In 2019, the College of Arts (CAL) and Letters and the College of Business (CoB) saw percentages of non-white faculty that were higher than the university average of 20.7%. CAL had 25.7% non-white faculty while CoB had 24.5%.
These colleges experiencing higher non-white faculty averages have been implementing strategic hiring practices such as expanding hiring to more diverse locations.
CAL interviews from top universities
Arts and Letters Dean Robert Aguirre said the college is undertaking a six-faculty cohort hire, which includes making JMU’s values of inclusivity, diversity and belonging explicit in advertising. He also said it’s interviewing young people who are getting their doctorates from the best universities in the U.S., such as Princeton, Yale and Berkeley. The college also brought in Karina Klein-Gable as a faculty diversity liaison, and is having candidates meet with her to get to know JMU.
“There is no contradiction between excellence and diversity,” Aguirre said. “So, as a hiring dean, I am always looking for examples of that and I’m very happy to see that my academic unit heads and their committees, who play a very big role in all hiring, have also recognized this truth.”
Aguirre said CAL will house the soon-to-be-established African, African-American and Diaspora Studies Center, and currently houses faculty in the existing Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center, which directly contribute to diverse studies on campus.
“I would love to see a university that has many more underrepresented students in it than it does now, a university that is more successful than it has been in recruiting and enrolling those students,” Aguirre said. “So, we have come a very long way … but of course, we can always improve and this would be a great thing for the college to be centrally involved in.”
CoB implements Three C Program
Likewise, CoB has seen faculty hires that are more diverse than the university average. Kimberly Foreman, the associate dean for human resources and administration for CoB, said the college is connected with an organization called the Ph.D Program that seeks to connect individuals from minority areas who are pursuing their doctorates.
Like CAL, she said CoB continues to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion within its faculty ranks, hoping to advertise positions to a broader range of locations. In addition, the college’s HR department has a Three C Program that looks at connections for trailing spouses, which offers resources to a potential hire and their family when coming to Harrisonburg. This helps open the door for a variety of candidates and can play a part in retaining interest.
“It’s so hard to come to a new area, especially if you’re married … and they’re looking for a job as well,” Foreman said. “HR really put together a lot of good information about this community, and it includes affinity groups as well so you can kind of get connected.”
These groups include resources for faculty coming in and information about school systems in the area if a person is coming in with children. CoB Dean Michael Busing said a recent hire for computer information systems and business analytics had a spouse who came to campus with him and now teaches physics at JMU.
“If we know that if we can keep one person in terms of hiring that individual — if we can do as much as we can for their family and for their, you know, life happiness — then we get a lot better chance about not only hiring that person, but keeping that person, and that’s really important as well,” Busing said.
Foreman, who grew up traveling with a military family, said she had the opportunity to connect with diverse communities in her lifetime, leading her to focus on the importance of different points of view at a university level.
“We need to be able to continue to broaden our minds, so that we don’t just stay in these little silos of narrow mindedness,” Foreman said. “This is the global world. We don’t live in these little silos.”
Foreman said CoB is currently recruiting for six or seven faculty positions and believes that there are real opportunities to create inroads into diversity. HR recruiting teams are partnering with CoB to ensure that faculty pools are diverse.
“It’s not something that happens overnight,” Foreman said. “It’s a conscientious effort to move forward one step at a time. I’m just excited about the fact that we have a lot of positions being posted right now … it’s just time for some new and energetic individuals to come in, and we’re looking forward to these opportunities.”
Busing said engaging with diverse communities is essential for growth for both students and faculty, coming from the midwest with very few people of color in his high school. He said he hopes to see positive changes in the future and a continual push for diverse hires.
“There are a lot of white people walking around in our hallways and that’s OK,” Busing said. “But I think they can benefit from having a professor in their classroom who opens their eyes to something they never even thought about.”
CHBS falls behind but has ‘pre-plans’
On the other hand, the college of health and behavioral sciences (CHBS) saw the lowest percentage of diverse faculty when compared with the university average, with 88.37% of instructional faculty being white in 2019, compared to a grand total of 79.35%.
BJ Bryson, the diversity, equity and inclusion director for CHBS, said her college is currently working on “pre-plans,” but hasn’t launched any official initiatives yet. She said she’s focusing on “capacity building,” which entails educating white colleagues on diversity issues in higher education.
“Part of the issue is that when there’s so few diverse folks who are out engaged, the minute you start talking about diversity, people get uneasy,” Bryson said. “Many of my white colleagues, how many of their friends or associates or even professional folks, do they know that are of color, or from international backgrounds or [are] LGBTQ? If they don’t identify that way, they probably aren’t going to know very many.”
Bryson said some steps forward include hosting a professional- development day for faculty and staff in which they learned about diversityDEI efforts. CHBS also has assisted in leadership development for diverse junior faculty members to ensure they get through the tenure process and complete their scholarship. The college has also engaged in an Inclusive Excellence learning program to enhance student education.
The college hosted undergraduate and graduate town halls in February to bring up the topic of diversity, and is doing listening sessions with faculty of color, international faculty and LGBTQ faculty.
“We’re talking to them individually — faculty and staff — about what their experiences are, so that we can figure out how to make more visible barriers that people feel they’re experiencing,” Bryson said. “So, you don’t know until you talk to people.”
General faculty recruitment relies on programs and outreach
JMU’s faculty population closely reflects that of its student body: In 2020, over 70% of instructional faculty and undergraduate students were white.
Executive Director of Faculty Access and Inclusion, David Owusu-Ansah, and Executive Director of Campus and Community Access and Inclusion, Arthur Dean, recruit more diverse faculty on a university level.
Owusu-Ansah said JMU strives for more vigorous research opportunities, and that can’t happen effectively without a diverse faculty and staff. He said bringing in more diverse faculty members will introduce different perspectives and literature, and allow for new conversations to be had. It’s important for underrepresented minority students to see their experiences reflected in the curriculum, he added.
“Research indicates that more diverse academic departments have higher retention of students, have higher retention of faculty members and actually have higher productivity of faculty research,” Owusu-Ansah said. “So, everything that we are doing is actually to help students come here, but also to help the university move to a high level.”
With the student population continuously rising, Owusu-Ansah said JMU must keep up to maintain JMU’s 16:1 student-faculty ratio. This opens the doors to recruiting diverse faculty. Getting diversity language, which is the way JMU advertises its efforts, approved by the Board of Visitors to fuse with career advertisements to attract faculty was one initiative Owusu-Ansah and Dean created.
The Office of Access and Inclusion has also developed communications and partnerships that allows it to reach diverse scholars. For example, Owusu-Ansah runs the Preparing Future Faculty Program (PFF), which recruits underrepresented dissertation fellows. It partners with Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs), increasing the number of diverse faculty at JMU as a result.
“We are monitoring what we try to make sure that we improve upon these particular processes, and different deans and different colleges are coming up with different strategies,” Owusu-Ansah said. “We are learning from other universities that have been successful in this.”
Dean said JMU has expanded to new counties, such as Fauquier and Fairfax, where JMU advertises faculty positions. This enlarges the tent of where the university asks people from different groups to apply.
“And because of that, the pool increased,” Dean said. “We found greater talent of diversity that we had never seen before, and now we’re able to recruit some of them to come to JMU.”
Kailey Cheng is a senior media arts and design and writing, rhetoric and technical communication double major. Contact Kailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.