diversity digest
Fall 00
Faculty Involvement
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Succeeding in an Academic Career:
New Book Offers Practical Lessons and Advice

Wallace Eddy, Editorial Intern, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives, AAC&U


"What does it take for faculty of color to achieve and prosper in the academy?" Mildred García attempts to answer this question in her newly edited book, Succeeding in an Academic Career: A Guide for Faculty of Color.

While the editor explicitly states that this book is for faculty of color, its value is much broader. The book is a collection of voices of faculty of color who have "been there" and have succeeded in the academy. However, presenting these voices, García paints a portrait of higher education using statistics and "hard data." She demonstrates the importance of negotiation--a talent possessed by the authors and candidly shared with readers. Authors share both personal narratives and practical advice. Their narratives may be intended to help new and prospective faculty members of color, but they also provide a snapshot of higher education that is useful for all those interested in the future of the academy.

Three main lessons emerge from this book: (1) know the landscape, (2) know your stuff, and (3) know yourself. These themes are presented in most chapters with an emphasis on knowledge being the key to success.

Know the landscape. The first chapter asks the question "where do I want to work?" and describes the various types of institutions in the United States as well as issues to consider as a person of color when deciding where to work. Other chapters discuss such issues as office politics, establishing support networks, and how one negotiates the tenure and promotion process. All these topics address the importance of being keenly aware of the environment before making decisions, and staying aware once decisions are made.

Know your stuff refers to being an outstanding academic professional. The faculty of color who write here felt that they had to do more than their white counterparts to be considered equal. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, for instance, notes that being an agent of change is important for faculty of color working in less than ideal situations, but demonstrating your academic worth is essential. She suggests that, "You must establish your own credentials and credibility as teacher, scholar, and citizen. You pay your dues first before you ask others to undertake critical self examination and make changes."

These authors also discuss the greater expectations they face. Faculty of color are frequently asked to participate in committee projects that deal with diversity issues. These assignments take time away from research, teaching, and writing--the aspects of a faculty career that are most rewarded. They say they feel torn between a commitment to their various communities and their own professional aspirations.

Essays in this book also suggest that knowing your stuff also involves showing your stuff. One author suggests that getting involved in professional organizations is a good way to show the academic community what you can do and what contributions you can make to the profession. This also brings visibility to faculty of color who might choose to become leaders of color--and thus, role models for young academics considering a career in the professoriate.

Know yourself is also a theme that pervades most chapters. This book suggests that unless you know yourself, you will not be able to decide where you are able to work as an academic professional, how to balance your teaching with your research and writing, the degree to which you want (and are able) to be involved with students outside of your formal teaching relationship, and where you want to go professionally. Authors pose questions that faculty of color may want to consider when getting to know themselves before making career decisions.

As the editor puts it, "It is essential that newly hired faculty of color be aware of the questions they should be asking, recognize both the pitfalls and opportunities they face, develop a keep understanding of the system, and know the rules of the game at the type of institution they have chosen to join." This book offers detailed advice in these areas to maximize the potential for the success of faculty of color. Succeeding in an Academic Career is an essential resource providing sound advice and guidance to faculty of color and insights to other college administrators committed to ensuring the success of faculty of color at their own institutions.

(To order Succeeding in an Academic Career: A Guide for Faculty of Color, contact Greenwood Publishing Group,
tel: 800-225-5800;
http://www.greenwood.com).


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