Wednesday, March 10, 2010

University Administration Jobs and Hiring Practices

. Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This morning, UNC students and faculty awoke to an email from UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp notifying the university community that Dr. Bruce Carney, Samuel Baron Professor of Physics and Astronomy and the interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at UNC, has been appointed the permanent Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. I have absolutely no doubt that Dr. Carney deserves the job, will serve the university proudly and competently and will prove to be a very good hire in the years to come. Dr. Carney has been at UNC since 1980, starting off as a lowly assistant professor and working all the way up to his current endowed chair and serving as chair of the Physics department and both Senior Associate Dean and Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences along the way.

What was interesting to me when I read the email from Chancellor Thorp was that the university held a national search, brought in three external candidates for interviews, lectures and Q&A, and then hired the internal, interim position-holder that was not a candidate for the position. In the almost two years that I have now been associated with UNC, the university has hired at least a couple internal scholars/administrators for top university administrative positions, including Chancellor Thorp himself, who previously was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Director of the Morehead Planetarium and Kenan Professor of Chemistry at UNC.

When I was at Marquette University during my undergrad years, a similar hiring process phenomenon occurred when Dr. John J. Pauly, the Dean of the College of Communication, a fantastic scholar and overall really nice guy, was hired as the university's Provost. A couple of data points at two different universities caused me to ask myself whether a university's reputation for hiring internal candidates for top positions reduces the quality of external applicants since external candidates may have a reasonable belief that certain universities are biased towards internal candidates. Additionally, could it be that universities target the hiring of high quality administrators, those who have the potential to become chancellors, provosts, university presidents, etc. earlier in their careers, grooming them for these top positions while acclimating them to the culture and internal workings of the university at a lesser position?

Drs. Thorp and Carney both spent the entirety of their careers at UNC before being appointed Chancellor and Provost, respectively. Were the applicant pools for the positions that they eventually received of lesser quality than they otherwise would have been because there was an expectation that an internal candidate would be chosen? I'm not arguing that either scholar would not have ultimately been chosen for each position, but rather asking about the relative quality of the applicant pool conditional on a given university's reputation. Dr. Pauly bounced around a good deal before arriving at Marquette, receiving various promotions along the way before becoming Dean of the College of Communications and then Provost. Was Dr. Pauly selected as Dean with an expectation of rising the ranks to Provost in the near future? The same question about the quality of external applicants and the expectation of the selection of an internal candidate would also apply.

If anyone knows any research that's been published engaging these questions (I'm guessing it'd come from Sociology, Economics or Business) I'd be quite interested in checking it out. If this research hasn't been previously done, well I hopefully just hooked up an undergrad or grad student in one of these fields with a master's thesis or dissertation topic. I better get a shout-out in the acknowledgements!


University Administration Jobs and Hiring Practices
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