In the next academic year, Augustana plans to hire 21 faculty members, a higher amount than usual. These individuals will be hired in the areas of academics as well as program directors.
President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said the increased number of hirees is primarily in response to the higher enrollment numbers the university is expecting. The increased recruitment also comes after multiple faculty members took early retirement during COVID-19.
According to religion, philosophy and classics department chair David O’Hara, their department has been in need of more faculty members in recent years. Religion 110 is a required class for all students, and the department has only had two to three professors able to teach the class over the past couple of years.
“We made the case [to administration] that while it might not be the most popular of majors, it’s a significant major that is important for the community and our general education for SOPHIA,” O’Hara said.
The department has been trying to hire new employees for a few years, but budget constraints have limited the possibility.
According to O’Hara, the new candidate also fulfills the department’s goal of being able to teach classes beyond the Christian, and specifically Lutheran Christian, tradition. The new professor, Hans Harmakaputra, has experience in Chrisitianity in addition to multiple other world religions.
The increase in hirings will also continue in the coming years, as the university has been looking to create new majors and start new programs.
By fall 2023, Augustana is looking to establish a criminal justice major. The search to find a professor to fulfill the requirements of this major will begin this fall.
“We are building something new here,” sociology department chair William Swart said. “We really want to involve the person we hire in that position to help build that program.”
When looking at candidates for new faculty, Herseth Sandlin said Augustana looks for those who are invested in and understand both the traditions and culture of our community.
“We look for people who have done their due diligence about Augustana,” Herseth Sandlin said.
Overall, a major reason behind next year’s higher than average hiring numbers is the effects of COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, Augustana offered certain faculty members who were close to reaching retirement an opportunity to do so early.
According to Herseth Sandlin, Augustana remained stagnant in filling some of the positions that were lost. She said around half of the new faculty members joining next year are filling positions that are vacant due to the early retirement.
Some vacancies weren’t a result of the pandemic, however. Both Herseth Sandlin and O’Hara said some faculty members have left for personal or career-based reasons, which is to be expected.
“There are times where family circumstances, a change in career choice or a desire to pursue new opportunities arise,” Herseth Sandlin said.
According to O’Hara, some professors he’s talked to have left their roles to pursue a career not in academics, such as research positions or professional roles.
“We love teaching, but we also have a pretty diverse array of other skills,” O’Hara said. “It’s fun to be able to use those in other ways.”