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Promoting Multicultural Excellence in the Academy: A National Summer Institute
As immigration and other factors transform the United States, institutions of higher education must capitalize on increased diversity to prepare students to live in, work in, and contribute to an interdependent world. In this context, colleges and universities must train and recruit faculty from various backgrounds who can draw on their multiple cultures, worldviews, opinions, talents, gifts, and disciplines to educate their students (Turner & Myers, Jr., 2000). Yet according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in 2005, only “109,964 U.S. minority scholars held full-time faculty positions at American colleges and universities” (2007). In order to realize the benefits of diversity, institutions must improve their structural support for a diverse faculty.
The Call for Structural Diversity
A diverse population of faculty, staff, and students yields tremendous educational benefits, including opportunities for cognitive and personal growth; chances for improving leadership abilities; and the creation of a rich social environment for promoting all students’ learning and development (Milem, Chang, & Antonio, 2005). Yet although higher education has begun to recognize the cultural benefits of diversity, structural diversity presents a continuing challenge to colleges and universities (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, & Allen, 1999).
Structural diversity refers to a variety of factors, both demographic (the number of faculty, staff, administrators, and students who are of color) and programmatic (policies for the recruitment and retention of diverse populations, programs that provide academic and social support, and other group-specific support mechanisms) (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, & Allen, 1999). Each of these mechanisms undergirds the others: a diverse faculty, for instance, requires supportive policies and programs throughout the institution. Although a lack of structural support has limited the recruitment and retention of faculty of color in the past, institutions are increasingly open to creative and innovative reforms.
One of these key reforms is in the area of early support for faculty-in-training. Only a small pool of doctoral students from underrepresented populations trained to join the professoriate currently exists. In order to craft a faculty that reflects the greater population, institutions of higher education must prepare graduate students, particularly those currently underrepresented in academia, to assume leadership positions. In pursuit of this goal, the University of Denver has created a national summer institute to train men and women of color and white women to enter the faculty pipeline.
Training Future Faculty
The institute, entitled “Promoting Multicultural Excellence in the Academy,” fulfills several functions necessary to prepare students for academic careers and to increase the pool of underrepresented faculty candidates. These are:
- Encourage participants to clarify their goals in relation to pursuing a faculty position, and provide them with the information necessary to pursue these goals in the competitive job market.
- Increase the national pool of faculty of color and women, providing structural support for enhanced learning environments.
- Develop a national network of men and women of color and white women in academia who can support each other in their searches, thereby increasing the odds that candidates will remain in the faculty pipeline.
In addition, the institute brings highly qualified and sought-after scholars to Denver with the hope that they will eventually seek employment and diversify applicant pools at the University of Denver (DU).
Hosted by the Office of Multicultural Faculty Recruitment and Retention within the Center for Multicultural Excellence and the Office of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Denver, the four-day institute consists of seminars on a variety of topics essential to graduate students hoping to enter the faculty pipeline. National experts from around the country provide participants with cutting-edge practical information and insight into the process of entering the academy. Fellows come from institutions throughout the United States and represent a variety of disciplines. Thus the institute draws a group of participants whose diversity encompasses categories beyond race, ethnicity, and gender.
Participant responses indicate that the institute has been a valuable experience. “I never would have gotten [this information] from my department or university,” one participant said. Another expressed, “I’m encouraged by what I learned and the people I met.”
Lessons Learned about Faculty Recruitment
The process of creating our institute has reinforced several lessons about recruiting and retaining women and men of color and white women:
- In order to attract outstanding faculty, colleges and universities must invest personnel resources in a variety of programs designed specifically to increase and retain the number of underrepresented faculty. The institute at the University of Denver represents one such initiative.
- Institutions of higher education must deliberatively educate doctoral candidates about pursuing faculty careers. Of the eighty-four fellows who have participated in the program over four years, only one indicated that his department or university had provided the information he received at the institute.
- College administrators need to examine campus climates, particularly at the departmental level. According to Turner and Myers, “the predominant barrier [toward recruiting and retaining faculty of color] is racial and ethnic bias resulting in unwelcoming and unsupportive work environments for faculty of color” (2000). Department culture is often a major contributor to this “unwelcoming” climate.
Institutions of higher education must act systemically and proactively to improve their structural diversity. Needless to say, improvement will require creative and innovative solutions. We hope that more universities will contribute to the training, preparation, recruitment, and retention of diverse faculty populations through initiatives like the National Summer Institute on Promoting Multicultural Excellence in the Academy. In doing so, they will improve not only professional equity, but also the overall educational experience for their students, faculty, and staff—and their students’ preparation to contribute to our intercultural world.
Gose, B. 2007. The professoriate is increasingly diverse, but that didn’t happen by accident. Chronicle of Higher Education 54 (5): B1.
Hurtado, S., J. Milem, A. Clayton-Pederson, and W. Allen. 1999. Enacting diverse learning environments: Improving the climate for racial/ethnic diversity in higher education. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report (26: 8) Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
Milem, J., M. Chang, and A. Antonio. 2005. Making diversity work on campus: A research-based perspective. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges & Universities.
Turner, C. S. V., and S. L. Myers, Jr. 2000. Faculty of color in academe: Bittersweet success. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Fernando R. Guzman III is an assistant provost for multicultural faculty recruitment and retention at the University of Denver.