Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Number 4

Diversity Digest
Volume 7,
Number 4

Download our print issue (PDF)
Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Learning Through Evaluation: The James Irvine Foundation Campus Diversity Initiative (CDI) Project
James Irvine Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative
Diversity Climate Surveys:
Worth the Effort
Unleashing the Power of Metaphor: Pepperdine University
Implications of Prop 54
Faculty Involvement
Enhancing Diversity: University of Southern California
More than Bittersweet Success: University of the Pacific
Curricular Transformation
Institutionalizing Diversity: Occidental College
Educating for a Just Society: University of San Francisco
Making Diversity News
Media Watch
Teaching Students Media Skills
AAC&U Evaluation Resources
Irvine CDI Evaluation Resources
DATA: Capturing Hopes

More Than Bittersweet Success: Effective Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Faculty of Color

By Heather J. Knight, associate provost, University of the Pacific, and Kathleen C. Sadao, assistant principal, Stockton Unified School District


In 1997, the University of the Pacific (Pacific), initiated a Faculty Diversity Hiring Plan to increase the number of its faculty members from underrepresented groups, including African Americans, Latinos(as), Asian Americans Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. As part of our CDI evaluation plan, we designed a study to evaluate our hiring effort. From this study we hope to gather information that will aid in refining our recruitment and retention strategies for faculty of color.

Pacific’s Faculty Diversity Hiring Plan raised the visibility and importance of actively recruiting faculty from underrepresented groups by setting the initiative in the context of its institutional planning priorities. The goals of increasing the diversity and academic quality of the members of the University community and expanding the commitment to diversifying students, faculty, and staff were established as part of Pacific’s strategic plan. In addition to the development of general guidelines to enrich the candidate pool with more faculty of color, administrative policies regarding the search and selection processes were reviewed and alternative approaches to attracting faculty of color were developed. These processes received approval from University governance groups including the Academic Council and the Board of Regents.

Broad campus involvement contributed to the University’s ability to increase the percentage of faculty of color over four years from 10 percent to 19 percent. Because of our rapid rate of success and the need to retain our new faculty of color, Pacific was eager to understand the variables that influence the career choices and professional development of faculty of color over time.

Broad campus involvement contributed to the University’s ability to increase the percentage of faculty of color over four years from 10 percent to 19 percent.

We sought to ascertain the perceptions of both new faculty recruits and Pacific’s tenured faculty of color concerning the specific recruitment and hiring initiative being implemented on campus. Research was also conducted to discover factors for success among Pacific’s current faculty. We used Sadao’s “biculturalism” theory as a framework for our investigation of faculty success. Developed from emerging research, this theory posits that the ability of faculty of color to thrive effectively in two different worlds—the world of their cultural origin and the world of U.S. higher education—contribute to their success (Sadao, 2003).

The results of Pacific’s study are consistent with Sadao’s original research, which found that faculty of color who were hired and retained at a Hawaiian institution under study “are adept at code switching, using appropriate cultural lenses to perceive how to effectively engage in cross-cultural actions within an academic setting where their previous ethnic cultural beliefs and practices may be in direct conflict with the norms of the university (412).”

In addition to assessing the degree of biculturalism among Pacific faculty of color, we interviewed them regarding their academic histories, professional and personal backgrounds, reasons for selecting a career in academia, experiences in school, and their reasons for choosing to teach at a medium-sized Research II university.

The results of this qualitative study revealed four variables that influence the success of faculty of color at Pacific—individual characteristics, interpersonal skills, family background, and institutional supports/barriers. For example, the individual variable stressed perseverance and tenacity, as well as confidence in their intellectual abilities and a passion for their subject matter. In terms of institutional support, faculty of color emphasized the importance of Pacific being a medium-sized campus focused on teaching, the openness to diversity experienced during the interview process, the commitment of institutional leaders to developing and implementing a Diversity Hiring Plan, financial incentives (such as summer research stipends and funding to attend conferences), and a key mentor at the senior administrative level. Faculty of color also cited Pacific’s proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area as a plus for retention. These data provide important information that will enable Pacific to refine its efforts to recruit and retain faculty of color successfully.

As we continue to make our diversity initiative successful, evaluation plays a key role in helping to organize for institutional learning. Our goal is to embed our new knowledge and lessons learned into Pacific’s search processes. For example, knowing that new faculty of color want more consistent access to information about and knowledge of expectations at the departmental level will enable search committees to prepare more effectively for interaction with
faculty of color.

In addition, the biculturalism evaluation approach provided valuable knowledge about the experiences and perceptions of new faculty of color as a group, which may aid others in establishing practices that work to create inclusive environments. We hope that our proactive efforts to pinpoint and alleviate the concerns of potential future faculty will invariably enhance the recruitment efforts for all searches.


Boice, R. 1993. New faculty development for women and minorities. Research in Higher Education, 34:3, 291-341.
Olsen, D., S. A. Maple, & F. K. Stage. 1995. Women and minority job satisfaction: Professional role interests, professional satisfactions, and institutional fit. Journal of Higher Education, 66:3, 267-293.
Sadao, K. C. 2003. Living in two worlds: Success and the bicultural faculty of color. Review of Higher Education, 26:4, 397-418.
Turner, C. S. V. & S. L. Myers, Jr. 2000. Faculty of color in academe: Bitter success. Needham Heights, MA: Allan and Bacon.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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