Diversity in Higher Education
“Oh my goodness, It’s you!” The student exclaimed, her eyes wide with excitement. After getting lost on her way to another building, the young woman had unknowingly knocked on the door of the building where my new office was located. “I’m sorry, have we met before?” I asked. “No, but I know who you are! I read all about you on the faculty web page. I actually chose this graduate program because it was the first time I saw a young black woman serving as a member of the faculty at a university.” The student and I chatted for a bit, before I finally figured out what building she was trying to locate and guided her in the right direction. The significance of this experience was not lost on me, as I realized the impact being a young woman of color plays in my role as a faculty member.
In the article, “Teaching in the Line of Fire: Faculty of Color in the Academy” the authors present an integrated narrative of five faculty members’ experiences in hopes of raising awareness of how issues of diversity affect faculty in higher education. Although historically underrepresented, there has been an increase in the diversity among faculty staff in universities across the country, although maintaining minority faculty in their positions appears to be an ongoing issue in many institutions of higher education.
Developing an understanding of minority faculty members may be only one part of a multifaceted approach to addressing the issues around building a diverse faculty. Additionally, many universities have also found success in having institutional memberships with organizations such as The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members. Other institutions have developed campus based or national initiatives around diversity in higher education, such as the Drexel University’s “Faculty of Color and Minorities” webpage or “University of Minnesota’s “Keeping our Faculty of Color Symposium.”
What are your impressions of the work being done to increase the amount of diversity among faculty members in higher education? Have you had any experiences that may contribute to a greater understanding of this issue?
Shanna Williams, LCSW, M.Ed.