Attracting Academics to Duluth~Superior
Even though Duluth is oft-referred to as a “college town,” it’s not like our local institutions of higher learning just have to put up a quick ad on www.indeed.com and wait for applications from potential professors to come rolling in. On the contrary – our colleges put a great deal of effort into attracting teachers as well as students, and the process is quite involved.
“It’s crucial that we reach out to recruit faculty,” says Dr. Andrea Schokker, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. “When we have a position open, we want to get one of the top people in that area of expertise, and we also want to make sure we have a diverse group of applicants.”
After they review qualifications on paper, they want to have a large enough pool of finalists to make sure that they are able to find the person with great qualifications who also fits well with the college. That means advertising faculty openings in national journals for higher education — online and print — as well as in journals specific to the discipline where they are recruiting.
“We also use our professional networks from conferences to get the word out about positions,” she explains. “Many times we have applicants apply because they’ve met another faculty member from UMD or have heard about UMD through their PhD adviser and know that there are great people to work with here.”
At the University of Wisconsin-Superior, the school touts its uniqueness, as well as the perks of living in the area.
“We tell them they’ll know their students by name,” says Peter D. Nordgren, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Outreach at UW-Superior. “We talk about how our students work hard both in their academic duties and in their lives outside of class. We point out the excellent cultural and recreational opportunities in the Twin Ports area and the surrounding region —the Apostle Islands, state parks, state and national forests, BWCAW. We mention high-quality health care and the proximity to other colleges and universities. We share Wisconsin’s higher-education heritage, and our tradition of university service to the people of the state through the UW system.”
UMD’s Schokker says that the area’s natural beauty is also important for their prospects: “The city of Duluth is a big selling point once we have people visit for interviews,” she says. “People who are not from the region often expect the ‘cold north’ but don’t realize the natural beauty of the region. Lake Superior as well as the tremendous opportunities for outdoors activities are a big draw, as well as Duluth itself.”
Beth Domholdt, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the College of St. Scholastica, says that the recruitment process works similarly at her school, but that the history and values that built it over a hundred years ago are an important point.
“We emphasize the values from our Catholic, Benedictine heritage that ground our institution, and the way in which we create a strong sense of community at the College,” Domholdt says. “Just as students come to St. Scholastica for its ‘challenge with support’ approach to higher education, faculty are attracted to an institution that values and supports excellent teaching.”
For the Duluth region, St. Scholastica emphasizes the outdoor environment, the low-hassle lifestyle, and a vibrant cultural and fine arts community, Domholdt continues. “We’ve successfully recruited many faculty from out-of-state. Faculty hires for our extended sites in St. Paul, Brainerd, St. Cloud, and Rochester are typically from the region. Faculty in online programs live in many different states and are able to telecommute.”
Obviously, the process of attracting qualified, eager people to be part of the teaching staff of one of our local schools involves a lot of different aspects. Of course, the money has to be right, and the job has to be good, with good benefits. But it’s interesting to note that what draws people to the area – its natural wonders – can be just as attractive, and as big a selling point. An old phrase says it best: If you got it, flaunt it.
Tony Bennett is a Duluth-based writer.