English department’s search for new professor

Teresa Taylor — Staff writer

When Dordt University English Professor Bob De Smith announced his retirement at the start of the year, the department formed a search committee to fill his position.

At Dordt, faculty search committees consist of members of the searching department and an outside member from a separate department. Due to the department’s size, the remaining four English professors sat on the committee, joined by Abby De Groot from the education department.

“I really love that it’s a faculty-heavy process,” De Groot said. “Obviously, the VPAA and the Academic Affairs Office gives input and directs some of it, but I really like how the search committee is composed – I think it’s a good structure.”

During the search process, applicants spend considerable time interacting with the university’s professors, giving them a feel of what Dordt truly is and how being a professor here works.

“Administrators can give an idea about what it’s like to work at the college,” De Groot said. “But I think it’s really good that they interact with the people that they will be interacting with most closely on a day-to-day basis.”

The department’s role in the decision making also “promotes a sense of unity,” De Groot said.

The search committee does not make the final decision. Rather search teams for open faculty positions make recommendations to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the university’s president. The VPAA and the president make a decision and bring the selected candidate forward to the board of trustees for an interview and for the board’s final decision on whether to offer a contract. The board’s yes or no vote determines if the administration is authorized to offer the potential faculty member a contract.

The application asked for a curriculum vitae (CV), which is Latin for “course of life.” The CV is a resume in an academic setting and contains education, work experience, and publications. Applicants also submitted a personal statement about their faith. Because professors must apply Dordt’s four coordinates when planning syllabi and teaching, the applicants interacted with them in their personal statements.

The application also included a cover letter and letters of recommendation.

Throughout the fall semester, the committee vetted applicants. They interviewed a selection over Zoom and chose candidates to interview on campus.

Each candidate ate dinner with the search committee and another lunch with the English department. English majors and minors had the opportunity to meet the candidates at an informal lunch at the Commons.

Joya Schreurs, the English department work-study, escorted candidates to the Commons and participated in conversations throughout meals.

“At the lunches, we’ve just gotten to know the job candidates— both personally and what they would be like as professors,” Schreurs said. “They’ve also gotten to know us too— what we expect, want to see different, and our perception of the department currently.”

The candidates had introduction and exit interviews with Vice President for Academic Affairs Leah Zuidema, a meeting with Dordt President Erik Hoekstra, a meeting with Human Resources, a meeting with the Center for Scholarship and Research, an interview with the search committee, and an interview with the faculty senate.

“It’s as much they’re interviewing us as we’re interviewing them,” English professor Josh Matthews said. “They get to see what things are like here. Can they envision themselves living here in Sioux Center, being here at Dordt, working with us?”

Candidates taught a section of Core 180, observed by the search committee and the Dean for Curriculum and Instruction Teresa Ter Haar.

“We’re not just necessarily looking for an expertise,” English professor Howard Schaap said. “We want to see you teach and see your passion come through.”

The application process guaranteed qualified candidates. During the more intense interview process on campus, the department searched kept the student population in mind.

“A candidate has to be a pretty good to excellent teacher coming in here,” Matthews said. “And that’s important to us – having great teachers in the department. It’s good for the department; it’s great for the students.”

The department sought a candidate who will bring their own passions to the department and their classrooms. Just as the English language evolves, the English department has evolved over the years and will continue to do so. Regardless, the constant hope is to have knowledgeable professors who care about their subject and their students.

“Audience is important,” Schaap said, “knowing your audience and being able to

reach that audience.”

Photo credit: Dordt University

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