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Research Development Academy

This opportunity is possible through a partnership between the Office of the Provost, Division of Diversity & Engagement, and the Office of Research & Engagement.


Higher education acts as a silo for conventional ways of recruiting and retaining faculty that often fail to include diverse and underrepresented faculty populations. Historically, institutions of higher education (IHEs) have not welcomed or been inclusive of perspectives from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Various recent national studies indicate that faculty from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to experience isolation, discrimination, marginalization, bullying, and invisible labor in higher education due to their positionality. Diverse and underrepresented backgrounds include but are not limited to racial and ethnic minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ populations. These populations are more likely than their peers to leave their institutions before achieving tenure due to negative experiences. However, as society has become aware of diversity and exclusion of underrepresented populations, higher education has awoken to the importance of reflecting the diversity of society itself.

In contemporary IHEs, diversity and inclusion are increasingly discussed as important topics. For example, some IHEs implement target hiring to recruit more diverse and underrepresented faculty. Equally important is retaining these diverse faculty who have unique experiences and perspectives. In programs where representation is poor, diverse faculty may have to take on heavier service loads, including committee work on DEI issues. This type of additional service load, called invisible labor, is becoming far too heavy, especially when it prevents diverse faculty from focusing on their own research, scholarship, and tenure review process.

At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), faculty members from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds experience similar issues. Anecdotally, diverse faculty who have departed UTK described challenges in developing and growing their research agendas, scholarship, and/or creative activity due to lack of cooperation from others and increasing amounts of invisible labor without a collegial culture and community. Although their decisions to depart are complex, additional support such as one-on-one guidance and mentorship, a supportive and collegial community, and access to upper administration for their research, scholarship, and/or creative activity is needed to help retain diverse faculty. This proposed program, the Research Development Academy, incorporates the aforementioned needs and best practices from related programs and initiatives at UTK.


The purpose of the Research Development Academy is to support tenure-track faculty from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, sex, gender, and LGBTQ+ populations who have the potential to contribute to the University of Tennessee’s discovery mission; advance the University Tennessee’s values of diversity and inclusion; and retain faculty by providing guidance and support to refine and further their research agenda in ways that align with promotion and tenure guidelines.

The Research Development Academy focuses on empowering diverse tenure-track faculty to advance their own scholarly agenda in research, scholarship, and/or creative activities in a collegial environment with supportive guidance, which will ultimately empower and motivate faculty to engage in their own scholarship to be successful at UTK. The Research Development Academy provides a safe environment for faculty to network with each other, and resources for them to move their research agenda forward in a focused way.


  • Tenure-track faculty at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; must be pre-tenured and must not have yet submitted a tenure dossier
  • At time of application to the Research Development Academy, at least one full year of tenure-track service at UTK or another IHE
  • Self-identification as a racial or ethnic minority, a woman, as part of the LGBTQ+ community, as a member of an underrepresented group within your discipline, or as otherwise aligned with the goals of the program
  • Must be available to participate in at least 90% of the program

Program Components

The Research Development Academy is designed to engage participants in a variety of personal and professional development opportunities including but not limited to coaching sessions; a research project; mentoring; community building; access to senior level administrators; professional development; and a research presentation. Participants will receive tuition to attend the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity’s Faculty Success Program. All participants shall agree to being tracked by the Division of Diversity and Engagement until he/she is promoted and tenured.

Coaching Sessions

The kickoff and group coaching session in September will be for participants to network as a group, gain a better understanding of various funders, and map out participants’ research agendas and goals for this program and for the next three to five years prior to their tenure and promotion review year. Each group session will have a guest speaker to discuss various types of scholarship and research including internal and external grants, the tenure and promotion process, and research in general.

Research Project

Program participants will design and implement a research development project during the program. Combination of group coaching sessions (4 sessions) and one-on-one coaching sessions (4 sessions) will provide participants with the opportunity to make good progress on research and scholarship from their inception to development and implementation of research. Through group and individual sessions, the participants will be able to focus on their own research with appreciative and constructive feedback from the other participants and their coach(es). Participants will receive up to $4,000 to assist with their research.


Program participants will discuss with their department head (and departmental mentor) their current and revised research, scholarship, and/or creative activity agenda and active research project plans during the program.

Community Building

Program participants will engage in community building events that are designed for the cohort to interact and build camaraderie. Participants may also interact with members of previous RDA cohorts while being introduced to organizations and entities in the greater Knoxville area in an effort to build community broadly.

Upper Administration Engagement

Program participants will be provided access to upper administration (i.e. Chancellor, Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor, and Vice Chancellors) in an effort to discuss ideas, explore new strategies and processes, and help expand the RDA and promotion and tenure process.

Professional Development

Program participants will attend at least 80% of workshops and professional development related to promotion and tenure offered by the Office of the Provost/Faculty Affairs to be eligible for funding, if applicable.

Research Presentation

The final session in August will be for program participants to share the results of their research development project so that they may receive appreciative and constructive feedback from their peers and coach(es). This will help them further their research, scholarship, and/or creative activity for future scholarship. Participants will also be invited to present at such events as the annual Engagement and Outreach Conference, Diversity Symposium, Critical Race Collective Symposium and other events.

Faculty Success Program

Participants will receive tuition to attend the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity’s Faculty Success Program. The Faculty Success Program is an intense, 12-session, online-based program where participants learn strategies to increase their research productivity, gain control of their time, and live a full and healthy life beyond campus. Participants will be expected to attend this program during the fall semester.

Dates are still being finalized. Please note group coaching sessions have been decided and on the second Friday of each month from 2-5 PM.

Timeline & Modules

Month Module Description
Aug – Nov NCFDD Faculty Success Program Participants will begin this 12-session program before the official kick-off of the RDA and will have opportunities to reflect on what they learn during RDA group sessions.
Sept 24 Kickoff and group coaching Meet and greet participants; establish ground rules and expectations; overview and federal and private funders; learn best practices for setting goals in the context of research
Oct One-on-one coaching sessions Develop and discuss a research agenda, including a research vision and three-year plan
Nov 12 Group coaching Share research agenda and receive feedback
Dec One-on-one coaching sessions Develop short-term and long-term action steps to achieve vision
Jan 14 Group coaching Share short-term and long-term action steps to achieve vision and receive feedback
Feb One-on-one coaching sessions Develop research development project plan
March 11 Group coaching Share research development project plan and receive feedback
April One-on-one coaching sessions Finalize research development project plan
May 13 Group coaching Receive feedback regarding project plan
May-July Research Development Project Participants complete their research development project independently
August Project Presentations and Program Closeout Participants present the results of their research development project