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U of M hosts national forum on faculty of color
Closer to home, the outlook isn’t much brighter. The University of Minnesota reported that four percent of its full-time tenured faculty were people of color that year, the same percentage as the University of Iowa, Purdue University, and the University of Chicago.
According to Nancy “Rusty” Barceló, the University of Minnesota’s vice president and vice provost for equity and diversity, those low numbers reflect the academy’s need for entirely new models in the faculty recruitment process. “Our advertising, our position postings, our mission statements, our compacts — all of our institutional documents and actions need to reflect that diversity is a core value in everything we do,” Barceló says.
Faculty diversity at the University of Minnesota is at the heart of the U’s “Keeping Our Faculties: Recruiting, Retaining, and Advancing Faculty of Color” symposium. Held at the University four times since 1998, Keeping Our Faculties is the nation’s only conference focused entirely on increasing faculty of color in colleges and universities.
The 2007 conference, held April 12-14, attracted over 300 participants and presenters from 115 different institutions.
“The idea of merit is so ingrained into the culture of higher education, but who’s deciding what is ‘meritorious’?” asks Caroline Turner, who originated the idea of the faculty-of-color discussion while an assistant professor at the U of M and is now a professor at Arizona State University. “If we’re going to increase the numbers of faculty of color, we need to redefine merit to include more than just these academic journals or only those graduate schools,” she says. “The lens has to be widened.”
One notable success story in the effort to diversify the faculty is the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, nine-week summer research apprenticeships for undergraduates who are first-generation, low-income, or part of groups who are underrepresented in graduate programs. These research apprenticeships, which are directed by a faculty mentor, are designed to increase the rate of doctoral program completion by these students.
Hundreds of colleges and universities, including the University of Minnesota, participate in the program, which has shown significant success in building a “pipeline” of students of color into graduate school. In 2003-04, more than 2,100 students participated in the program, and of those students, more than 56 percent enrolled in graduate school in the fall of 2004.
The importance of mentoring graduate students and junior faculty of color was a common concern of symposium attendees. “If there was one theme I heard repeated throughout the conference, it was the need to provide mentoring for faculty of color,” notes Barceló. A number of breakout sessions focused on mentoring programs at institutions including the University of Georgia, Creighton University, and Indiana University, which have found some measure of success in retaining faculty of color.
“I remember seeing a magazine ad years ago that said ‘Great minds don’t think alike,’” adds Turner, “and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, they’ve got it right!’ Academia will not be able to keep up with the global economy and the educational needs of our students if we don’t have all our minds — the minds of women, of racial and ethnic minorities, of all underrepresented groups — at the table and in the classroom.”
Ami Berger is director of communications in the University of Minnesota Office for Equity and Diversity.
©2007 Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder