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Eight of 20 vacant faculty positions have been filled either temporarily or permanently, with some professors beginning as early as this quarter, according to a document from Dean of Academics Dr. Scott Schneberger.
These new hires meet the needs of several academic departments, including Art, Biology, Computer Science, English, Music, Physics, and Sociology. Meanwhile, several new and replacement instructor positions have yet to be filled, most notably in the Mass Communication, Economics, and Chemistry departments.
According to Schneberger, such vacancies can occur when a faculty member leaves suddenly, goes on an abroad or sabbatical, or requires personal time for healing.
The school draws upon a substantial alumni network and church connections when searching for faculty and staff members. Schneberger said that departments often keep track of graduates who might be well suited for a certain position.
Individual search committees do much of the work of determining an applicant’s qualifications. Each available job listing is assigned to a different search committee, which often includes the unit head, an instructor within the same department, and a faculty member from a different department.
Human Resources Coordinator Becky Oates said that search committees are “the recommending body” when determining which applicants will proceed to the next step in the hiring process. She added, “They’re the ones who do the legwork.”
Schneberger said, “I try to stay away from contacting and talking people into applying.” He added that this job belongs primarily to search committee members because, as dean of academics, he ultimately determines which candidates will be hired.
Schneberger said: “As Policy 17 points out, we’re looking for the most effective person. And that is important. It’s not necessarily the most qualified, but the most effective.”
The distinction is important to note. While the administration is somewhat flexible about academic requirements when it comes to hiring faculty, there is no question that all candidates must be dedicated Christian Science church members. Every faculty job description listed online firmly requires Mother Church and branch church membership as well as Christian Science class instruction, but only notes a preference that applicants have terminal degrees in their field as well as prior teaching and work experience.
Young said, “We have a particular standard of what it means to be a Christian Scientist.” He said that Principia has turned away applicants who consider themselves Christian Scientists but somehow do not seem to meet the school’s religious criteria, either in church membership or behavior.
Tom Davidson, chair of the Business and Economics department, said: “It’s tough to find a combination of people who are Ph.D.s who want to teach and who have the Christian Science credentials to meet our requirements. It seems to be a pretty small group out there.”
Although a Ph.D. is not always paramount, Schneberger said he encourages instructors to pursue one because the higher degree “helps refine your skills in learning as well as teaching.”
He added, “The Ph.D. brings in a lot to the classroom, and it’s really independent of whether they’re a good teacher or not.”
Davidson said, “In academia, in order to have a well-regarded Economics department, the professors should be Ph.D.s.”
Chris Young, the only current instructor in the Philosophy department, said the administration is encouraging him to get a Ph.D., but added that it seems almost impossible to do the required work and retain the philosophy department without another fulltime instructor. Young said that members of the administration have shown interest in the department, and have kept their “ears out and open for possible [fulltime] candidates.”
Young also noted that a visiting professor has been hired to teach two philosophy classes in the fall while he is on the Nepal abroad.
“Having Ph.D.s is a big deal because it looks good and it does have tangible benefits,” said Young. He also said that Ph.D.s can bring students into their research and “connect them with academia at large.”
Although not everyone hired to work at Principia has obtained a terminal degree, the number of faculty members who do is growing.
As of this quarter, Schneberger said, 55 percent of fulltime classroom instructors have Ph.D.s or the highest degree available in their fields of expertise. Schneberger added that when he first arrived at Principia almost two years ago, 44 percent of instructors had a terminal degree.
He said that eleven faculty members will be working on their terminal degrees by fall quarter, many with financial help from Principia. The administration invested $50,000 in the effort this year alone.
Still, Human Resources receives applications from non-Christian Scientists who may be well suited for a particular job in all areas but the one that seems to matter most.
For that reason, available job listings are often published only in the Sentinel and on the school’s website. Oates said that The Christian Science Monitor used to include Principia-related ads until the publication went to a weekly format and changed its advertising strategy.
Schneberger said Principia included job information in The Chronicle of Higher Education last year, as many other colleges and universities do, but chose to stop because too many applicants who heard about Principia through the publication were not Christian Scientists.
Oates said, “Until you get the detailed job description and the application, you don’t fully appreciate that the most important quality is that you have to be a Christian Scientist. That’s the first requirement, and then we go on from there to qualify them as professionals.”