The Diversity Challenge: Recruiting Prospective Faculty of Color
The competitive nature of the academic job market, combined with individual perceptions about affirmative action policies in higher education, can place diverse job applicants in challenging situations.
One such challenge is academic institutions’ recruitment efforts to attract diverse candidates. For example, as colleges and universities post job advertisements in various publications in an effort to recruit diverse applicants, they often highlight the need for, or strongly encourage, “minority” candidates to apply. However, they rarely reference the importance, value, and more importantly, the meaningful contribution diverse faculty members can bring to their academic institutions.
While good intentions may underlie efforts to diversify an academic institution, the efforts could also elicit a variety of mixed messages. First, some Caucasian applicants may question whether diverse candidates have an added edge for obtaining academic positions by virtue of their ethnicity. Such perceptions can foster tension between Caucasians and people of color. Second, not all academic faculty and college administrators endorse similar values with respect to diversity programs in higher education. Conceivably, once a candidate of color accepts a job offer, some faculty and college personnel may espouse biased perceptions about the new hire’s credentials. Third, some diverse candidates may view such recruitment efforts as merely a means to attract and lure people of color to these institutions. For some prospective faculty of color, these perceptions may cause them to question the institution’s intent and purpose for recruiting diverse candidates.
With these considerations in mind, academic institutions can address such concerns in a number of ways. First, colleges and universities may consider placing job announcements that explicitly stress the importance of diversity in higher education and emphasize the meaningful contribution that diverse candidates can offer to their academic institutions. Second, job announcements that highlight the value of diversity could minimize negative biases directed at diverse candidates. Perhaps shifting the focus from simply recruiting or “strongly encouraging minorities to apply” to emphasizing the importance and value of diversity might allow individuals to gain a better sense of the institutions’ intentions and their conceptualization of diversity. Finally, academic institutions could recruit prospective faculty of color (particularly advanced graduate students who are close to completing their degrees) by creating multicultural summer research/teaching fellowship programs, which may be designed to allow a faculty member of color to mentor diverse candidates prior to their arrival at the institutions.
Implementing these types of recruitment programs could yield a number of positive career and sociocultural outcomes for diverse candidates. First, they would allow prospective faculty of color to experience the sociocultural climate of an academic department and the surrounding community of that institution firsthand. Second, these programs would enable diverse candidates to establish connections with relevant research/teaching faculty in their subject areas, as well as with other professionals within the community. Finally, it could provide them with added professional experience that could bolster their academic career opportunities. In short, such programs could assist diverse candidates in becoming better prepared to serve their respective academic institutions.
In closing, culturally appropriate recruitment strategies and multicultural research/teaching fellowship programs can potentially yield positive outcomes for prospective faculty of color. These types of recruitment approaches can help minimize some of the sociocultural challenges that faculty of color may encounter in higher educational settings.
— Byron L. Zamboanga is a Ph.D. student in the department of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lloyd G. Bingman is a Ph.D. student in the department of educational administration at Michigan State University.
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