For the third year in a row, dozens of faculty candidates from across the globe visited Duke University in late May and June to interview in hopes of being hired as professors at Duke Kunshan University. Over a three week period, three separate cohorts of faculty candidates representing a multitude of backgrounds and disciplines presented their academic research to the Duke community and engaged in interdisciplinary and collaborative teamwork with one another as part of an extensive and unorthodox interview process.
Led by Noah Pickus, associate provost at Duke and dean of undergraduate curricular affairs and faculty development at DKU, and in coordination with the Office of DKU Programs, the interview process is unique and rigorous, and deeply engages a number of Duke and DKU faculty from start to finish.
Culled from thousands of applications, the candidates who visited Duke this summer had already passed through two rounds – the initial application review and then video interviews conducted by Duke and DKU faculty. Three search committees of Duke and DKU faculty then selected candidates to invite to Duke for two-day cohort interviewing.
On the first day, candidates gave their scholarly presentations and engaged in Q&A with Duke and DKU faculty and with one another. On the second day, the candidates were divided into interdisciplinary teams to collaborate on specific topics related to DKU’s curriculum and pedagogy, and did so in the presence of Duke and DKU faculty observers who took notes on collaboration and teamwork style.
Ken Rogerson, professor and director of graduate studies at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, has been involved in the development of DKU for several years—from helping write the undergraduate curriculum, to teaching courses at DKU in the earlier days of the Global Learning Semester. He also has been involved in helping to hire faculty who are a good fit for DKU, and has attended the cohort interviewing process for the past three years.
“Hiring a full faculty for a new liberal arts university is challenging,” Rogerson said. “While we need to maintain the highest scholarly standards, it is vital that we find a group of people who are not only creative and innovative, but who will also be collegial and work well together, something not always easy to discern.”
Rogerson added, “The cohort hiring process allows us to see many more characteristics of the potential hire than other, more traditional, methods of evaluation might.”
One particularly special part of the agenda is the intimate dinner that follows the first full day of each cohort visit. In the past, each dinner featured a panel of Duke faculty members who spoke and answered questions about their experience living and teaching at DKU during the Global Learning Semester. This year, full-time faculty from DKU’s undergraduate program were on hand to reflect candidly about their unique experiences on the ground at DKU and offer advice to the faculty candidates.
James Miller, professor of humanities and head of the arts and humanities division at DKU, responded to a candidate who asked, “Why should someone with a job offer from an established top-tier university turn it down and take the leap to join DKU?”
Miller, who was professor of religious studies and director of the cultural studies program at Queen’s University in Ontario before he joined DKU, said it was his desire to do and create something new and meaningful in education that encouraged him along the path towards DKU.
“Duke’s whole-hearted backing of this project and the brilliant people I met during the 2017 interview process gave me confidence at a time when I wanted to make a meaningful change professionally,” Miller added. “Why not be ambitious and be part of education reform in China?”
Benjamin Anderson, assistant professor of science and global health at DKU, cited both personal and professional reasons as to why he feels he made the right choice in joining DKU.
“I’ve had the opportunity to grow as a teacher through my work with the remarkable students at DKU,” Anderson said. “Also, this experience has given my family the chance to experience a different culture, which was very important to us.” He added that he has enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of setting up research initiatives at DKU.
A group of twenty-nine faculty candidates will travel to Duke Kunshan in mid-August to participate in the final round of interview activities, including one-on-one meetings with the executive vice chancellor, the interim vice chancellor of academic affairs, the dean of undergraduate curricular affairs and faculty development, and other DKU leadership. After the interviews, DKU and Duke faculty will deliberate one last time and then send out final offers to candidates.
The cohort of faculty hired through the 2018 process are arriving at DKU throughout the summer and will begin teaching in the growing DKU undergraduate program starting this fall.