The vice provosts accompanied me, and our goals were to open channels of communication, hear concerns these groups might have, and discuss ways we might partner with them to address those concerns.
We hope these meetings signal the beginning of closer collaborations between the commissions and pave the way for them to play a larger role in helping Academic Affairs shape its strategic initiatives, especially in the areas of diversity and inclusion. In particular, we’d like these groups to help us recruit and retain diverse faculty and staff through involvement in employee orientation, faculty mentoring, and professional development programming, among other activities.
Robert Nobles, associate vice chancellor for research and engagement and chair of the Commission for Blacks, was a driving force in making these meetings happen. What started as an invitation to sit down with the Commission for Blacks quickly broadened to include conversations with the other two commissions.
Subsequently, we’ve held a series of lunches with black faculty. Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Taylor Eighmy has co-sponsored these lunches. To date, Robert, Taylor, and I have met with approximately 42 faculty members at seven luncheons, where we explored how the Office of Research and Engagement and the Office of the Provost can assist faculty with professional development. We are planning similar luncheons with members of the other two commissions.
Some notes from our various meetings:
- Nobles said the Commission for Blacks wants to play a larger role in engaging black students to facilitate better communication between students and administrators—something we would welcome.
- Tamara Griffin, a coordinator in the Office of Disability Services and co-chair of the Commission for LGBT People, said commission members realize that some faculty, staff, and students don’t know the commission exists or what it does. We agreed that getting the commission involved in providing information for employee orientations could raise its visibility and help bridge that gap.
- During our meeting with the Commission for Women—chaired by Hillary Fouts, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Child and Family Studies—we talked about how we can increase the number of women at the full professor and department head ranks. We also talked about the importance of senior faculty mentoring junior faculty.
Our conversations with the commissions underscored what we all know—we are at our best when we work together to tackle problems and make improvements. As we move forward on our diversity and inclusion goals, I look forward to continuing the dialogue and working together.