As a junior faculty member, Dr. John Youngblood faces a very different group of students than the relatively few minority faculty members who preceded him.
Youngblood, a Ph.D. graduate in communications from the University of Kentucky, is an assistant professor of English and communication at The State University of New York at Potsdam. He was the first Black scholar to teach in his department, and even won the department's outstanding teaching award in 2004-2005.
Youngblood and the hundreds of other doctoral students and graduates I know through my work at the Southern Regional Education Board are not simply seeing diversity in higher education by looking in the mirror.
There is also more racial and ethnic diversity in their classes than ever before.
Increasingly, the job of young minority faculty members like Youngblood will be to educate students from around the world--representing literally dozens of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
What a wonderful turn of events.
More than one-third of the nation's college enrollment growth from 1995 to 2005 was among Black and Hispanic students. Enrollment grew for those students by 50 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
About 1.3 million more students from these groups enrolled in college in 2005 than in 1995, a remarkable achievement for a nation only 38 years removed from enforced racial segregation in some states and schools.
All young professors and scholars can help our nation make more social and economic progress than any other generation of faculty to date--through the teaching and mentoring of these students.
The challenge, however, in educating our traditionally underserved brothers and sisters involves how we teach and mentor and in the leadership roles young faculty members play on their respective campuses. Young faculty members must encourage more minority students to finish college degrees and urge more of them to pursue graduate studies.
Fact is, the overall college graduation rate nationally is only about 55 percent for public four-year institutions and even lower for Black and Hispanic students. We've got to do better for all students, and junior faculty members are in the best position to help more minority students graduate. What good is it for more minority young people to enter college if fewer than half finish?
Today's faculty members also have a chance to change the face of higher education in America. …