Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

On Becoming and Being Faculty-Leaders in Urban Education and Also Being African- American.Seems Promising

Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

On Becoming and Being Faculty-Leaders in Urban Education and Also Being African- American.Seems Promising

Article excerpt

Abstract

Seven African-American women and men faculty members at a Southeastern urban research university reflect on their collective experiences of creating an intellectual community and spearheading an urban teacher education initiative within their School of Education . Employing a qualitative self-study and project reflection approach, the authors situate themselves within the historical trajectory of the African-American struggle for education, emphasizing the problems and promises confronting contemporary urban educators. Highlighting their role in launching the Training and Retaining Urban Student Teachers (T.R.U.S.T.) Initiative in the Birmingham City Schools, the authors conclude that the future of urban education is predicated on the capacity of contemporary African-American educators to forge effective alliances first with one another, and then with other partners in higher education, urban school districts, the local community, and national educational organizations.

In the fall 2004 special issue of Advancing Women in Leadership , five of our colleagues in the School of Education (SOE) wrote about the challenges and problems that our institution and SOE have confronted with regard to mentoring women and people of color in higher education (Patterson, Dahle, Nix, Collins, & Abbott, 2004). These five women (one of which is a co-author of the present article) described the context for African-American faculty in bleak terms, noting their sparse numbers and experiences of isolation within the SOE. Since the time of this publication, the SOE has made some strides to increase the number of African-American faculty. In fact, in the 2003-04 academic year, for the first time in the SOE's history, a small yet critical mass of nine African-American faculty members (seven women and two men) were employed across the SOE's three departments.

In a previous writing collaborative, the African-American women authors represented in the present article codified our experiences of creating an intellectual community within the context of a predominantly White urban commuter university and SOE, both of which have had a poor track record for hiring and grooming African-American faculty for tenure and promotion (Coker, Loder, Sims, Collins, Voltz, & Coker, in press). We learned from our experiences that the potential for the creation of viable intellectual communities among African-American women (AAW) in higher education relies, in part, on the presence of a unique set of characteristics that must be inherent or cultivated within AAW faculty. In our case these characteristics encompassed (a) possessing a womanist worldview/identity, (b) having a desire for a culturally affirming and validating professional experience, and (c) striving to achieve professional excellence and serve as a co-mentor to her colleagues (Coker, et al., in press).

We also learned from our previous writing collaborative that very little research exists documenting the underlying processes of establishing collaborations among higher education faculty in general, and AAW (and men) in particular. Too often the uglier "divide and conquer" side of the higher education world dominates and adversely impacts the small and fragmented community of African-American scholars ( Marshall , 2002). Thus far, by identifying shared characteristics and beliefs, we have been successful in taking the first step to create a supportive and thriving intellectual community among the AAW faculty. Our circle of scholars now includes two men, due to the recent hire of a young African-American male faculty member (Michael), and our effort to reach out to another male colleague (Charles), who was for so long the lone African-American faculty member in general, and tenured faculty in particular. Furthermore, our collective interest in urban education, along with recent local, national, and institutional forces that have propelled the development of one of the largest urban teacher education initiatives in the history of our SOE, has also contributed to our coalescing. …

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