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Opening the Doors of the Academy a Little Wider

Opening the Doors of the Academy a Little WiderIn our cover story in this year’s special report on careers in higher education, senior writer Ronald Roach conducts interviews with newly appointed presidents Dr. Adam Herbert and Dr. Elson Floyd of Indiana University and the University of Missouri system respectively. These are both significant appointments — African American men named to lead large public university systems in the Midwest.
The Black higher education community may look at these appointments as “one more step for mankind,” but both Herbert and Floyd play down the significance of race in their appointments, and perhaps rightfully so. Only the boards of trustees know whether they considered race when making the offers or whether these were truly race-blind decisions. Either way, there’s no doubt that both men are qualified for their current positions and undoubtedly bring their own unique perspectives and experiences to the job. As a journalism graduate student a few years ago, I covered the search for the previous Missouri system president, and I have to admit that it’s difficult to imagine that an African American candidate would have been in the running at that time. So I’m encouraged that both Indiana and Missouri approached their presidential searches with open minds.
Speaking of having an open mind, looking back over our Careers edition for 2002 (see Black Issues, Nov. 21, 2002), we profiled female college administrators who made the very tough decision to accept a job offer in another city, while leaving their husbands and children behind, albeit temporarily. With Herbert and Floyd, we don’t delve much into their personal or family lives, but as we go to press with this edition, I have to ask why not. It’s difficult not to discuss women and careers without getting into “sacrificing” family time and the trade-offs of “success,” issues we have covered quite a bit in past editions. However, men, it appears, are able to singularly focus on their careers, which is evident in the questions we asked of the two presidents. In the future, we should be more even-handed in our approach, not to mention it would be interesting to find out what family considerations men take into account when contemplating a particular job offer.
I will get off my soapbox, but I think you will find both interviews interesting, as it’s not an easy time to be a college president especially of a public university. With state budget cuts, a sluggish economy and the close attention being paid to diversity or lack thereof, they all have enough to keep them quite busy, so we appreciate the time they each took to speak with Black Issues.
While some would say Herbert and Floyd are at the pinnacle of their academic careers, in “Changing FACES,” we profile young scholars who are just starting theirs. Kendra Hamilton introduces us to three recent doctoral graduates from the Georgia Institute of Technology who each received a $20,000 grant from the school to help them jump-start their academic careers.
As students, and now as professors, they, as well as their alma mater, are mindful of the unsatisfactory numbers of Black faculty on the tenure track, and particularly those in the sciences. That’s where the grant comes in. The three scholars, as well as the presidents profiled in this edition, all serve as inspiration and a reminder that people of color are continuing to make important strides in the academy, and that with preparation, determination and a support system, the doors of the academy will open a little wider.  Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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