Wentworth Institute of Technology invites applications, nominations, and expressions of interest for the transformational leadership position of Vice President of Employee Relations and Engagement.
Established in 1904, Wentworth Institute of Technology (Wentworth/WIT) was founded on the principles of action-based learning, dedicated to preparing graduates to meet the evolving needs of a growing economy. Today, Wentworth is a nationally ranked institution known for its co-operative education programs, offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees aligned with the needs and demands of the 21st century workforce. WIT enrolls approximately 4,516 students, of which 4,341 are undergraduates, in five dynamic schools: Architecture and Design; Management; Sciences and Humanities; Engineering; and Computing and Data Science. The university also employs over 700 people which includes faculty, staff, and adjuncts. Located in the thriving city of Boston, Massachusetts, Wentworth is a school of opportunity that is deeply committed to transforming lives through the education of first-generation students, military veterans, urban youth, and women breaking barriers in technical fields.
Role of the Vice President of Employee Relations and Engagement for Wentworth Institute of Technology
Reporting directly to the President, the Vice President of Employee Relations and Engagement (VPERE) is responsible for building and managing Wentworth’s capabilities in talent acquisition; onboarding; learning and development; performance management, including career development, individual coaching, and problem solving; employee, team, and labor relations; compensation and benefits, including reward and recognition initiatives; policy development; operations and systems (HRIS, ATS, LMS) and talent analytics. The VPERE’s top priority is to ensure Wentworth’s culture, business objectives and key results, systems, and processes are all aligned with the university’s foundational strategic priority of inclusive excellence. As both a strategic and hands-on leader, the VPERE will build high-quality teams and processes that are integral to the success of Wentworth.
The VPERE is a member of the President’s Leadership Council and serves as a strategic advisor to the President, Provost, and all division heads on all human resource matters while also working closely with academic and administrative department leaders across the Institute. The VPERE will establish and promote a vision and strategy that attracts, develops, and supports a diverse workforce of human resources professionals committed to advancing the Institute’s mission with an inclusive and welcoming culture. Additional responsibilities of the VPERE include the following:
- establish and implement human resources efforts that effectively communicate and support the university’s mission, strategic vision, and business operations;
- work with the university’s executive management team to establish a sound plan of management succession that corresponds to the strategy and objectives of the university;
- develop comprehensive strategic recruiting and retention plans to meet human capital needs aligned with institutional goals and priorities;
- design and implement comprehensive compensation and benefit plans that are competitive and cost-effective;
- drive the selection and implementation of a new HRIS system that best supports current and projected organizational needs;
- negotiate and manage contract negotiations and administer labor agreements for multiple unions.
Opportunities and Challenges of the Role
In transitioning to Wentworth, the Vice President of Employee Relations and Engagement will likely encounter the following opportunities, priorities, and challenges, as shared by key campus stakeholders:
- The next human-resources leader will be part of a landmark endeavor, transforming the mission, practice, and reputation of the organization as they direct a wholesale rebuilding—moving Human Resources from a purely transactional operation to an elevated role as a dynamic business partner driving inclusive excellence and facilitating strategic priorities of the university across all divisions. As the VPERE shapes their strategic goals and agenda, they will find that the institutional leadership is poised to make additional human-capital investments.
- The VPERE must be equipped to clarify job functions for Human Resources staff, improve workflow, and shape a sound organizational structure of the office. As several staff members are relatively new to their roles in Human Resources, it will be important that the Vice President take an active role in mentoring and building capacity among individuals while simultaneously fostering a cohesive, high-performance team.
- Adopting, implementing, and optimizing an HRIS system is a high priority. At present there is no comprehensive software system in place that is designed to manage all human-resources processes and data. The VPERE will need to evaluate the existing Vantage HRIS system and determine if its functionality with sufficient IT support is adequate to meet the needs of the university or whether a new system is needed. An inviting, intuitive, online-recruitment function (i.e., talent-management system) that is integrated into other parts of the system to allow for smooth progression from candidate to employee is needed. It is imperative that Human Resources be able to provide good data on which to base planning and decision-making, which has implications across the institution.
- The VPERE will shape the policies and practices needed to foster an exceptional campus culture that will, in turn, facilitate the recruitment, development, and retention of an exceptional, diverse, and talented workforce.
- As the university looks ahead to what stakeholders hope will be a largely post-pandemic academic year (after July 1, 2021), the VPERE will be instrumental in advising the President and the senior leadership team with regard to the policies and processes through which the institution will embrace a full return to campus, while also retaining valuable flexibility that will permit some degree of employee autonomy in setting work schedules and determining appropriate work-from-home options.
- The return to campus will also signal a need to focus on community building. Whether employees are relatively new to the institution and have only worked remotely, or if they are longer-serving members of the campus, the post-pandemic work environment is going to require adjustments for all. The VPERE will be pivotal in setting the tone and supportive structure to ensure that faculty and staff are able to transition into and thrive in their “new normal,” know that their contributions are highly valued, and that they are part of a community committed to inclusive excellence, as well as other common goals and values. As faculty and staff return to campus, their work units may look different, and work responsibilities will likely continue to evolve as there have been staff reductions and restructurings that have taken place during the pandemic. Human Resources must be proactive in creating a positive work culture.
- The VPERE will have an opportunity to provide leadership and support in negotiating labor contracts and ongoing relationships, working with the three unions representing faculty (i.e., Faculty Federation), as well as staff members working in facilities and public safety.
- Building a comprehensive and systematic professional development program and performance-review process for all employees that promotes training, growth, and learning for individuals will simultaneously strengthen Wentworth’s collective ability to adapt to changing circumstances by creating a nimble and resilient workforce.
- The campus’s commitment to forming and strengthening a diverse and socially just learning and working environment will require a better understanding of employee retention and attrition; strong collaboration with the Office of Institutional Equity (overseeing ADA accommodations and Title IX compliance); and the implementation of training opportunities, as well as creation of shared resources for hiring managers on institutional goals and priorities around equity and inclusion.
- The VPERE must forge a strong working partnership with colleagues working in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Office of the General Counsel, and Risk Management.
- Elevating campus confidence in human-resource services and ensuring that Wentworth is indeed a great place to work are overarching priorities for the next vice president of employee relations and engagement.
Qualifications and Characteristics
The successful candidate will possess a bachelor’s degree (advanced degree preferred) from an accredited college/university and a track record of progressively responsible experience in human resources, higher education administration, and/or business. Leadership experience providing strategic, collaborative, and consultative services demonstrating a depth of knowledge and expertise across the functional responsibilities of a comprehensive human resources organization, coupled with superior verbal and written communication skills, and a deep commitment to and experience in developing and maintaining a diverse and inclusive community, as well as thorough knowledge of employment-related laws and compliance regulations are also required.
Additional capabilities and experience that will be important in the selection of the Vice President of Employee Relations and Engagement include: a sophisticated approach to organizational leadership; excellent interpersonal and conflict resolution skills; superior organizational ability and attention to detail; strong analytical and problem-solving skills; evidence of success building cohesive, high functioning teams; strong professional development and supervisory skills; facility using varied HRIS systems; and proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite or related software.
In addition to the qualifications stated above, key stakeholders identified the following list of additional capabilities and attributes of a successful candidate (in no particular order):
- possess a background of experience and knowledge with regards to labor relations, negotiation of contracts, and building positive relationships with representatives of labor unions;
- have an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion as evidenced through one’s work history and impact;
- understand the distinctions that differentiate transactional from truly transformational human resources operations;
- demonstrate an innovative, creative approach to human capital management, including talent recruitment, retention, and development of a diverse work force;
- be forward thinking—ready to take calculated risks and try new ways of delivering services and advancing strategic initiatives;
- be equipped to draw on human capital development and comprehensive human resources best practices across varied industry sectors, not limited exclusively to higher education;
- have well-honed listening skills and the ability to exercise patience;
- possess experience and familiarity with building a dynamic talent management system that provides clear career ladders, training opportunities, and pathways for advancement;
- be confident serving as the subject matter expert, comfortable leading change, and advocating for the adoption of best practices;
- demonstrate leadership in advancing the use of technology within a comprehensive human resource and payroll operation;
- bring a combination of strategic and tactical skills into the leadership role—must be equipped to pivot seamlessly from high-level institutional strategic planning to practical implementation of best practices in all facets of one’s operation as a roll-up-the-sleeves officer who joins with their staff to accomplish shared goals and objectives.
Overview of the Current Human resources Department
As stated on the current department’s website, “The Wentworth Human Resources Department provides staff and faculty the support they need to navigate employment at the university. The Department assists with benefits and compensation, employment issues, hiring, and training and development.
Wentworth’s strong community environment and focus on innovation starts with employees devoted to furthering that mission. The Human Resource Department’s number one priority is to attract, reward, and retain a high-quality faculty and administrative staff.”
Leadership of the Department
All human resources and payroll functions at Wentworth are currently overseen by Mary Ellen Keeney, Interim Vice President of Human Resources. Keeney was appointed by President Mark Thompson in November 2019 and placed in the role with the assistance of The Registry, a higher education interim leadership placement firm.
Keeney has transitioned the $52 million annual payroll operation into the department and initiated an audit of human resources processes, policies, and procedures. Specific areas of focus and attention that have been identified as priorities by Keeney and her staff include:
- review and assessment of current and projected comprehensive HRIS system requirements;
- development of transparent and consistent parameters for university hiring and search processes;
- policy and procedure review to ensure compliance;
- design and coordination of exit interviews for faculty and staff departing the university coupled with analysis of trends and factors influencing these decisions to determine strategies for continuous improvement;
- onboarding, professional development, and training opportunities for staff and faculty;
- development of performance and evaluation processes and criteria.
The current organizational structure of Human Resources is as follows:
- Interim Vice President
- Director of Payroll and Employee Programs
- Director of Human Resources
- Payroll Associate
- Human Resources Generalist
At present, the department has engaged an outside consultant to support efforts to ensure all positions are appropriately classified and in compliance with the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act.
Once the new Vice President for Employee Relations and Engagement is onboard and after a period of acclimatization, they will be ready to recruit and fill a new, already approved, full-time position that will add capacity to the department and will focus on compensation and performance management. As part of a strategic development plan for the department, the new Vice President for Employee Relations and Engagement will need to conduct a thorough assessment of the current staffing model against stated priorities to determine if additional adjustments and or positions are warranted.
Wentworth Institute of Technology: Institutional Overview
Background & History
In 1903, Boston businessman Arioch Wentworth left the bulk of his estate, estimated at $7 million, for the purpose of founding an industrial school within the city. A board of seven directors incorporated Wentworth Institute on April 5, 1904, as a school “to furnish education in the mechanical arts.” The directors spent several years investigating the educational needs of the community, increased the endowment, and reached a settlement with Wentworth’s daughter, who had contested his will. The campus was established in Boston’s Back Bay Fens, and Arthur L. Williston was hired as the first principal of the college.
On September 25, 1911, Wentworth opened its doors as a technical school to 242 students. The school quickly gained enrollment and by 1919, it had 1,800 students in day and evening programs and 45 teachers. In 1953, Wentworth named its first President, H. Russell Beatty. Wentworth became a degree-granting institution in 1957 and began awarding its first baccalaureate-level degrees in 1970. Wentworth began a transition from a commuter college to a residential college in the 1960’s with the addition of several residence halls.
In 1972, the Institute admitted its first female students. By 2005, women represented 21 percent of the academic population. In 1975, cooperative education programs were introduced at Wentworth. In 1977, the college merged two divisions that had operated as separate schools and renamed itself the Wentworth Institute of Technology.
In November 2009, Wentworth became a master’s degree-granting institution with the creation and accreditation of its Master of Architecture program. Since then, several other master’s programs have been added to the curriculum, including civil engineering and construction management.
Wentworth received approval for “university” status from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education in July 2017. Despite being accredited as a university, the school honors its history and legacy by continuing to use “Wentworth Institute of Technology” as its official name.
While hands-on, action-oriented learning is a relatively recent addition to many college curricula, it has been the powerful, pervasive, and professionally relevant core of Wentworth’s programs for more than a century. Today Wentworth offers the educational programs for which there is strong labor market demand; integrates applied learning through curricular and co-curricular engagement; serves as a school of opportunity for first-generation college students, men and women from lower-income and working-class families, veterans of war, urban youth, and women breaking barriers in technical fields; attracts and retains highly dedicated faculty and staff; and creates and sustains strong institutional and community partnerships. All these factors enable Wentworth to produce graduates who consistently bring extraordinary value to their organizations and to the world.
Mark A. Thompson, President
Mark A. Thompson, PhD, became the fifth President of Wentworth Institute of Technology on June 1, 2019.
His career in higher education spans more than 25 years—from teaching and advising students at Marshall University and Morehouse College to serving in senior-administration roles at Quinnipiac University.
Thompson was at Quinnipiac for 21 years (beginning in 1998) before accepting the presidency at Wentworth. He served there as Associate Dean of the School of Business and later as Executive Vice President and Provost. Among other accomplishments at Quinnipiac, Thompson led the establishment of engineering and medical schools. He earned a reputation as a popular advocate for students and a valued, progressive member of the university community.
Earlier in his career, Thompson directed the Center for Business and Economic Research and was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Marshall University’s Elizabeth McDowell Lewis College of Business.
He has a bachelor’s degree in economics-finance from Bentley University, an MBA from Western New England University, and a PhD in economics from Georgia State University.
His expertise includes urban and regional economics and economic development. He has worked on regional economic initiatives with many private and public constituents and, as part of those efforts, completed more than 100 technical reports—ranging from economic impact assessments and strategic plans to feasibility studies and business proposals.
Thompson’s academic research has focused on the consequences of residential housing segregation, issues related to labor market discrimination, and assessing the impact of intellectual property rights on the economic growth rates of developing countries. His work appears in academic journals, including Economic Development Quarterly, Journal of Economic Development, Journal of Enterprising Culture, and Journal of Economics and Finance. He has also written a book chapter under a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation and made numerous conference presentations.
Wentworth’s programs are in high demand. The institution has expanded offerings and achieved university status while updating and adding facilities. The continued successes of Wentworth alumni have enhanced the university’s reputation in Boston and beyond. While many colleges and universities are struggling to identify a path forward in this shifting higher-education landscape, Wentworth is very well positioned to build on its strengths. The strategic plan developed during the summer and fall of 2019 is designed to propel the university forward, to further differentiate itself, and stand out in today’s competitive higher-education market.
The plan for Wentworth’s future has galvanized around four strategic focus areas:
- Inclusive Excellence
- High-Value Learning
- Transformative Student Experience
- Next-Generation Partnerships
To paraphrase statements made by President Thompson, “The strategic plan reflects the work ahead to secure Wentworth’s bright future, work that the university is tackling with optimistic urgency. The university derives its optimism from the accomplishments achieved throughout its history and its solid position in today’s marketplace. Wentworth is proud to offer educational programs for which there is significant labor market demand. The university remains committed to applied learning and is proud of its highly dedicated faculty and staff. Furthermore, Wentworth’s institutional and community partnerships are strong. All of these factors contribute to producing graduates who bring extraordinary value to the world.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In order to achieve its greatest potential and fulfill its responsibilities as an institution of higher education, Wentworth Institute of Technology is committed to reflecting the diversity of the City of Boston, the region, and the larger society. Inclusive excellence is the bedrock of Wentworth’s campus culture, a culture in which every member of the university community is included, engaged, and valued. To grow and reach its full potential as a 21st century university, Wentworth must achieve inclusive excellence in every aspect and at every level of university life.
Wentworth defines Inclusive Excellence as actively and intentionally cultivating a diverse and culturally competent institution where each member has the opportunity and support to reach their full potential and make contributions to the campus community and beyond. Wentworth will achieve inclusive excellence by intentionally embedding inclusion in every policy, practice, and individual behavior. This will help ensure that every member of the Wentworth community can reach their full potential.
Academic Programs and Faculty
Wentworth academic programs are distributed throughout its five dynamic schools: Architecture and Design; Management; Sciences and Humanities; Engineering; and Computing and Data Science. The institute is one of five colleges forming the Colleges of the Fenway. This collaboration with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Emmanuel College, and Simmons College expands academic opportunities and choices through cross-registration and enhances the student and faculty environments of the individual institutions while retaining the unique and special qualities of each of the five colleges.
The student-faculty ratio at Wentworth Institute of Technology is 18:1, and more than 40 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students. The most popular majors at Wentworth Institute of Technology include: Mechanical Engineering; Construction Management; Computer Science; Architecture; and Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering. The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 84 percent.
Active for more than 40 years, Wentworth’s co-op program is one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the nation. Every student at Wentworth must complete two semesters (a third is optional) of professional, paid work experience to graduate. Co-ops can be completed in Boston, though students may pursue opportunities in their hometown or abroad. Student co-op compensation ranges from$14–20 an hour.
There are 161 full-time and 220 part-time faculty members. Twenty-two (22) percent of full-time, and 17 percent of part-time faculty are members of an underrepresented group.
The Student Body
Total student enrollment is approximately 4,516, of which 4,453 are undergraduates.
- 78 percent male
- 22 percent female
- 24 percent ALANA (African American, Latinx, Asian, Native American)
- 7 percent international
- 13 percent of new students are transfers
- 32 percent of students are from out-of-state
About Boston, Massachusetts
Wentworth Institute of Technology is one of 35 colleges and universities in Boston, the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, which was home to about 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranks as the tenth largest such area in the country. The wider commuting region contains about 8.2 million people, making it the sixth most populous in the United States.
Boston is one of the oldest municipalities in the United States, founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from the English town of the same name. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston. Upon gaining independence from Great Britain, Boston continued to be an important port and manufacturing hub, as well as a center for education and culture. The city’s rich history annually attracts millions of visitors from around the world. Boston’s many firsts include the United States’ first public park (Boston Common, 1634), first public school (Boston Latin School, 1635), and first subway system (Tremont Street Subway, 1897).
Boston today is a thriving center of scientific research, as well as port of entry for commerce and international immigration. The Boston area’s many colleges and universities make it a world leader in higher education, including law, medicine, engineering, and business, and the city is considered to be a global pioneer in innovation and entrepreneurship, with nearly five thousand startups. Boston’s economic base also includes finance, professional and business services, biotechnology, information technology, and government activities.
Wentworth Institute of Technology offers the following comprehensive and competitive benefits to employees:
- Health Plans: administered by Tufts Health Plan
- Dental Insurance: administered by CIGNA PPO
- Long-Term Disability Insurance: administered by Lincoln Financial
- Life Insurance
- Flexible Spending Account: for dependent or elder care and medical care expenses
- Tuition Assistance: for employee and dependents
- Retirement Plan: administered by TIAA
- MBTA Monthly Pass Program: providing monthly subsidy for T pass for employees with no parking permit
- Paid Time Off: 20 days annual vacation; 12 sick days per year; 12 paid holidays
- Optional Voluntary Benefits: additional life insurance; Liberty Mutual insurance for auto, home, or rental; accident insurance; short-term disability insurance; employee assistant program; and vision plan
Review of applications will begin April 19, 2021, and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Valerie B. Szymkowicz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.
Visit the Wentworth Institute of Technology website at www.wit.edu
Wentworth Institute of Technology, an equal opportunity affirmative action employer, is committed to attaining excellence through the recruitment and retention of a diverse work force. Individuals historically excluded, veterans, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.
We are sensitive to how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting work and personal lives, and will offer the utmost flexibility throughout the interview process. The search committee expects to conduct initial interviews virtually for the safety and well-being of all involved.