Consortium Seeks Package Deals for Scholars and Their Spouses

Dr. Heidy Contreras used various websites for a year looking for a job while in Southern California conducting her post-doctoral work at the University of Arizona.

Then she found the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, or HERC, website, which lists all positions such as custodians, administrators and other faculty positions at colleges, universities and research institutions throughout the country.

Contreras wanted a job in California for both professional and personal reasons.

“My husband was working in Irvine, [Calif.], while I was doing my post-doc in Arizona,” said the 33-year-old Guatemala native who is now an assistant biology professor at the University of La Verne.

“He was really supporting us because post-docs don’t really make that much money. I was looking for something in Southern California or somewhere in the region. I not only found my ideal job, but using HERC got me back to Southern California where my mom and grandma are. I believe in family.”

HERC, based in Ben Lomond, Calif., uses its “dual career” hiring services to help couples find jobs at the same institution or in the same region.

For instance, Contreras saw job postings at schools in Southern California for professors, clerks and provosts. Contreras and her husband, Kyle Pickus, reside in faculty housing on the La Verne campus. While Contreras can walk to class and teach, Pickus’ commute to his marketing job in Irvine takes about 35 minutes. As of March 30, HERC had nearly 18,000 faculty, staff and administrator job postings on its website representing more than 550 colleges, universities and research institutions.

“Campuses are not recruiting individuals anymore; they’re recruiting families,” said Nancy Aebersold, HERC’s founder and executive director. “Campuses are increasingly recognizing the importance of family friendliness and work/life initiatives when it comes to employee recruitment and retention.”

Here’s how the HERC site works for job seekers:

Candidates search for jobs on the www.HERCJobs.org website free of charge, watch resource videos and receive updates when new jobs are posted. Those seeking positions at the same institution can combine their searches.

HERC has 15 regional locations such as Metro New York/Southern Connecticut, Greater Chicago Midwest and Southern California. Institutions that sign up with HERC must pay an annual membership fee. Depending on the size of the school, the fees range from $2,000 to $5,000.

According to HERC statistics, 61.5 percent of those who use its website are White and the remaining 38.5 percent are people of color.

“I see many minority professionals, but not many minority couples,” Contreras said.

The Cost of Recruiting

Seeking a prospective candidate can be expensive. According to Harvard University’s Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, the estimated cost to hire a faculty member is $96,000. That figure includes orientation ($20,000), using a search committee ($10,000) and relocation costs ($5,000). The amount also includes an estimated $50,000 startup package, which is negotiated between potential hires and the school. Some of those items may include shipping a faculty member’s computer, research materials and books. For a person in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics discipline, the cost could be even more to transport lab equipment, animals used in research and even a faculty member’s research assistant.

Elizabeth Ancarana, assistant dean of faculty development at Harvard University, a New England HERC member, said the hiring process can take an entire academic year.

At Harvard, she said her office, which handles faculty recruitment, works with other offices in making sure the dual-hiring process runs smoothly. For instance, a human resources official can explain what it is like working at Harvard. A coordinator at the school’s work/life office provides resources for employees who may be stressed from work, child care or other personal challenges. The housing office helps a potential hire find an apartment or house in the area.

Ancarana used a baseball analogy in stressing the importance of why faculty recruitment is one of the highest priorities on a campus.

Ancarana, who is on the HERC national advisory board representing the New England HERC, said, “It is kind of like major league baseball players. You want to put that team together in a certain way, and a lot of effort is put toward that. You may be recruiting a really strong hitter. You have holes in your fielding [at] shortstop. Later, you can recruit someone who has strength in hitting. The coordination, the energy, the partnering are vital to work through a complex situation.

“It’s very difficult to have all the resources and partnerships in place to assist somebody else in the job search,” Ancarana said. “Usually, most schools don’t have a point person to help do that. Some schools are limited in what they can do.”

Dr. Mary Everley, director of the Upper Midwest HERC, stresses that HERC saves time for job seekers.

“It is really hard for people to go to 20 different institutions’ websites looking for jobs, especially if they don’t have any knowledge of the Twin Cities,” said Everley, who also is the director of the relocation assistance and dual career programs at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

“With our HERC website, every single position from faculty to groundskeeper to public relations to accounting is listed. HERC lists everything a potential employee needs.”

HERC was founded in 2000 by schools in Northern California. Its sole purpose is to find jobs for those interested in higher education. HERC is a program of the Tides Center, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that provides administrative, benefits support and other services for the national HERC office.

Each regional HERC runs independently but is affiliated with the national office. The majority of the area HERC’s are housed at member campuses. The Northern California HERC location is at the Tides Center, and the Upstate New York region resides at the Tides Center’s branch in New York City. There are 193,000 people who are registered HERC members.

Dr. Iwalani Else stumbled upon the HERC website through Google. She pursued a job in Minnesota so her husband could be closer to his family. Else began looking for a job in December 2009 and got hired by the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth in April 2010.

“I was actually visiting all the college sites in Minnesota. Then I found that HERC compiled all of them,” said Else, 42, director of institutional research and assessment at St. Scholastica — she previously worked at the University of Hawaii. “HERC had all the colleges in Minnesota listed and broke the colleges down by region. I never looked for a job on the mainland before. Heck, we never owned our own home until now. That was all possible through HERC.”

After beginning her new gig in January teaching biology at La Verne, Contreras is feeling just fine.

“La Verne is very small. The maximum [number of students] per class is about 40, which is non-majors. But biology majors… the class sizes are smaller and that gives me a chance to know my students,” she said. “It feels good to be in Southern California. I am still on cloud nine! This is a place I can stay forever.”