Noor Azizan-Gardner

Noor Azizan-Gardner became Mizzou's chief diversity officer in 2012 and now serves as MU senior associate vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity. She's working to help search committees develop more inclusive hiring practices.

Faculty diversity drives innovation, creativity and excellence. Increasing faculty diversity is a strategic priority for University of Missouri administrators. Now, a new training module developed by the MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity and Human Resources, provides a step-by-step guide for faculty search committees to improve the search processes for academic positions.

Noor Azizan-Gardner, MU senior associate vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity, says the information has previously been available online for search committees but was never offered in one, easy-to-use training module.

“We created the Academic Search Committee Training Module to act as a coach or mentor during the whole process of searching for new faculty,” Azizan-Gardner said. “From beginning to end, the interactive online training module helps assure inclusiveness by guiding members of the search committee through the entire process in an inclusive way.”

Training for Cultural Competence

In addition to the online training module, staff from the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity and Human Resources will meet with faculty search committees to provide follow-up instruction and answer questions.

“Sometimes a search committee might unintentionally create a pool of candidates that is not diverse,” Azizan-Gardner said. “A good search-committee process consists of committee members who are aware of and understand issues and who are culturally competent. The two-step process of the Academic Search Committee Training helps guide committee members into thinking in an inclusive manner during the entire search process. Optimally, this will result in a diverse pool of candidates for the job and the selection of the best candidate for the position.”

The new training module was reviewed by academic chairs in August and a pilot project of the module was completed by the search committee for the new dean of the College of Human Environmental Sciences. Azizan-Gardner says testing and review of the module have helped develop the process.

“We have used campus feedback to help enrich and clarify the module,” Azizan-Gardner said. “We want to make sure this process is truly helpful to faculty search committees, and this feedback helps in that regard.”

Active Recruitment

“This training has reinforced and emphasized our work on active recruitment, rather than passively waiting for applicants to discover us,” said Judith Miller, dean of the Sinclair School of Nursing and chair of the HES dean search committee. “The need for diversity in applicants is well accepted by our group.

“This training also has prompted us to strive for consistency in our approach and not to prematurely dismiss candidates or reach closure without a holistic view of their assets and potential contributions to MU and HES,” Miller said. “I also learned that in an inclusive review process of candidates, I cannot be rushed or engage in multi-tasking. If so, unconscious bias more easily creeps in. This training was an enlightening experience for myself and the whole committee.”

The Academic Search Committee Training Module was presented to the council of deans Jan. 26 and approved for the use of faculty search committees. A similar module for inclusive staff hires currently is being developed.