A Win-Win: Experiential Student Learning meets Transformational Institutional Hiring

ASCCC North Representative
ASCCC Faculty Leadership Development Committee Member

Colleges frequently talk about centering on students. In curriculum design, syllabus construction, assignments, and even grading practices, many educators actively include student voice in their pedagogy. Institutions also attempt to include students in shared governance and college-wide processes and professional development. At City College of San Francisco (CCSF), every shared governance committee has two voting and two alternate student seats, the student trustee has an advisory vote on the board of trustees, and the Associated Student Government Executive Council meetings are a regular stop for feedback and review of the development of college-wide policies, presentations, and initiatives. As of Spring 2023, the CCSF faculty hiring process includes the option to include student members (CCSF, 2023). Colleges can continue to enact their commitments to student centeredness while also bolstering and improving their institutional processes and policies by including students on faculty search committees.

In Spring 2021, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges passed Resolution 20.02 SP21, which “encourage[ed] local academic senates to review their hiring processes, discuss the role of students in hiring processes, and include local student governments and human resource offices in those discussions.”[1] Designating seats for students on search committees furthers system commitments to faculty diversity in hiring and enhancing culturally responsive EEO practices. The fifth point of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) 10-Point Plan for Faculty Diversity Hiring, focused on search committee composition, includes the recommendation that “Institutions should also include a student representative as a best practice of creating diversity and implementing a unique perspective” (CCCCO, 2023). Including students in hiring practices also aligns with recommendations from the Association of Chief Human Resource Officers (ACHRO), which “strongly recommends all Districts add student participation in all hiring committees” (ACHRO, 2020).

We All Win

Research shows that including students on search committees reaps benefits for students, prospective candidates, and the institutions overall. A pilot at Austin Community College reveals that students serving on search committees gain several benefits, including opportunities to have a voice in the selection of faculty, to experience a professional interview process, and to network and interact with department faculty outside of the classroom (Glenn, 2022). Students can also add this experience to their resumes while learning about specific practices regarding employment in higher educational settings.

Search committees themselves can also benefit from student involvement, as student inclusion reinforces student-centeredness in hiring practices and procedures, offering search committee members unique insight into student perspectives, needs, and goals. Departments and programs that include students on search committees can enhance their instruction by supporting students beyond the classroom in a real world application of skills taught in courses as they manifest in hiring practices. Even prospective candidates win, as having students present in interviews that include teaching demonstrations offers candidates a more genuine situation.

The institution wins as processes and practices become more student-informed, empowering student voice and emboldening colleges to be more student-ready. Including students on search committees offers a chance to exercise institutional agility in being able to see hiring practices from another perspective in order to upgrade and make improvements that are directly student-informed. In this way, colleges provide more opportunities and perspectives to increase hiring diverse faculty who better reflect the student body.

Love the Player, Love the Game

Opening seats for students on search committees is a step in the right direction but on its own is not enough. In order to maximize the success of students and the success of search committees, colleges must also build infrastructure to support students and search committee members. This infrastructure, built with students at the center, can take on many forms and can ultimately serve all committee members and support institutional consistency in hiring practices. Examples include the following:

  • Create a hiring guide that has basic hiring practices, rules, and regulations outlined and explains how to start as a member of a search committee [2]
  • Use file-saving methods or alternative file-sharing approaches to provide students full access to hiring materials. Some methods only provide employer access and could restrict access for students;
  • Designate an employee search committee member who can serve as a mentor and direct contact for the student member whenever the student has questions or concerns;
  • Offer students a chance to reflect and give feedback on hiring practices and ensuring that their feedback is incorporated into the process for future searches;
  • Provide onboarding and training that is accessible to students throughout the process in an ongoing capacity and as needed. Codifying and regularly updating and sharing processes could serve as ongoing training for student members.

Colleges that have a two or three-phase hiring process—such as paper screening, interviews, and demonstration—might consider some of the following approaches for welcoming student participation:

  • Detail the entire process and time commitment and give students the option to decide for themselves whether they want to participate for the entire process or just interviews;
  • Ensure that regardless of when students become involved in the process, they have access to all the search committee materials;
  • Ensure that students have a voice in helping set meeting times. Being mindful of avoiding flex days, midterms, and final exam schedules can promote more student involvement;
  • If students cannot participate in all phases of the hiring, ensure that they are included in the foundational committee meetings, such as those that generate job descriptions, interview questions, demonstration or presentation assignments, and the rubrics that accompany each part of the process;
  • Make sure documents are shared prior to being finalized so that students have a chance to offer feedback during generative stages.

Going for Wins, but Worried about Losses

When presented with the prospect of including students on search committees, some educators worry about confidentiality, loss of candidate privacy, and larger questions about potential for unforeseen downsides and legal ramifications of including students. ACHRO (2020) outlines some of the current challenges that prevent student participation while also offering concrete strategies for both formal and informal student participation. Infrastructures built with a focus on supporting student members can equally train employee members and bolster the hiring process overall. Students can be involved in various ways, participating as voting members or non-voting members and at any part of the hiring process. Some colleges engage students for interviews only, while others include students from the very beginning, asking them to help design interview questions and participate in paper screening, interviews, and teaching demonstrations.

Paper screening is an area where students sometimes are not included the process. The intentions perhaps are to make the process less arduous for students, with the recognition that employees are contractually obligated to do this work but students are not. However, if colleges want to be fully inclusive and fully empower students, then they should give students all of the information and allow the students to determine in which parts of the process they want to participate, with consideration for specific committee needs and timelines. Ideally, students would have a full vote in order to fully recognize how the college values their participation.

Confidentiality of candidates’ personal information is a concern that can be addressed in a variety of ways. Colleges might enact blind scoring, where personal information and the candidates’ names are removed to reduce unconscious bias (Min, 2017). This practice could also quell concerns about personal candidate information being shared. Furthermore, student representatives are no more likely to abuse access to personal information than any other committee member; the thought that students will negatively take advantage of this privilege is tied to overall deficit thinking when it comes to student capacity.

If colleges are to offer this opportunity to students, they need to be prepared to provide support and mindful of any legal ramifications that could arise in relation to culpability should grievances or candidate concerns arise. Colleges can work with their human resources departments to ensure students are not legally impacted. While colleges must comply with all laws, designing practices to include students should not be predicated on fear of litigation. If colleges are conducting hiring practices that encourage candidates, support committee members, uplift student members, and are transparent and institutionally consistent and in legal compliance, they can potentially reduce the number of grievances altogether.

Local academic senates can work with their student government bodies to create processes for seating student representatives on search committees. Sharing these process upgrades with human resources and all departments involved in faculty hiring is vital to ensuring that when colleges invite students in, everyone—the students, the candidates, the process, and the institution—will end up with a win.


Association of Chief Human Resource Officers. (2020, November 23). Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy Recommendation. Student Participation in Selection Processes.

California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (2023). Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) 10-Point Plan for Faculty Diversity Hiring.

City College of San Francisco. (2023, May 19). Faculty Hiring Procedures

Glenn, T.E. (2022, March). Inclusion of Student Voices in the Faculty Hiring Process. League for Innovation in the Community College 17.3.

Min, J. (2017, June 8). Blind Hiring: A How-To Guide to Reduce Bias & Increase Diversity. Ideal.

1. ASCCC Adopted Resolutions

2. See, for example, City College of San Francisco’s “Serving on a Search Committee”.