Dialogue and Action: Addressing Recruitment of Diverse Faculty in One Midwestern University's College of Education and Human Services

Article excerpt

Wright State University, a mid-sized institution of higher education, located in Dayton, Ohio, accepts and respects the uniqueness of each member of its learning community. The Wright State Diversity Statement proclaims an intent to be a "model for our geographic region, exemplifying that a human community can exist that celebrates diversity, enjoys the richness that diversity brings to our lives, and grows stronger with every new member (Wright State University, 2000, para.5).

The College of Education and Human Services (CEHS) wholeheartedly supports this commitment and continuously strives to instill an appreciation of diversity in each of the professionals it trains. In an effort to more systematically address diversity needs in the college, the CEHS dean established a standing Diversity Committee in the fall of 2001. The dean charged the new committee with the specific task of establishing goals for the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and student body. By February of the following year, the Diversity Committee had committed to three primary goals, targeted specific populations for each, and designed a feasible action plan with which to begin their work. The goals of the committee were stated simply: 1) recruit and retain a diverse student body; 2) recruit and retain a diverse faculty and; 3) infuse diversity across the curriculum. The purpose of this paper is to share the committee's findings as it developed a procedure to address the goal of recruiting a more diverse faculty.

CEHS Diversity Committee Dialogue

As Wright State's CEHS Diversity Committee began to meet on a regular basis to focus on their new goals, their first commitment was to get to know, trust, and appreciate one another as they began a very personal dialogue around the topic of diversity. Although composition changes slightly from year to year, the committee continues to comprise a group that is diverse in many ways, including race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic background, seniority, faculty/staff ranking, and priorities to name just a few. This unique group had first to agree on a working definition of "diversity." Their choice was based on that of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education's (NCATE), "Differences among groups of people and individuals based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, language, exceptionalities, religion, sexual orientation, and geographic region in which they live" (NCATE, 2003). This definition paved the way for honest conversation among professional staff and faculty each of whom certainly came to the committee with his or her own agenda. Committee members, who included, among others, an African American professor whose work focused on multicultural education and women's leadership, a special educator who saw diversity as an issue of accessibility and opportunity for persons with disabilities, and a former principal from an Appalachian background who was the first person from her family to graduate college, decided they could live with NCATE's definition of diversity.

As the committee began to study the topic of diversity in more depth, they discovered that the professional literature does not typically address diversity as broadly as NCATE. In fact, diversity readings in the field of education typically focus on racial/ethnic differences, as do faculty statistics maintained by universities (Hon, Chance, & Weigold, 1999). Indeed, these characteristics are easier to identify than others, which the individual may or may not choose to disclose, and the committee decided they were a good place to begin.

The critical need to recruit a more ethnically diverse faculty is clear when one looks at the current composition of the student body in higher education institutions across the United States compared to past practice. Colleges and universities originally opened up their enrollments to returning soldiers and other primarily white, male members of the middle and working classes. …