Preparing Future Faculty to Focus on Diversity
Doctoral study is one of the best places to address two of the most intractable problems in higher education: preparing future faculty to teach a diverse student body and recruiting a future faculty that looks like America. AAC&U's and The Council of Graduate Schools' (CGS) Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program, supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and National Science Foundation, is working with scores of institutions to meet these challenges.
Since 1993, the PFF program has awarded grants to doctorate-producing universities to develop new programs that provide broader preparation for college teaching careers than graduate students traditionally receive. The programs include preparation as a researcher, a teacher, and an academic professional. Each PFF program brings together a cluster of institutions with different missions and student bodies--universities and primarily undergraduate institutions, called partners--so that graduate students can have an opportunity to sample faculty life firsthand. Graduate students, faculty members, and administrators in both the universities and their partner institutions are working together to better prepare the professorate of the future.
Teaching for Inclusiveness
Students from diverse ethnic and national backgrounds increasingly populate the changing college classrooms. These newer recruits to higher education bring with them a variety of learning styles, cultural backgrounds, and motivations for going to college. Characteristics like these challenge tomorrow's professors to make learning exciting, useful, appropriate, and welcoming to all students.
Current and future faculty members must become adept at choosing printed, electronic, and audiovisual materials, and in selecting topics or assignments that value the wide variety of perspectives and interests that exist among their students. Moreover, they must learn teaching methods and interpersonal approaches that reflect genuine respect for and understanding of an increasingly heterogeneous mix of students.
PFF clusters are holding workshops and seminars on these approaches, and involving partner institutions as laboratories for developing the most effective strategies for teaching in increasingly diverse classrooms and for making use of the burgeoning scholarship and literature on diversity in developing new curricula. These workshops help participants to be reflective about their own biases and to examine their own thoughts and actions. At partner campuses, PFF participants are talking with learners from previously underrepresented groups and learning about their backgrounds, their values, and their motivation. One PFF participant described how valuable it was for her to have had the opportunity to examine curricula, syllabi, and text materials with her teaching mentor and revise these materials to eliminate biases. Experiences like these are effective ways to help faculty in their efforts to encourage the success of all students (Chism and Pruitt, 1995).
Clusters are employing a variety of strategies to provide these experiences. Arizona State University, for example, has set as a priority a focus on diversity throughout the PFF seminars. They distribute readings throughout the year that relate diversity issues to the seminar topic. A segment is included in the PFF seminar on "Teaching in the Inclusive Classroom." It focuses on the research agenda, with the idea of engaging a more diverse group of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in research funding opportunities.
Northwestern University is working with its cluster partner, Chicago State University, to create programs that allow faculty and graduate students to talk about the way white teachers have altered their materials in order to be more effective teachers of African American students. PFF students at Northwestern seek advice from African American faculty and students regarding curriculum, selection of materials, and the role of the community and the church in education.
Syracuse University and the University of New Hampshire have created a relationship with Howard University that enables participants to visit each other's campuses so that PFF students can interact with each other and with their undergraduates, and learn what it is like to be a faculty member at historically black and predominantly white campuses.
The University of Nebraska recruited the two most diverse academic institutions in Nebraska as partners: Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Nebraska also created relationships with distance partners including Grambling University, an historically black university. They also plan to work next year with New Mexico Highlands University, an Hispanic and Native American serving institution, and with Texas A & M University--Corpus Christi, an Hispanic serving institution. Other examples of outreach to institutions with racially and ethnically distinctive student bodies include partnering between Duke University and North Carolina Central University, and Florida State University and Florida A & M University. The Program for Instructional Excellence at Florida State has developed a technique of dramatizing a variety of circumstances in which diversity becomes "a problem" and allows participants to discuss the issues and ways of dealing with them.
Diversifying Future Faculty
Leaders in the PFF project also recognize that while all existing and future faculty need to be actively engaged with issues of campus diversity, bringing more people from underrepresented groups into the faculty ranks is a parallel and essential additional goal for changing institutions. Thus far, PFF is having limited success in adding to the diversity of future faculty. Were it not for Howard University, the racial and ethnic mix of PFF participants would be extremely limited. To address this challenge, PFF programs are making special efforts to point out to all underrepresented students the importance of the professorate and encourage doctoral students to enroll. We are encouraging program faculty to identify promising undergraduate students early and give them opportunities to teach and conduct research, thus introducing them to academic careers.
At the national level, PFF is forming alliances for enhancing diversity in the professorial pipeline by collaborating with such groups as the: Compact for Faculty Diversity, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program in Florida, National Black Graduate Student Association, and Consortium for Developing Historically Black College and University New Faculty. In collaboration with AAC&U's American Commitments Initiative, PFF is also contributing to the development of a manual for search committees to use to improve the search process to increase the recruitment of more faculty of color.
One example at the cluster level illustrates initiatives that universities can take. Howard University is the nation's largest producer of Ph.D.s for African Americans, and the graduate dean makes it a practice to include required PFF participation in proposals to secure funding for doctoral preparation. Howard has received a grant of $1 million from the Lilly Endowment/ UNCF Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program that supports the development of a new doctoral scholars program. It is designed to increase the number of Ph.D. recipients among African Americans and individuals from other underrepresented groups who wish to pursue a teaching career in higher education. Another example is Howard's NSF/Minorities in Graduate Education Project. This is an intensive summer research program for undergraduate juniors and seniors that requires participation in the PFF program and a rigorous mentoring and retention program.
A comment from a PFF participant summarizes the challenge higher education is facing: "We cannot diversify the faculty quickly enough. We must re-educate the existing faculty to understand issues of difference and to be able to work with these differences. It is everyone's responsibility to do so. From the PFF student to the administrators we must take the lead. PFF may be the best mechanism to do this!"
We hope that PFF's program of activities addressing campus diversity can serve as a model for all those institutions responsible for preparing and mentoring the faculty of the future to be effective in our increasingly diverse colleges and universities.
Sources: Chism, Nancy Van Note and Anne S. Pruitt, "Promoting Inclusiveness in College Teaching," in W. Alan Wright, ed. Teaching Improvement Practices: Successful Strategies for Higher Education. (Bolton, MA: Anker, 1995).
This article is drawn from Building the Faculty We Need: Colleges and Universities Working Together.
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Anne S. Pruitt-Logan
Jerry G. Gaff