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Search Advocate program creates fairer hiring process

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What happens when a job description is too specific, too vague, or based on assumptions about what counts as meeting the qualifications? The pool of candidates could shrink and become less diverse. In an effort to refine its search and hiring process and become a fair, people-centered employer of choice, CU Denver is piloting a new search promotion program. The role of a research advocate is to advance inclusive excellence by asking questions to help research committee members test their thinking, identify and promote practices that advance equity, access and inclusion, and to minimize the impacts of cognitive and structural biases.

Amy Ferrel

Two research advocates in the first cohort are Amy Ferrell, PhD, associate professor of special education in the School of Education and Human Development, who serves on SEHD’s new dean’s research committee, and James Speed, coordinator policies for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which sits on the Associate Vice Chancellor Research Committee. In 2020, they completed a mandatory 16-hour training, hosted by the CU System DEI office and led by Oregon State University, which has trained more than 800 of its faculty and staff in research-based best practices for fair hiring processes. Search Advocates play a critical role throughout search processes in developing positions and posting job openings, recruiting, screening, interviewing, referrals, assessment and onboarding . Often these members serve as external or non-voting members of the committee to help maintain impartiality.

“The idea is to broaden the pool of candidates and select people in rather than out,” said Ferrell, whose research focuses on diversity, equity, inclusion and power within systems. She added: “Inclusion does not resolve power imbalances, however. We have to take care of people after they come here, so it’s a small way to check the status quo within our systems.

James Speed

Speed ​​said research advocates help committees avoid groupthink and personal bias. “When someone says an individual is a ‘good fit’ for a position, we ask the committee to explore what exactly that means,” Speed ​​said. “It creates a common understanding and language, and creates a space where every member of a research committee feels comfortable contributing.”

The CU system has partnered with Oregon State University for three years and will host research advocate training twice a year. To date, 59 people across the system have received the training. Ferrell would like to see personnel search advocates participate in faculty searches to “practice what we preach” and value the expertise of others, regardless of rank or position. Those interested in becoming a Research Advocate should contact their supervisors, who will in turn receive a call from the Provost’s Office and DEI’s office when the next cohorts of staff and faculty are formed over the coming year. Those involved with the program agree that this work is necessary for CU Denver to become an equity-serving institution that prioritizes diversity and inclusion in how it reinvents the needed workforce. to serve an increasingly diverse student population and body of knowledge in a globally connected world.

“Diverse talent hires happen because our search committees and hiring managers live in a mindset of fairness long before the job description is even posted. The kind of institution we want to become is written in our 2030 strategic plan, and the Research Advocacy Program is just an on-ramp on the journey,” said the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, equity and inclusion Antonio Farias. “We work with documented and effective practices. If we succeed, everyone wins. »