A Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty and Graduate Students

By Darrell Cleveland | Go to book overview

17

VOICE OF SENIOR AFRICAN AMERICAN
FACULTY: UNDERSTANDING THE
PURPOSE AND THE PURSUIT OF
EXCELLENCE THROUGH TEACHING,
RESEARCH, AND SERVICE

Lemuel W. Watson

Faculty work, productivity, and purpose in American higher education continue to evolve with each new wave of societal change. Working within a dynamic enterprise such as higher education can be exciting, challenging, and frustrating for faculty who want to contribute to a better society and world (Menges & Associates, 1999). Enthusiasm for increasing the number of minorities on campuses has surged beyond experience to assist them in becoming successful faculty and engaged members of the academic guild. With each generation, the seasoned faculty guild is exposed to a new breed of philosophers and thinkers who challenge old ways of knowing, thereby bringing a different way of critiquing and expanding established fields of knowledge.

How do faculty make sense of their lives and places in society in the 21st century? How does one find satisfaction given the multitude of constituents he or she must satisfy? What have we learned about minorities entering the professoriate? What are the characteristics and practices of successful minority faculty, especially Black faculty? Demographic data indicate that most Black faculty are concentrated at less prestigious, two- and four-year colleges and at the lower end of the faculty rank (American Association, 1988; Exum, 1983; National Center, 1989; Olsen, 1994). We need to know more about the institutional factors and the personal and professional proclivities, needs, and interests that influence Black faculty participation in academic life and satisfaction in institutions of higher education.

For Black faculty, these questions are more compounded and more complex. The literature reveals findings, recommendations, and suggestions with regard to

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