Search Advocates are process advisors who serve as external search committee members (not in their own departments/disciplines) to enhance diversity, validity, and equity in university search and selection. Their preparation includes a three-part workshop series addressing topics including current research, theory, and practical strategies to help search committees test their thinking, address complex process concerns, improve search validity and equity, understand/promote diversity, mitigate conflicts of interest, and anticipate/address a variety of other potential bias risks.
Each Search Advocate advances inclusive excellence by identifying and promoting practices that advance diversity and social justice, and minimizing the impacts of cognitive and structural biases. As external committee members, advocates are able to explore assumptions, norms, and practices that an internal member might not question. The search advocate plays a vital role in position development, recruitment, screening, interviews, references, evaluation, and integration of the new faculty or staff member into the institution.
The Role of a Search Advocate
As an external process advisor, the search advocate participates with other search committee members throughout the search and selection process. Ideally this begins with a meeting between the hiring manager, search chair, and search advocate to establish expectations, discuss the committee charge, and develop collaborative working agreements that affirm UHM’s high standards for excellent and inclusive searches.
Building from the hiring authority’s charge to the committee, the advocate guides and encourages members to go beyond “business as usual” in position development, defining expansive screening criteria, recruiting excellent and diverse candidates, screening inclusively, interviewing effectively, checking references, comprehensively evaluating finalists, and connecting with the new hire. At every stage, they advocate for the search process itself, and help committees recognize and avoid or mitigate unintentional cognitive and structural biases.
Advocates do not substitute their judgment for the judgment of committee members; most often they ask questions to help committee members test their thinking and recognize the implications of assumptions, strategies, and practices under consideration. Advocates promote equity, inclusion, diversity, and justice by sharing information, recommending inclusive and equitable strategies, supporting full committee and stakeholder participation, and consulting with the Search Advocate Program staff as needed.