College to fill faculty positions

by Beacon Staff • February 18, 2009

While colleges across the country are cutting faculty and programs to accommodate the fiscal crisis, Emerson College is turning the depression to its favor, creating three new full-time professorships and filling vacated or adjunct positions.

"Emerson is continuing its regular process of hiring faculty rather than freezing unfilled positions," said Janis Andersen, dean of the School of Communication. "We are doing this because they are critical positions to the educational excellence of the school and Emerson is in a relatively solid financial position to be able to continue its important business."

The newly-created positions to be filled are in electronic publishing, visual and media arts and communication sciences and disorders, said Vice President of Academic Affairs Linda Moore. Daniel Kempler, chair of the Communication Sciences and Disorders department said search committees are currently interviewing for two positions. Applicants for these and other openings range from 40-80 people per position.

Dean of the School of the Arts Grafton Nunes said he is proceeding with searches for full-time professors in fiction, screenwriting and cinematography in addition to the new electronic publishing professor. Andersen said she is also looking for a professor for business, and has already hired Julie Volkman, who is currently completing her Ph.D. at Penn State, as a health communication professor.

The world history professorship has received well over 100 applications and Emerson plans to begin interviewing next month. Professor Mike Brown, who is part of the history professor search committee, expressed his satisfaction with this year's applicants, compared to previous year's searches.

"I have been involved in 10 to 12 searches in the past and this was as good a pool of talent as I have ever seen," he said.

In accordance with President Jacqueline Liebergott's December announcement of "belt-tightening", no new positions have been created this year, but searches already underway were approved in last year's budgetary cycle.

Andersen said she sees Emerson hiring as a "silver lining" in the gloom of the fiscal crisis. Heightened competition created by a smaller employment market gives colleges like Emerson, which can afford to fill vacated positions, a significant advantage over those colleges that cannot, she said.

"Because there are more limited job opportunities, those who have opportunities are in a position to attract a very high quality applicant pool," said Andersen. "This is true in higher education and in every other business sector. If you happen to be running a business that is relatively stable financially, you are in a good position to have high quality labor available."

The school will not institute any "hiring freezes," where even unfilled positions are left empty. This is a measure other colleges have had to implement, effectively cutting their faculty. Additionally, Emerson will not be cutting money anywhere along faculty lines, Andersen wrote in an e-mail message. Departments in both the School of Communication and the School of the Arts are making several streamlining cuts instead.

By hiring for those unfilled positions, Emerson is replacing the temporary adjunct faculty with fulltime professors, which will allow the college to continue honoring the vow made five years ago by the Board of Trustees to increase the number of full-time faculty available to students. The college currently employs 162 full-time professors, up from 139 in 2004.

Andersen said she expects the searches to be completed by the end of the academic year.