The University of Rhode Island’s Office of Community, Equity and Diversity (CED) has narrowed down their search for a new director for Diverse Faculty Recruitment and Retention (DDFRR) to three candidates.

Rachel Andoscia, Jianguo Zhu and Harry Alston Jr. are the three finalists who were selected to come to campus for on-site interviews. These candidates will be meeting with numerous departments during each of their two-day interviews, including the president’s office, Faculty Senate, Affirmative Action and the hiring search committee. Candidates have been on campus throughout November and the final interview will occur early next week. 

The DDFRR was under the Office of the CED until approximately a year ago. When the previous employee left last November, the position was relocated temporarily to the office of finance and administration for oversight. Now, after careful review, the position will return to CED and report to the chief diversity officer directly (CDO). 

Some of the duties and responsibilities of the new DDFRR include developing a plan to recruit and retain underrepresented tenure-track faculty and senior administrators, helping search committees reach a diverse audience and working closely with Affirmative Action and Human Resources to ensure recruitment goals are being met. 

Current CDO Mary Grace Almandrez is the chair of the search committee for this position. 

“We try to be as transparent as possible,” Almandrez said. “That’s why we put the schedules up there and their materials so that people can weigh in and make an informed decision.” 

Almandrez emphasized how important it was to have an opportunity on both of the on-campus interview days to give community members time to meet the candidates. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to meet with the potential candidate, ask questions and review their presentations. 

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences Earl Smith III has been attending the interview sessions as a community member throughout the past couple weeks.

“Recruiting is one thing, you have to accurately target and recruit folks, but more significantly, you need to assess the climate of the University and some of the barriers is to make sure we retain folks,” Smith said. “It’s one thing to recruit, it’s another thing to retain.”

Almandrez similarly emphasized the power of retention and highlighted how important it will be towards the development of this position’s responsibilities. 

“I think one of the challenges we face at URI is because it’s not in an urban area and we don’t have a critical mass of faculty of color,” Almandrez said. “We have a lot, but not as you might imagine in a larger city, for example. You can get as many people as you want but it’s keeping them there that’s going to matter. Absolutely, it’s important to create a pipeline, but it’s more important that they stay. When we have a diverse faculty, we all benefit from that.” 

Smith believes that this position can make a powerful impact on campus by hiring a strong candidate and ensuring that their work is executed correctly for the URI campus. 

“It can be a positive addition to the University, with a clear and established job description and the resources to carry out the functions,” Smith said. “You can have the position with no resources and it’s a moot point. But I do think it’s essential, the question is what type of authority would this person have to ensure that not only are folks recruited and considered, but more importantly there’s an access to be able to retain them via tenure, research, the small subtle things.”

Almandrez hopes to have the position filled before 2020 and have the chosen candidate begin their employment at the University on Jan. 1.