"Connections and Conversation" Promotes Diverse Faculty Success

Posted on August 7, 2020

Deans for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officers hosted two virtual summertime events to connect faculty members from underrepresented groups from across the Ohio Five.  Focused on building networks and sharing advice that can help faculty thrive and succeed, the morning-long Zoom conversations hosted 53 faculty members from all five institutions.

Faculty beginning their careers – some acclimating to small college towns from larger academic settings – often have different concerns than those who have held a longer tenure.  The deans arranged a first meeting on June 10 for faculty in years 1-3, focusing on teaching in tumultuous times and practices for professional development and self-care.  Using Zoom’s breakout rooms enabled faculty to assemble in chat rooms to further the discussion.  A session on June 24 hosted faculty from year 4 through pre-tenure and emphasized inclusive pedagogy in times of COVID-19 and strategies for sustaining progress toward tenure. Faculty expressed a range of questions and concerns about maintaining their scholarly work and assessment of their teaching in our (now) largely remote or hybrid classroom environments. The conversations, moderated by the deans/directors of diversity and inclusion and senior faculty members, were both comprehensive and candid.

“I really appreciated that space was created for junior faculty members to discuss issues that are unique to non-tenured faculty members, and the discussion about areas of anxiety and concern for junior faculty as we navigate challenging times for us and for our students, particularly as we support BIPOC on our campuses,” commented Dr. Michelle Nobel, assistant professor of education at Ohio Wesleyan University. “I was able to connect with a few new faculty at other institutions who have shared research interests with me.  I’m hopeful we can connect and do some interdisciplinary work together starting this fall.”

The meetings followed a 2018 planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that helped identify best practices for supporting the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty and development of teaching strategies to respond to the increasingly diverse student population at Ohio Five colleges.  In-person faculty forums in 2019 and 2020 helped identify the need for ongoing connection and discussion between faculty of color on ways to thrive and succeed during the pre-tenure period.  The newest set of Zoom meetings, organized virtually in response to COVID-19, continues this ongoing discussion. 

If you are a faculty member interested in participating in future virtual and in-person Connections and Conversation meetings, please contact Ohio Five project leader Susana Velazquez at velazquezs@ohio5.org.