Grooming the 21st Century Professoriate
Despite Challenges Posed by Anti-Affirmative Action Initiatives, the Ph.D. Pipeline Continues to Deliver a Diverse and Much Needed Group of Young Professors
CLAREMONT, Calif. — With just one Black professor, five Latino professors and five Asian American professors on its roster of 75 full-time faculty members, the Claremont Graduate University here recognized that its faculty diversity efforts could stand further improvement. Enter, J.W. Wiley, a former aerospace company executive turned philosophy graduate student with a keen interest in faculty diversity.
In July 1999, Wiley became the assistant dean of academic affairs after having previously served as a special assistant to the provost and a minority student recruiter. One of his primary functions has been to help make the school a more attractive institution for Black and other underrepresented minority faculty.
Under his direction, the university recently established diversity programs with a minority student mentor program, a predoctoral and postdoctoral faculty exchange with Howard University and other initiatives.
And in addition to building internal programs, Wiley adds the school is seeking to align itself with national faculty development and recruitment programs to attract minority faculty.
“We have to attack the fort on as many sides as we can,” Wiley says, adding that he soon hopes to affiliate Claremont with national faculty pipeline programs, such as the Compact for Faculty Diversity.
For the past three decades, a broad tapestry of support organizations, foundations, and universities have crafted graduate school pipeline programs to recruit, fund, retain and position Blacks and other underrepresented faculty of color to join the nation’s professoriate. Participants in the most successful of these initiatives reportedly have higher retention rates and complete their degrees in shorter periods than the general population of doctoral students.
These programs are considered critical to institutions, such as Claremont, that are aggressively courting minority faculty.
The task of growing the nation’s minority professoriate, long supported by major foundations and the federal government, saw considerable experimentation during the 1970s and 1980s. By the beginning of the 1990s, experts say support for such initiatives had reached a peak and verged on fueling dramatic increases in underrepresented minorities earning Ph.D.s.
Nevertheless, that dramatic movement forward hit a slowdown in the mid-1990s with anti-affirmative action initiatives taking the steam out of key programs.
“It has certainly slowed us down,” says Dr. Ansley Abraham, the Compact for Faculty Diversity program director at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta.
At the end of the decade, however, higher education leaders and organizations are continuing to refine strategies to recruit and support underrepresented minorities. Despite the chill in affirmative action, experts believe now more than ever that programs undertaken this decade have created the strongest models to date for recruiting, supporting, retaining and graduating minority graduate students into careers as professional scholars.
One stellar corporate example is the Peat Marwick/KPMG-backed Ph.D. Project.
Begun in 1994, to increase the number of underrepresented minorities on business school faculties, the Ph.D. Project solicits doctoral candidates from among the ranks of minority corporate executives. Currently, 400 doctoral candidates are pursuing their Ph.D.s in business with support from the program. Barring attrition, the initiative expects to double the nation’s production of Black and minority business faculty within its first decade of operation.
“Our target is minorities working in corporate America,” says Dr. Bernie Milano, executive director of the Ph.D. Project.
“And there’s a tremendous amount of interest,” notes Milano, adding that 400 potential business doctoral students will attend a two-day conference this fall in Chicago that introduces them to the Ph.D. Project and business school programs.
Meanwhile, programs like the federally supported Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program and the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship are gaining momentum in their efforts to prepare undergraduate students to enter graduate school.
Launched in 1988, the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship has steered hundreds of minority college students into graduate programs. By providing students with research experiences and mentoring, the program helps undergraduates make informed decisions about graduate school.
Of the 1,222 students that entered the program between 1988-89 and 1998-99 school years, program officials say 44 have earned Ph.D.s. Another 300 are in Ph.D. programs, and 400 intend to enroll in a Ph.D. or master’s program.
State-Supported Models Vulnerable
A few years ago while attending Arizona State University, Henry Evans found himself in a predicament familiar to many graduate students. More than two years into a master’s program, Evans, a native of Pocatello, Idaho, tapped out the funding available through the political science department. As a result, he left Arizona State and went home to Idaho to write his thesis.
Once back in Idaho, Evans learned that his alma mater, Idaho State University, had a minority doctoral scholars support program that had been spearheaded by the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education.
With the program promising tuition waivers and stipends over a five-year period, Evans opted to resume his political science studies at the Pocatello-based Idaho State and earned a spot in the special doctoral initiative.
Since then, money has not been a concern for Evans while at Idaho State, he says, recalling that Arizona State provided him several hundred dollars less in monthly stipends, including graduate assistant teaching pay.
“The WICHE support allows me to focus on my academics,” says Evans, who is in the fourth year of his doctoral program.
Evans is one of several hundred doctoral students on U.S. campuses participating in the Compact for Faculty Diversity’s doctoral scholars program. In the early 1990s, surveys of state higher education officials indicated that institutional diversity had become a high priority for state higher education systems.
That interest among states led three higher education consortiums, the Southern Regional Education Board, the New England Board for Higher Education and WICHE, to form the Compact for Faculty Diversity along with the backing of the Pew Charitable Trust and the Ford Foundation.
The Compact for Faculty Diversity took off in 1993 with each regional group establishing a minority doctoral support program and doing so by leveraging public funding from state schools with private foundation monies.
Dr. Ken Pepion, program director at the Western Interstate Commission, says roughly 58 students have participated in its doctoral program, including 15 who obtained their Ph.D.s within the six years the program has existed. Retention in the program has been 90 percent so far. The commission works with individual schools and academic departments to determine the level of financial support they can contribute to a newly admitted doctoral student.
“We operate at a 4-to-1 ratio with public support being supplemented by private funding,” Pepion says.
The program requires major commitments from states, which typically waive tuition fees and guarantees paid teaching assistantships for the minority doctoral students admitted to their schools. However, public pressures, including California’s affirmative action ban, have limited the growth of the commission’s initiative.
“We had to drop the California schools from the [Compact],” Pepion says, explaining the state’s public colleges and universities have abandoned participation in all race- and ethnic-based programs and scholarships. “It has had an adverse impact on the growth of our program,” he adds.
The Southern Regional Edu-cation Board’s Abraham reports that Texas schools were dropped from the roster of the SREB minority doctoral scholars program due to the Hopwood court decision. The Oklahoma program recently was halted because the state has suspended initiatives that support race- and ethnic–based graduate education.
Nevertheless, reaching institutions in 16 states, the SREB minority doctoral scholars program has had 271 students participate in the initiative. Thirty-nine students have obtained their doctorates and 207 remain in their programs, Abraham says.
Like Pepion, Abraham says he believes the numbers would be higher were it not for an affirmative action ban in a major state and reticence on the part of other states.
Both program directors say that since the early 1990s, state higher education boards and officers have retreated from identifying diversity as a top priority for their school systems.
“If the states give us half a chance, we can show them that we have a formula that works,” Abraham adds.
In New England, the Compact for Faculty Diversity has taken on a different shape than it has in the West and the South. Dr. JoAnn Moody, vice-president of the New England Board of Higher Education, says the New England approach has been to focus on science, math and engineering programs, and work more closely with individual academic departments across both private and public institutions. NEBHE also has a program that supports minority humanities and social science doctoral students who are writing their dissertations.
“In New England, the higher education power emanates from the campuses, not from the states,” Moody says, adding that she believes the New England board’s minority doctoral programs are less vulnerable to attack from affirmative action foes.
The board’s campuses currently enroll 60 minority doctoral students and 41 dissertation scholars through the Compact for Faculty Diversity, Moody says.
Bringing Young Scholars Together
Schools committed to recruiting and hiring minority faculty members are finding that participating in special minority doctoral initiatives provides direct access to the pool of emerging Black, Latino and Native American scholars.
Some of the programs hold national conferences to bring faculty and administrators together with young scholars.
Earlier this month, for instance, the Compact for Faculty Diversity convened its sixth Institute on Teaching and Mentoring conference. Held in New Orleans, this year’s meeting brought together 425 students, faculty advisers and administrators from the leading minority pipeline programs — including Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellows, Ronald McNair Scholars and Minority Graduate Education-National Science Foundation participants. Claremont Graduate University’s Wiley was among the roughly 100 administrators and faculty advisers attending the institute.
“I went [to the institute] for a few reasons. One, I took two of our McNair scholars there so that they could become part of this network. And two, … it allowed me to begin talking to doctoral students about Claremont in the hopes that they will become interested in us,” says Wiley, who notes that he would like to bring at least four additional Black faculty members to the school over the next two years.
The institute also put Wiley in touch with scholars interested in his philosophy research, especially his dissertation on Dr. W.E.B. DuBois’ contributions as a philosopher.
Moody , with the New England Board of Higher Education, says the Compact for Faculty Diversity’s institute gets participation from other national pipeline programs because they lack their own national conferences. The other programs want their students to take advantage of the networking.
“We’re bursting at the seams with people attending the institute,” Moody says.
Kimberly Moffitt, the current president of the National Black Graduate Student Association, says that one of the great values of the minority faculty grooming initiatives is the networking opportunities they provide.
“What these [emerging faculty conferences] do is serve as a clearinghouse to let us know about the positions,” Moffitt says.
Moffitt, a Ph.D. student in communications at Howard University, participates in the Preparing Future Faculty program, a faculty development initiative serving majority as well as minority doctoral students.
Preparing Future Faculty is a collaborative effort among colleges and universities organized into clusters led by a doctoral institution. Each cluster of institutions or departments offers their doctoral students teaching experiences, dissertation support and mentoring.
Through a Preparing Future Faculty program, Moffitt is teaching one course each semester this academic year at Hope College in Michigan while she completes her dissertation.
Howard is the only historically Black institution of the 15 doctoral schools participating in the Preparing Future Faculty initiative, which is supported by the Council of Graduate Schools and American Association of Colleges and Universities.
Dr. Ingrid Y. Padilla, who recently earned her Ph.D. in hydrology engineering from the University of Arizona, views remaining connected to minority graduate student networks as an essential part of her career navigational strategy, especially since she has opted to go into industry before taking a full-time academic position. The former Ford Foundation dissertation fellow is now based in Puerto Rico, but continues to attend the annual Ford Fellows conference to stay connected.
The Ford conference was held in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com