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At a time when arts and humanities departments at many institutions are struggling for support, the University of Florida offers a contrast.

The University of Florida College of the Arts is in the middle of a hiring wave that will increase the size of its faculty by over 10 percent.

The College of the Arts currently employs about 120 faculty and seeks to hire 19 more. Fifteen will fill brand-new positions and four will replace faculty members who are retiring or leaving the college. Embedded in each job description is a “metanarrative,” a short manifesto developed by arts faculty and staff that promotes the values of the college and describes the type of colleague the college is looking to hire.

“We seek a colleague who identifies as a change-maker. We seek a colleague who will prepare students to access and unsettle centers of power in a radically changing world. We seek a colleague who will position emerging artists and researchers as catalysts for equity on local and global levels,” the metanarrative reads.

Jennifer Setlow, associate dean of the College of the Arts, hopes the metanarrative will lead to a better applicant pool.

“It really gives the opportunity to shape who is excited about coming to the College of the Arts,” Setlow said. “Because at the end of the day, when you’re hiring, your hires are only going to be as good as the pool you attract.”

The available positions are a mix of tenure-track and term appointments and include professorships in music business, graphic design, theater, museum studies and dance, among others.

The effort is part of a larger hiring wave at the University of Florida announced in June 2017 that aims to hire 500 faculty members across the university over a period of two years. Funding for the new hires, as well as compensation increases for current faculty, comes from a $52 million grant from the Florida state Legislature, reallocated university funds and private gifts from alumni. The 500 new positions are being created in addition to the 300 to 400 annual hires to replace those who leave or retire each year, and will bring the university's current 20 to one student-faculty ratio to 16 to one.

Of the 500, the College of the Arts was allotted a particularly large portion of positions. About 2.5 percent of all University of Florida students study in the College of the Arts, and 250 new positions were distributed across the university this year. The College of the Arts received all 15 positions they asked for -- 6 percent of the total.

Each position has its own search committee, and on each search committee sits a “provocateur” from outside the department whose job it is to keep the committee focused on the metanarrative.

“The provocateur’s job is to make sure that at every stage, the metanarrative is present in every part of the search committee,” Setlow said. “While they’re not a voting member of the search committee, their role is to say, ‘Hang on, let’s remember that we drafted this metanarrative.’”

The university's focus on the arts draws common skepticism about whether or not investing in arts education is worthwhile for students, and Setlow is tired of hearing it.

“Working in the arts, you get a little bit tired of the idea that the arts are an ‘extra’ and that you can’t get a job. The data show the opposite: that the arts are going to prepare you for a job,” she said. “The soft skills that employers are looking for are the things that you learn in the arts. Are there not a lot of jobs as a director on Broadway? Sure. But being a student in theater prepares you for a job in many ways. You could be doing social justice work in prisons, you could be doing theater for youth … you could be so many things.”

The university posted the job openings just a couple of weeks ago, and according to Barbara Mitola, associate director of human resources, the college is still in early phases of reviewing incoming applications.

The positions will be filled on a rolling deadline, but priority deadlines will fall from mid-November through the end of December, and the college hopes to conduct first-round interviews in December and January.

Offers to all candidates will go out by the end of March, as the start dates for most of the positions is fall 2019.

Interested candidates can apply here.

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