A Campus Strategy for Success: Developing the Self-Perpetuating Engine

As the literature has noted, there is so much work to be done before reaching a place of equity' within the STEM professoriate, especially for Latinas. However, there are glimmers of hope that can be gleaned from STEM departments that are intentionally' working toward recruiting more women faculty' and faculty of color. Presented here are analyses from a five-unit comparative case study analysis at Midwestern University' (MU)2, which indicate that recruiting and hiring more women faculty and faculty of color in disciplines where they are severely minoritized requires inten- tionality and multifaceted approaches (Kamimura, 2019'5). Three of the departments—astronomical sciences (AS), chemistry, and physics—argue that focusing on the internal organizational climate can be the best recruitment strategy'. In doing so, three specific recommendations arose: intentionally promoting inclusion, empowering the minoritized, and signaling support structures.

Midwestern University Context

MU shares many institutional characteristics with other large, public, very high research-intensive campuses in the United States. However, its uniqueness stems from a long history and relentless commitment to social justice. MU currently matriculates more than 40,000 students (combination of undergraduate and graduate) in close to 20 schools and colleges, for one or more of approximately 300 degree programs. Of the undergraduates enrolled at MU, more than 50% are female, and less than 15% are Students of Color. Conversely, only about 10% of all faculty employed on campus are people of color. Furthermore, MU is located in a state that is legally restricted from using social identities in the hiring process for university employees. Thus, while MU experiences a gap in representation between Students of Color and faculty of color, and they are in a restrictive state, they remain loyal to their social justice history in aiming toward equity in the professoriate.

Three of MU’s departments in particular—astronomical sciences (AS), chemistry, and physics—were selected as exemplar departments to analyze based on their investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts on campus (Merriam, 2009). However, each of these departments has a unique history and rationale for investing in these efforts. Most notably, AS is the department with the youngest organizational history, yet it was experiencing some turmoil about ten years ago with a significant number of departures, most notably by women faculty. This attrition drew national attention and ultimately negatively impacted their reputation. Chemistry was contending with a “head-hanging” history, according to one of their long-standing faculty, after struggling through a gender equity lawsuit and recognition that the climate for female faculty was feeding a revolving door. Physics, on the other hand, was not contending with a tumultuous history; rather, it was struggling with high levels of internal resistance to change. Therefore, the physics department had to lean heavily on the colleges leadership to pave the way, thus creating a culture of compliance for the early years when faculty were being pressed by the college and MU to increase diversity in their faculty. Regardless of the differing reasons for implementing strategies to recruit and hire more women faculty and faculty of color, all three departments have been intentionally invested in efforts and realized the power of creating and sustaining a positive departmental climate as the best recruitment (and retention) strategy. Insights from key faculty and leaders in each of these departments point to the following three recommendations to actively create and sustain a positive environment.

Intentionally Promoting Inclusion: Structural Environments

Through the study, intentionality was central to the findings. In this case, intentionality was foundational in promoting inclusion within departmental cultures. As such, chemistry and physics infused more transparency into their policies and practices, while AS focused intently on many structural markers. It was evident that changes to the organizational structures were needed to allow for psychosocial factors in the organizational climate to also change.

 
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