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The Daily Wildcat

 

UA seeks to diversify faculty and improve hiring efforts

Professor+of+art+Joe+Labate+listens+during+a+discussion+after+the+Inclusive+Excellence+presentation+at+a+Faculty+Senate+Meeting+in+Old+Main+on+Monday%2C+Sept.+12%2C+2016.
Rebecca Noble
Professor of art Joe Labate listens during a discussion after the Inclusive Excellence presentation at a Faculty Senate Meeting in Old Main on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.

The UA Provost’s Office and current faculty members are focusing on bringing a more diverse faculty to campus.

“Students need to see people like themselves in positions of academic authority,” said Lynn Nadel, chair of the Faculty Senate and professor of psychology and cognitive science. “There are many reasons but the simple reason for this is that it’s a diverse world and diversity both matters and is a good thing.”

RELATED: UA’s newest freshman class set to be the most diverse ever

This year’s freshman class of over 10,000 students was reported to be the most diverse ever.

“About 40 percent of our incoming student body is diverse in some way or another,” said Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “The faculty is not as diverse as the students and there’s all kinds of reasons for that.”

 From 2011 to 2014, the total number of minority students enrolled at UA increased by 2,553, according to the UA diversity statistics and reports. As of 2015, only 28 percent of UA faculty were part of a minority group.

 “Diversity is absolutely key because if we don’t have diverse perspectives as we are studying something or trying to figure out what the best answers are,”  Comrie said. “We just don’t get the best set of ideas or answers in the room,”

 There are specific programs set at UA, according to Comrie. One of them being the Strategic Priorities Faculty Initiative,  which is a program  that provides funding and is aimed at helping the UA compete well for recruiting individuals who can reach diverse audiences. 

“This is not one of the areas where you can just snap your fingers and it happens, in every step of the process people have to be aware that this is an important thing to do,” Nadel said. “It’s a multi-layer problem that has to be attacked in just about every level just like most important things in life.”

There are other specific programs to encourage the diversification of hiring pools. Doing that is half the battle according to Jesús Treviño, senior diversity officer and vice provost for inclusive excellence.

Comrie said the program is aimed toward having hiring committees that understand elements of good diversity and inclusion practice, offering training workshops to ensure that understanding. 

Because faculty members are the ones dealing and interacting with the students, Comrie said they need to be able to connect with the different communities on campus and in order to do that the UA needs to be made up of those different communities. 

 “Research shows that diverse learning communities come up with more innovative solutions to problems, it’s a vital part to a learning community,” said Thomas Miller, professor of English and vice provost for faculty affairs. 

RELATED: Hart forms team to support diversity

Miller said he feels there needs to be more recruiting and supporting of students and faculty from diverse backgrounds.

 “We are like the rest of the country and higher education we are going through a demographic transition, the state is gonna move to a minority—majority population in 10 years, some estimates leave it as quick as seven years—that’s not very long for a university to adapt to changes.” Miller said.

Treviño said the main goal for this mission is to prepare students to lead in a diverse world. 

According to Treviño, job descriptions and advertisements for positions at the university are being worked on so potential applicants understand diversity is something valued and prioritized.

“My hope is that we will be able to culturally transform a university that practices and accepts diversity as the way of life,” Treviño said. “One of the things I find really refreshing is that there is a lot of willingness to change, there is a pretty wide and universal agreement from the university that they want to diversify.”


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