Starting this fall, Yale’s History Department is increasing its number of senior faculty after several years of hiring mostly untenured ladder faculty.
The department — which since the 2008 financial collapse looked to fill only one or two positions per year — could potentially hire up to eight new senior faculty members through the current search process. The new positions will span Russian history, African history, American history, modern European history and international history.
“This is an extraordinary year in terms of the number of searches we’re running or that are being run in related units that might bring more historians to Yale,” said History Department Chair Naomi Lamoreaux. “We usually run at least one search during the year.”
The hiring process has no precise timeline since it often takes many months to run comprehensive searches, especially for senior faculty, Lamoreaux said. The department hopes to make some job offers by the end of the current academic year, before next year’s positions officially start on July 1, 2017.
There are currently about 60 history professors in the department, a figure that includes roughly a dozen untenured ladder positions, Lamoreaux said. Financial constraints brought on by the 2008 economic crisis forced the History Department to limit the number of senior faculty hires, Lamoreaux said, but the University has now given the department the go-ahead to seek out more senior faculty. For several years prior, the History Department hired mostly untenured junior faculty.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler told the News last month that the high number of searches were made possible in part by MacMillan Center funding for positions in international relations. The number of senior history faculty shrank after the 2007 adoption of a two-track tenure system and a sustained emphasis on hiring less-expensive junior professors, according to Lamoreaux. The department is conducting faculty searches both to grow individual fields of study and to replace openings left by a string of recent retirements, departures and promotions, said history professor Jennifer Allen.
“Departments are never static,” Allen said. “They continually grow and change. And hiring is a regular — often annual — part of that process.”
In the last academic year, the department held a fruitless search for two junior professors in Russian and African history. This year, the department hopes to fill these same two positions while also adding faculty with narrower specializations in fields including the American West and early American history. Lamoreaux said the faculty yielded through searches in other non-history departments such as East Asian Studies and Classics might also enhance Yale’s overall history offerings.
Hiring these new faculty will increase both the number and variety of history courses at Yale, Allen said. She added that the department is looking for faculty who will “complement rather than duplicate existing departmental strengths.”
“A strong department is a well-rounded one, whose faculty are able to offer a robust collection of courses in major areas of study,” Allen said. “A strong department will have a balance of junior and senior faculty so that a generational shift doesn’t suddenly destabilize the department. And a strong department will think critically about how it can continue to be strong in these ways in the future.”
The hiring process involves forming specific search committees, drafting job descriptions and conducting interviews, Lamoreaux said. Senior searches are more time-intensive, requiring the department solicit at least 15 letters from distinguished scholars in the candidate’s field and a vote by the humanities divisional committee before an offer can be extended. Even after a position is filled, the department continues its search process for future years, Allen said.
“You just do it, and you do it all the time,” Lamoreaux said. “There’s no time frame, you just keep hiring. We have to catch up on the ground we’ve lost in the past, and we have to plan for the future.”
History Department faculty hiring affects history graduate students because they rely on faculty advisors to help them through the dissertation process and expand their research opportunities, Allen said. For undergraduates, faculty hiring will provide Yale College with new course offerings while preserving the History department’s international reputation.
Undergraduate history courses usually attract between 4,000 and 5,000 enrollments each year, according to the department’s website.