Fighting for Diversity in a College of Education

In the college of education where I work, a big goal is to increase the diversity among the faculty. The dean is black and oversees a faculty of about 125, of whom only ten are people of color. He is serious about changing things.

We are hiring two new early childhood education faculty this year (a big opportunity). A man who was originally from Kenya was a candidate for the first position. He had served as an elementary school principal in Kenya for ten years before coming to Pennsylvania to get his bachelor's degree in psychology, his master's degree in special education, and his doctorate in elementary education.

The folks on the search committee didn't recognize what an opportunity this was. While I was pushing to include him on the list of who to invite for an interview, they were fixated on the fact that his publications weren't in "refereed journals" and that he wouldn't defend his dissertation until August. I couldn't believe it! Finally I turned to the two students on the committee (both people of color) and asked what they thought. They spoke to the need for faculty that brought some diversity and a different perspective from the currently nearly all-white faculty. Hesitantly, the committee placed the Kenyan man third on the list of interviewees, knowing the department would pay for only two interviews.

I wrote the dean a confidential e-mail, explained the situation, and asked whether he could find some "pot of gold" somewhere so we could interview three candidates instead of two. He did find some money -- from an equal opportunity fund.

Two weeks ago we brought in the candidates for their interviews. The white Gentile woman, who'd been the committee's first choice, never actually interviewed because she accepted a job in New Hampshire before ever visiting our campus. This was a happy coincidence, because it opened the door even wider for other candidates (her credentials would have been hard to beat).

We ended up interviewing two men. The man from Kenya turned out to be wonderful! He had integrity and depth and was warm, bright, and articulate. He charmed everyone he met -- from the dean and the department chair, to graduate and undergraduate students, and even the folks on the search committee.

By the end of the day it was clear he would be a valuable addition to our program and that we'd all learn a lot from having him around.

He told me that once he receives the dean's call, he intends to accept the offer!

R --


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07