New resources available for underrepresented faculty members

September 25, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- New support for faculty members from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority backgrounds and other identities has been launched to provide multiple career advancement resources for faculty, as well as academic leaders interested in supplementing efforts to build a more inclusive and supportive intellectual workplace environment for all. 

The Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity has created a Faculty Pathway website with new resources for supporting faculty members from underrepresented backgrounds – including a new faculty tenure and promotion resource, a mentorship resource clearinghouse, Multicultural Faculty Development Support Funds and a Mid-Career Faculty Advancement Program to support the advancement of associate professors to full professors.

“The resources within our new Faculty Pathway website are designed to help faculty find the resources they need and make critical connections with colleagues and mentors so they can grow and thrive at Penn State,” said Vice Provost for Educational Equity Marcus Whitehurst. “The Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity remains committed to supporting and empowering our faculty from underrepresented groups to help them grow as scholars, researchers and instructors, which in turn helps create a more equitable and diverse Penn State.”

Jennifer Hamer, a senior faculty mentor in the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity, said the new Faculty Pathway resources are designed to supplement the resources offered by colleges, campuses, departments and University service units. She said the idea for a new pathway to help guide faculty members to available support resources came about as the result of conversations with faculty who requested assistance or guidance with advancing their careers or navigating Penn State’s workplace policies and systems.

“Oftentimes, the faculty who are reaching out are faculty of color, international faculty and women faculty, mostly looking for guidance in terms of how to navigate their respective workplace situation,” Hamer said. “This Faculty Pathway is a navigation tool to help faculty who would like to talk through how to better balance teaching, research and service as well as for those who are experience challenging environments, who might have questions about how to maneuver through the University.”

Midcareer Faculty Advancement Program and the Mentorship Resource Clearinghouse

Among the new resources is the Midcareer Faculty Advancement Program, a three-year pilot program and partnership between the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity and the College of the Liberal Arts. The program is intended to serve faculty members from underrepresented groups, and faculty who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at Penn State. The program pairs mid-career faculty fellows with mentors who are either full or distinguished professors; it offers professional development opportunities and networking; it helps facilitate transparency in the promotion process; and it creates a faculty coaching environment that serves to help mid-career faculty members balance priorities and meet advancement goals.

The program has selected its inaugural cohort of 18 faculty fellows, and the pilot program runs through 2023. Hamer said the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity plans to use the pilot to inform the development of a broader University-wide program, as well as offer it as a model for use by interested Colleges and Campuses for assistant and associate professors regardless of social identities and disciplinary backgrounds.

“The midcareer point of the career cycle is not always an easy one because faculty at this stage of their careers often experience an expanding number of obligations to the department, college, university, profession and their social and family lives. The coaching and mentoring elements of this program are meant to help faculty navigate these competing priorities,” Hamer said. “The goal is that, at the end of this three-year pilot program, we will have something that the University broadly, or colleges and campuses specifically, can use as a resource for their faculty.”

Faculty Pathway will also include a Mentorship Clearinghouse:  A Resource for Faculty and Academic Leaders that is intended to serve as a library for academic unit leadership and others interested in building or revising faculty mentorship initiatives.  Information provided will focus on mentorship best practices, readings, and models implemented by peer and aspirational peer institutions.  The information will include guidance specific to the support of minoritized faculty, as well as faculty more broadly.

Multicultural Faculty Development Support Funds

The Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity also plans to offer new Multicultural Faculty Development Support Funds, which are intended to help support professional development-related costs for underrepresented faculty members. Designed to complement funds available through a faculty member’s academic unit, the Multicultural Faculty Development Support Funds are meant for use with costs related to travel, research and publication in order to support the professional development and career advancement of diverse faculty members.

Faculty toolkit

Another initiative is the Faculty Toolkit for Professional Development and Advancement, which will provide faculty members access to an electronic library with a wide range of materials including curriculum vitas, promotion and tenure dossiers, faculty-written research and service letters, and grant and fellowship proposal writing. By making these documents available for review, Hamer said, faculty members will be able to better understand the needs and expectations for the various kinds of materials they may be asked to write over the course of their career. The clearinghouse is still in development and is expected to be available for faculty before the end of the fall semester. 

Faculty members can support their colleagues by contributing documents for clearinghouse use to seniorfacultymtr@psu.edu. Identifying information will be removed from submitted documents at the request of the faculty member.

All faculty are also encouraged to visit Pathway’s Resources for Inclusive Classrooms, which includes guidance on the development of syllabi that set an inclusive classroom tone, as well as information on introducing and managing “hot button” issues and classroom disruptions. 

Exit interviews

The final component of the Faculty Pathway is the newly instituted exit interviews among senior faculty mentors and faculty members from an underrepresented group who elect to leave the University. By connecting with them and understanding their experience at Penn State, as well as their reasons for leaving, Hamer said that the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity will be better equipped to continue serving the unique needs and challenges faced by diverse members of Penn State’s faculty.

“At the end of the day, this Faculty Pathway is about building an intentional intellectual, collegial community of care and support that helps us to recruit and sustain a faculty representative of our national and global diversity,” Hamer said. “A purposefully developed collegial community of care and support will contribute to greater career satisfaction, scholarly collaboration, mutual respect, and generosity among and within colleges and campuses.”

Faculty members and academic leaders interested in learning more, or in using these resources, can visit http://equity.psu.edu/faculty-pathway-sfm, and can contact Penn State’s senior faculty mentors by emailing seniorfacultymtr@psu.edu.

The implementation of these new resources comes at a time when University leadership has affirmed Penn State’s unequivocal and ongoing support for diversity, equity and inclusion and the Penn State Faculty Senate is continuing its work to advance the diversity of the University’s faculty.  The Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity also has been hosting a series of virtual roundtable discussions titled “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity and Social Change.” The series will conclude on Nov. 4 with a conversation titled “Race in the Community,” which, broadly, will focus on social identities and social differences in the current political climate.

Additional information about ongoing efforts to address racism, combat intolerance and promote equity – including a full review of the student code of conduct; the work of the Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety; and the work of Penn State’s Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color — is available at actiontogether.psu.edu.

Last Updated September 28, 2020