Professors’ spouses get help from U

Haley Hansen

When Marlene Zuk was considering a job at the University of Minnesota while living in California, she wanted to be sure her husband would find a job in the Twin Cities, too.
 
Like Zuk, many prospective faculty members want to ensure their spouse or partner has career options when they travel to the University area. To help retain faculty, universities nationwide are increasing the amount of available resources to help make the transition easier for new employees. 
 
“People are starting to acknowledge that this has always been a big concern,” Zuk said.
 
Zuk said her husband was fortunately able to land a position in a University office through the school’s Relocation Assistance Program when she was hired at the school as a biology professor in 2012. 
 
Before coming to the University, Zuk served as a part-time administrator at the University of California-Riverside, where she helped facilitate similar transitions for faculty members and their spouses. 
 
Now, Zuk is working with University administrators to create a brochure that consolidates some of the school’s family-friendly policies, like ones within the Relocation Assistance Program. 
 
She said most faculty members in higher education are “dual-career couples,” where both partners have careers that are important to them and need to be secured before a move happens.
 
A 2008 Stanford University study shows that faculty members at universities across the country are increasingly in this type of relationship.
 
Zuk said faculty members often turn down job offers if their spouse or partner can’t find a job near the school.
 
Mary Everley directs the University’s Relocation Assistance Program and the Upper Midwest Higher Education Research Consortium, which is a nonprofit that connects people to employment opportunities. She said while the University can’t guarantee a position for a faculty member’s spouse or partner, it can connect
them with resources and other contacts in the area, like University alumni.
 
“We just do what we can to connect people,” she said. 
 
Everley said the Relocation Assistance Program office brings together faculty members’ partners each spring to talk about ways to network in a new city.
 
Talking about a job candidate’s partner’s career often begins during the early stages of the hiring process, she said. 
 
“It’s more often a make-or-break deal than it was in the past,” Everley said. 
 
She said there are many job opportunities for spouses and partners both inside and outside academia in Minneapolis because of the city’s size.
 
Other universities have similar resources to ensure faculty members have proper resources for their spouses or partners.
 
University of Wisconsin-Madison Assistant Vice Provost Laurie Mayberry works with prospective faculty members and directs their partners to resources and contacts within the city.
 
She said while the schools are typically able to connect them with private sector positions around the area, it’s sometimes difficult to find positions in academia.
 
Joseph Konstan, chair of the University’s Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs, said ensuring both members of a couple have a position is a good way to retain faculty members and that offering resources is an important step in attracting top talent.
 
“It’s critically important that if we bring someone here, we do everything we can to make it as likely as possible that they’re going to want to stay,” Konstan said.