it has identified the strongest set of candidates in the broad interdisciplinary field. See the complete list of approved cluster searches.
UVA has embarked on a multi-year pan-university cluster hiring initiative, in which up to 20 new faculty members will be recruited each year through cluster searches with central financial assistance. Cluster searches provide both unique opportunities and specific challenges. This orientation document is intended to help search committees to navigate these challenges so that they will be poised to capitalize on this extraordinary opportunity.
The Search Committee(s):
Pre-Approval: Cluster searches must be pre-approved by the Provost's Office. The Provost has already approved this year’s cluster searches. View the complete list of approved cluster searches.
Cross-School Search Committee: Once a cluster search has been approved, all of the schools who are involved in that cluster need to work together to develop a cross-school search committee that understands the interdisciplinary nature of the enterprise, will work collaboratively to build a pool, and then evaluate and recruit the strongest candidate.
Flexible Structure: Different types of clusters might benefit from different search committee structures. For example, a larger cluster bringing together disparate fields, and thus seeking to recruit candidates from disparate fields, may benefit from having an overarching steering committee and several smaller search committees.
EOCR Certification: In addition to provost approval, each committee still needs to undergo EOCR certification, as with all faculty searches. EOCR’s guide to searches is available here.
Length of Commitment: Cluster searches often take longer than “regular” searches. We recommend meeting as a committee as soon as possible after the search has been approved. The search committee needs time to formulate a purpose and scope for the search that may not be as obvious as in a more traditional field.
Know Your Norms: Because the search may span several departments or schools, HR processes and disciplinary timetables may differ and the committee will need to plan for how to accommodate these differences. The committees that waited until December or January last year had a difficult time completing their searches.
Early Assignment: Request that a dedicated HR professional be assigned from one of the schools to assist the committee right away. Last year, some searches did not do this, and then had problems getting support when they needed it.
Factors to consider:
- the amount of experience the HR professionals from the involved schools have had with complex faculty searches
- the number of searches they are already supporting
The relative likelihood that the new faculty will be housed in a particular school.
Call on Your Dean(s): If you cannot find an HR professional to support the search, you will need to get the respective deans’ offices involved to find a solution, which may include redistributing someone’s workload to free them up to assist your committee.
Point of Contact/Tracking System: In most cases, your HR professional will be your “point of contact” in the new Cluster Search online tracking system. This person will be trained in a separate session on this simple shared tool that will allow them (and the Provost’s office) to keep track of the stages of each cluster search.
Communicate: Early and strong communication with your designated HR professional will be important to the committee’s success.
Creating a large and diverse pool. Here are some suggestions:
Many committees advertised widely in a variety of journals last year and varied the text of their advertisements to appeal to multiple audiences. This is a good practice to continue.
New this year, the Provost’s office can loan your HR professional a Chronicle of Higher Education “Vitae” license, which allows for targeted searches of the faculty who have posted their CVs to Vitae.
All of our regular job postings now automatically flow directly from Jobs@UVa to InsideHigherEd online for no additional cost.
We have also negotiated competitive rates ($1,150 per ad) with InsideHigherEd to place “spotlight” ads on their website, which will make your search prominent; please let us know if you are interested in purchasing an ad to reach a wider audience and generate buzz (email Alex Rebhorn).
- Several of our hires last year were nominated by faculty and applied only after encouragement from a committee member, so please use your faculty and your personal network to build your pool.
- Many committees advertised widely in a variety of journals last year and varied the text of their advertisements to appeal to multiple audiences. This is a good practice to continue.
Consistent yet Flexible: Coming up with consistent criteria is more difficult when interviewing people from disparate fields than it is in more traditional searches. A frank discussion early on about what constitutes a strong candidate in the various fields likely to be included in the search can help your committee develop criteria that are adaptable to different fields. Having this discussion early prevents late-breaking disagreements about credentials later on, and also helps the committee to understand the feedback it will receive from faculty in the relevant fields throughout the process.
Scope and Volume: Several of last year’s committees noted that they needed to do more screening interviews than for a narrower search because they had to be open to unusual possibilities and it was harder to eliminate candidates on paper alone. For the searches where one committee was looking for several faculty members, the interviewing load was larger simply because of sheer volume.
Strategies: Skype interviews were a common solution, as was dividing up the committee so that each interview could be conducted by only two representatives of the committee. For this to work effectively, the committee needs to agree on standard questions ahead of time and ensure that there is a mix of interviewers in each interview (e.g., one from the candidate’s home field, one from a disparate field).
New Resource: As with most searches today, dual career issues were a challenge. This year, we have the advantage of a newly-established Dual Careers Program, with Carolyn Kalantari as director.
Encourage self-disclosure: We have postcards you can distribute at conferences or in information packets, and a website where spouses and partners of potential faculty can self-identify confidentially early on in the process and begin a Charlottesville job search. We can also help you explore opportunities once you have made an offer (but keep in mind we are more likely to be successful when we have more time!).
Act Early: Make a referral to the Dual Career Program as soon as a candidate lets you know that they have a dual career issue, and let all candidates know about our program, regardless of whether you think they have a partner.
Policy: A hire resulting from a cluster search might, but will not necessarily be, a joint appointment. To prepare for this contingency, you should review the Policy on Faculty Appointment Types and Titles. This policy describes the different arrangements available for joint appointments, which include (1) a primary appointment in one school with a courtesy appointment in another; (2) a primary appointment in one school with a secondary appointment (limited term renewable contract) in another; or (3) a jointly-tenured or tenure-track appointment.
MOU Template: To help you with joint TTT appointments we have created a template for a Memorandum of Understanding that you can use as a starting-point.
Requirements: Please note that the MOU needs to be signed by each dean, the faculty member, and the provost. The deans, not the search committee, are responsible for negotiating the MOU. Knowing the potential options, however, can be useful for the committee in preparing the relevant deans and the candidates for the possible outcomes for the search and giving them adequate lead-time to begin discussing the details of an MOU between schools.