Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Story of a Diverse Chemistry Faculty at a Public College

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Story of a Diverse Chemistry Faculty at a Public College

Article excerpt

Can you imagine a new state college having a junior faculty member chairing an open rank chemistry search committee? This occurred at a new college, Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), which is within the university system of Georgia.

GGC was established in 2006 with 13 charter faculty and 120 students, and has now grown to 458 full-time faculty, 240 adjunct faculty and well over 11,000 students. The nine searches for full-time chemistry faculty have resulted in a diverse group of colleagues.

Students tend to look to faculty as role models. And it is greatly encouraging for a student to identify with the person in authority in the classroom. The accompanying graph shows that the statistics of gender, race and ethnicity of the faculty at GGC actually reflects the student population it serves.

Experts say faculty diversity and inclusion within STEM is attainable through two approaches: top-down and bottom-up.

The top-down approach epitomizes most chemistry departments across the country in which the chairs--sometimes with the help of diversity officers, committees and/or teams--are working to change the culture, policies and practices of the existing department in order to increase diversity.

The bottom-up approach focuses on encouraging minorities to pursue chemistry through primary school exposure to training and mentoring programs so that students will pursue careers in chemistry academe.

The chemistry faculty at GGC used a topdown approach to achieve a cooperative working team. The primary goal, however, was not to increase diversity, per se, but to develop a functional working team that was inclusive and collaborative.

Several factors contributed to what happened at GGC. The chemistry faculty chair was a junior faculty member (owing to the age of the school) who led searches that resulted in multiple hires in the same year. The searches were open to all ranks (instructors as well as assistant, associate and full professors) and the advertisement included language not only describing broadly-defined chemistry professionals specializing in traditional areas but also engineers, environmentalists, toxicologists and chemical educators. The hiring committee embraced non-traditional career paths and expanded its network beyond prestigious institutions. …

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