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Diversity — probably one of the most elastic and debated terms around today. Yet, with its wide and growing usage, much confusion still exists as to what it means in a practical and meaningful way. Instead of debating what it is and what it’s not, the editors of Diverse have decided to bring you an ongoing series of brief portraits that give clear indication that in many corners of U.S. higher education institutions and individuals are forging ahead with innovative, bold and consequential approaches to achieving a more inclusive society. They are also demonstrating that they are leaders in the truest sense of the word. During the coming months, you will be inspired by what you read in Diverse because those featured are indeed Champions of Diversity both in word and deed.

The Brown Corporation

In November 2000, the 54 officers of the Brown Corporation voted to name Dr. Ruth Simmons the 18th president of Brown University, making her the first Black president of an Ivy League institution. The Brown Corporation officers said at the time that Simmons had not only impressed them by her accomplishments but added that her extraordinary life story would set an example for the Brown student body.

On July 3, 2001, Simmons, the youngest of 12 children born in a poor Texas sharecropping family, was sworn in as Brown’s president. Since the historic appointment, the university has fared well under her tenure with faculty expansion underway, increased financial support of undergraduate and graduate students, improved facilities and a strengthened commitment to diversity.

Call Me Mister *

In 1998, less than 1 percent, or fewer than 200, of South Carolina’s 20,300 elementary school teachers were Black men. To address this crisis, Clemson University and three historically Black colleges and universities launched Call Me Mister, a national initiative designed to increase the number of Black male teachers matriculating into elementary school classrooms.

“We debunk[ed] the idea that we would not be able to successfully identify and recruit Black males to go into teaching. Even in our first year, we had a waiting list and recruitment,” says Dr. Roy Jones, director of Call Me Mister. In a decade’s time, the program has graduated more than 30 Black male elementary school teachers and the program is expanding. “Fast forward 10 years, we now have 12 [Call Me Mister] institutions within South Carolina,” Jones says. Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia have licenses to initiate programs. * For more information, visit callmemister.clemson. edu and hear director Roy Jones in his own words at

Derrick Bell

To the general public, law professor Derrick Bell is known as a prolific author who brings an insistent and uncompromising voice to the public discussion on race in American society. In the higher education community, Bell has put his own career on the line in taking a stand for diversity. He has abandoned both a deanship at the University of Oregon and a tenured professorship at Harvard in protest of hiring practices that overlooked minority faculty candidates. Bell, who has been deemed an “intellectual warrior in the pursuit of social justice,” gained early attention in higher education when he became the first tenured Black professor at Harvard Law School in 1971. Currently a visiting professor at New York University School of Law, Bell has also been a leading proponent of critical race theory in U.S. legal studies.

Excelencia in Education

Producing reports such as “Model Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Campus Practices That Work for Latinos,” the 4-year-old Excelencia in Education aims to accelerate high educational success for Hispanic students by providing data-driven analysis of the educational status of Hispanic students and by promoting policies and institutional practices that support their academic achievement. “Most of our analysis is designed for decision makers to know what the trends are, to discover the promising practices and to identify the challenges. We provide the information to educators and policy makers to move from talking about the demographics as a liability, to responding effectively with institutional practices and educational policies that show evidence of accelerating Latino student achievement in higher education,” says Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. For more information, visit

Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowships

With faculty diversity lagging far behind that of the student population in U.S. higher education, the Ford Foundation’s Diversity Fellowships program has made Ph.D. attainment possible for thousands of underrepresented minorities over the past three decades. The longestrunning program of its kind, the Diversity Fellowships have provided funding for tuition and stipends at the predoctoral, dissertation and postdoctoral stages for more than 2,500 Ford award recipients since 1980. Previously known as the Fellowship for Minorities, Ford renamed it the Diversity Fellowships program in 2004, in the wake of the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, and opened its eligibility to students of any race or ethnic background. Foundation officials noted that it is critical to cultivate diversity advocates of all backgrounds among the future professoriate.

National Collegiate Athletic Association

The NCAA banned the use of American Indian mascots, imagery and nicknames by collegiate sports teams at postseason tournaments in 2005. Although the NCAA’s executive committee decided it did not have the authority to ban individual school’s Indian mascots, it did ban nicknames or mascots deemed “hostile or abusive” from team uniforms and related clothing. Under the ban, mascots are not allowed to perform at tournament games, and band members and cheerleaders are prohibited from wearing Indian images on their uniforms as well.

Colleges and universities such as Florida State University that won approval from namesake or local tribes were allowed to appeal the ban and maintain their mascots.

“Since the 1970s, two-thirds of Indian mascots have been dropped. Getting the last third was a struggle. When it seemed as if nothing was happening, the NCAA stepped in,” says Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee), president of The Morning Star Institute, a native rights organization. “It took an entity from the outside to come and shake things up.” Opponents of Native American mascots criticized the NCAA for its late intervention; Harjo did not. “You can quibble with anyone’s effort with timing and style, but ultimately you have to look at the end result,” Harjo says.

The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development

NISOD is the outreach and service arm of the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin. CCLP has led the nation in its production of minority community college presidents. Notable alumni include Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Emeritus and CCLP faculty member Dr. Walter Bumphus, who won wide acclaim for his steady leadership in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita; and Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, the first African-American and the first woman president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The PhD Project *

Initiated by the KPMG Foundation in 1994, The PhD Project’s mission is to diversify corporate America by boosting the number of minority faculty members at business schools in the United States, ultimately leading to a more diversified work force better prepared to serve an increasingly diverse population. The PhD Project hosts a peer support network through which minorities are encouraged to obtain business Ph.D.s and can get advice and guidance on how to navigate through business doctoral programs. Since the PhD Project was launched, the number of minority business school faculty has increased from 294 to more than 900 to date, and over 400 minority business school doctoral students are in the pipeline today.*

The Southern Regional Education State Doctoral Scholars Program

Since 1993, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Doctoral Scholars Program has provided financial and mentoring support to more than 800 minority Ph.D. students. As of summer 2008, 415 of those assisted in the past 15 years have earned their doctorates, achieving an overall 90 percent retention rate; more than 300 are currently completing their doctorates, primarily at institutions in southern states. In addition to supporting minority Ph.D. candidates in the South, the SREB Doctoral Scholars Program spearheads the coordination of the Compact for Faculty Diversity, a national partnership of regional, federal and foundation programs focused on diversifying the professoriate. The compact serves as the sponsor of the annual Institute on Teaching and Mentoring.

The University System of Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative

Six years ago, when University System of Georgia officials found that Black male students were outnumbered by their female counterparts nearly 2-to-1, they developed an initiative to even out the ratio. Since the program’s inception, Black male enrollment has increased 24.5 percent throughout the University System of Georgia, up from 17,068 students to 21,249 students. Additionally, the number of degrees conferred to Black males between 2003 and 2007 increased 17 percent, up 1,513 from 1,294. For more information, visit

*To learn more about Call Me Mister and The PhD Project, sign up for the “Diversity Champions: A College Wide Effort” webinar on Sept. 17. For additional information, please visit

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