SPH Launches Faculty Hiring Search to Advance New Strategic Research Directions
The search, which is the largest faculty recruitment effort in the school’s history, is geared toward candidates with expertise in at least one of the five strategic research areas identified in SPH’s strategy map.
The School of Public Health will welcome cross-cutting expertise, diverse perspectives, and equity-oriented action to its community as it embarks on an ambitious faculty hiring search this summer and fall.
The search, which launched this month, is the largest faculty recruitment effort in the school’s history. Unlike previous searches, which have filled departmental needs, this effort is school-wide with a goal to hire experts who will advance the five strategic research directions identified in SPH’s strategy map. The strategic research areas—cities and health; climate, the planet, and health; health inequities; infectious diseases; and mental and behavioral health—were selected based on school-wide input of where public health work is critically needed, and they also represent the school’s areas of strength and potential for growth.
The search will be overseen by Michael McClean, associate dean for research and faculty advancement. The search committee will include the members of the Strategic Research Direction working group, as well as additional departmental representatives.
“We are very fortunate to have outstanding faculty who are such dedicated educators, researchers, and practitioners,” says McClean. “After these five research directions emerged from our refresh of the strategy map, we wanted to put real resources towards moving these areas forward, and one of the most important things that we can do is make sure that we have sufficient faculty expertise in each of those areas.”
McClean spoke more about the school’s vision for new faculty, how the school is emphasizing diversity and equity throughout the hiring process, and why SPH is an ideal place to research, teach, and learn about public health.
with Michael McClean
Can you share more about the process and goals of this hiring search?
Our goal is to find a robust cohort of candidates who will be outstanding researchers and teachers in one or more of the cross-cutting strategic research areas that are identified in the school’s strategy map. This is an open rank recruitment and each new faculty will ultimately be appointed to one of the school’s six departments, depending on their particular background and interests. But the key is that we will be building our capacity and expertise in the five content areas.
There is also some potential to bring in candidates who may be working in an area that’s tangentially related to one of our five strategic directions, and who can apply their skills to advancing our collective work in that area. One of the many benefits of conducting this search at the school level is that we can make sure that the whole school community is aware of what we’re doing. When we bring in candidates to visit, we will advertise that broadly for people who would like to participate in the process.
For interested candidates, what distinguishes SPH from other public health institutions and makes it the ideal place to work?
At SPH, we have a very supportive environment for faculty. To ensure that each faculty member is put in the best possible position to successful and productive, we provide a vibrant and comprehensive portfolio of faculty development resources. These include attractive start-up packages, a faculty mentoring program, a faculty incentive program, annual discretionary funds, a pilot award program, a grant-writing workshop, and a sabbatical program, as well as wonderful faculty development programs at the campus level. We also have units of the school dedicated to facilitating collaborations with community and advocacy organizations via the Activist Lab, opportunities to engage with the private sector and other non-traditional partners via idea hub, and access to cutting-edge data analytics and research project support via the Biostatistics and Epidemiology Data Analytics Center.
In addition to providing these resources, our general approach to managing faculty activities is also very flexible. People tend to like the things that they’re best at doing, so faculty have a lot of flexibility in deciding what their activities will be, based on what they are most passionate about. They aren’t pigeon-holed into doing a structured mix of activities. The mix of research, teaching, and other activities is not only different across faculty members, but can also change for faculty over time. This approach is really useful because it creates an efficient system where our entire faculty body can focus primarily on the things that they enjoy the most, typically resulting in the best outcomes for the faculty member and the school.
Also, one great thing about Boston University is that it is rich with resources, and can be as big or as small as you need it to be. At one level, SPH is one of 17 schools and colleges at the university, and each department and program within the school can be a very nurturing place—like a small community that allows you to do what you want to do. And at a larger level, faculty can also expand beyond SPH and benefit from resources across the medical campus and the entire university, which is one of the largest in the country. If a faculty member at SPH is looking for someone with engineering expertise, BU has an entire school of engineers, and the same goes for the business school, the law school, the medical school, et cetera. We have a lot of expertise university-wide that naturally intersects with, and relates to, public health.
What efforts are being taken to ensure this hiring process is diverse and inclusive?
In recent years, we have made significant improvements to our faculty search process at SPH. While it is always important to follow best practices when hiring, it is especially important to meet our own expectations on diversity and inclusion. We have now developed an extensive guidebook for conducting faculty searches. Vanessa Edouard, our director of strategic initiatives, sits on every search committee as a representative of my office to make sure that we’re following best practices for conducting searches. Process really does matter if we want to achieve the best outcomes.
In the three years prior to implementing these changes we hired 24 faculty, and 4 percent of those faculty recruits were Black or LatinX. In the three years since implementing our improvements, 42 percent of our next 24 faculty recruits were Black or LatinX, which is very encouraging. And while I do feel we are on the right track, we cannot get complacent. Continuing to prioritize diversity and inclusion is one of our priorities of this search, and we want to make sure that we hire a group that is diverse in all possible ways.
How will students most benefit from this hiring search?
These five research directions emerged from our school-wide effort to identify what we think are the most critical public health needs in the world, what are we good at, and where we see our potential for growth. These are the things our students are passionate about, too. Increasing our capacity in these areas will increase our expertise and mentoring and research opportunities, and will directly serve our students well.
Some of our students, particularly those in the MS and PhD programs, come to SPH because they want to pursue a career as researchers, so there will be all sorts of opportunities for them to work with new faculty and immerse themselves in research for their dissertation or other projects. And even though many of our students, particularly those in the MPH and DrPH programs, don’t necessarily intend to pursue research careers, they still want to be in a rich and innovative research environment and learn about research on important topics, even if it’s just in the classroom. So I think this effort supports our education mission and environment more broadly for all of our students.
To learn more about joining the faculty at SPH, or to submit an application, click here. To learn more about the school’s research, education, and practice related to the strategic research directions and more, please visit our website.