This article is the second in a series about hiring initiatives and faculty renewal around the University.
As the University prepares to replace retiring professors as part of an ongoing faculty renewal initiative, administrators say they are prioritizing securing employment for the spouses and partners of new recruits. This push comes despite some challenges Ithaca poses to hiring.
Because Cornell has started a hiring wave this year, the number of people who take advantage of the Dual Career Program — which helps spouses and partners of Cornell faculty recruits find jobs in Ithaca — may increase, according to Allan Bishop, senior director of administrative human resources at Cornell’s Recruitment and Employment Center.
“Based on the focus on faculty renewal, we would expect to see additional faculty hires and an increase in the number of couples that would be served,” Bishop said.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Peter Lepage said that one of the major challenges when hiring new faculty is finding employment for the recruited faculty’s partners and spouses.
Because Ithaca is a small town without many well-known universities and industries, Cornell often has difficulty drawing potential faculty members and their partners to the University, according to Lepage.
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs John Siliciano said many new faculty members are apprehensive about taking jobs at Cornell because they need to find employment for both themselves and a spouse or a partner.
“What you often hear is that Cornell has a ‘dual career’ problem. Looking at it up close, that implies that Cornell is not doing what it should,” Silicano said. “[Ithaca] does not offer the depth of jobs that one can find elsewhere, but Cornell itself is as good as a program as you’ll find anywhere else.”
Vice President for Human Resources Mary Opperman noted that hiring spouses has always been a priority of the University, but the faculty renewal initiative has presented new challenges for Cornell’s “dual career” problem.
Spouse employment is becoming more important because of faculty renewal, Opperman said.
Kelly Wagstaff, director of the Dual Career Program, said that she works to find opportunities for spouses and partners of prospective professors.
“The jobs are there but it’s just a very, very competitive market [in the Ithaca area],” Wagstaff said.
An additional challenge, Wagstaff said, is finding long-term positions for the partners.
“Some of the challenges of the program are that the individuals that aren’t being recruited … are accommodated in a potential employment situation that is going to be satisfying for them long term,” Wagstaff said. “It needs to be a good career move for [the partner].”
Wagstaff added that companies in Ithaca are enthusiastic about the new talent pool because Cornell’s recruitment strategies may bring the qualified spouses of professors to Ithaca.
“[Companies] are absolutely thrilled at the opportunity of being able to recruit some very high-caliber candidates who, if it were not for their spouse coming to Cornell, would be very difficult to recruit them to a small community like Ithaca,” Wagstaff said.
These candidates are brought to Ithaca because of Cornell, but, it is equally as important that they feel included in the new community, according to Siliciano.
“What you want a dual career spouse to feel is that he or she, although they followed somebody to Ithaca, they’re really welcome and a full part of it,” Siliciano said. “That really keeps the couple here more successfully. We look to make sure placements evolve to a point where the person who follows is motivated to stay here.”
Prof. Robert Harris-Warrick, neurobiology and behavior, noted the consequences of a spouse or partner not finding employment after a move to Ithaca.
“If both of them aren’t happy then nobody’s happy, and then they end up leaving,” Harris-Warrick said.
The University hired fewer people during the financial crisis and many qualified recruits were not taken due to financial constraints, according to Siliciano, with faculty hires dropping by about 50 percent in 2008 and 2009. Now, however, the search is beginning to pick up again, he said.
With the $100 million the University has raised for faculty renewal, Lepage noted that there is an opportunity to increase dual hiring. Cornell collected $50 million from outside donations and another $50 million in contributions from the undergraduate colleges — proportional to each college’s budget and need for new faculty — Provost Kent Fuchs said in an interview last semester.
With new money for hiring, the University can offer jobs to couples, allowing Cornell to attract spouses who can both contribute to the University, Lepage said.
Prof. Lori Khatchadourian, Near Eastern studies, was hired under the faculty renewal initiative — along with her husband, Prof. Adam Smith, anthropology.
“Various units of the college worked hard to coordinate efforts and overcome the challenges that these situations present, and the net result was a positive experience ... Cornell accommodated our needs by hiring us both,” Khatchadourian said.
Harris-Warrick — who joined the Cornell faculty in 1980 — said that when new faculty members are being courted by the University, they often want to move to Ithaca with a spouse or a partner.
“This is the rule — not the exception,” Harris-Warrick said. “If Cornell didn’t do anything about it we would never hire anybody. So it’s a survival issue for Cornell to be able to get top quality people — there just aren’t many of them who are single or who have spouses who don’t work.”