Diverse postdoctoral program results in five new EHE professors leading to tenure

This decision is unprecedented, especially for a single college within a flagship university. The College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University has completed the undergraduate of its Dean’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship Program by hiring five of the academics to tenure-track positions.

Designed to prepare postdocs of color to become top performing faculty, the two-year scholarship has created a pathway to college faculty – a “grow” model for hiring and retaining professors from across the board. color.

“This initiative has forced us to think differently about how we are diversifying our college faculty at a time when many institutions continue to use traditional approaches that have failed to accommodate the cultural environment of our college. unity, ”said Dean Don Pope-Davis. “We have chosen to be disruptive by constantly asking ourselves: ‘is what we do transformative, in line with our core values ​​and sustainable? “”

Senior Associate Dean Noelle Arnold, who heads the postgraduate program, said academics of color typically don’t get the same start as other faculty.

“Research has shown that new schools of color often lack doctoral mentorship beyond the thesis,” said Arnold, director of the university. Office of Equity, Diversity and Global Engagement. “We have provided significant mentorship for research, teaching, service, and grant writing – designed to foster ownership, effectiveness, and metrics of success for faculty. This scholarship was our way not only to diversify our faculty, but also to be part of the solution to some negative statistics. “

Less than 15% of all postdoctoral fellows become tenure-track professors, according to a national survey. A small percentage of them are diverse. Additionally, in 2018, black and Hispanic professors made up 18% of tenure-track positions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but only 7% were in tenured positions.

It is therefore significant that five members of the Ohio State cohort have been hired by the college to date. The success of the program was based on creating a culture of support and inclusion through intensive mentoring, professional development and research assistance. The multi-level approach included opportunities for community and collegial engagement on special projects to foster an immediate sense of belonging and engagement with the community.

The end of the game, for both fellows and college alike, was for them to find their place at the college table and become highly accomplished scholars. A comprehensive progress tracking process kept researchers on track every semester, Arnold said.

Cohort support brings success

The effort failed. Since the scholarship began in 2019, the eight postdoctoral fellows have received over $ 4 million in grants and are the authors of more than 30 publications.

Among those hired is Rhodesia McMillian, now assistant professor of educational policy. In April, after months of working with faculty mentors and the college’s Office of Research, Innovation and Collaboration, she received a grant from the Spencer Foundation to analyze Federal Court appeals involving of K-12 schools.

“My teachers (graduates) didn’t have those kinds of resources,” she says. “They had to fend for themselves. “

Post-docs were offered competitive salaries, moving expenses, a technology package and professional development. Faculty mentors were paid to serve as coaches, signaling the importance of the effort. Fellows were encouraged to pursue independent lines of research and not “bow down to a larger project in college,” McMillian said.

“I have yet to know a point of divergence,” she said. “Even if it is not said explicitly, it is felt explicitly: when I succeed, college, and therefore university, succeeds.

Dinorah Sanchez Loza, among the cohort and now assistant professor of multicultural and equity studies in education, awards leadership and practical mentoring.

“What was most striking was the holistic approach to providing an atmosphere of support and a real investment in our success,” she said. “Along the way I have benefited from knowing my scholarship and have been appreciated here – something I didn’t think I could expect from such a great university.”

Bigger, in this case, is better

The large cohort was cohesive, essential for retention. Together, they received bimonthly scholarship recipient sessions, grant writing assistance, and professional development on time management. Some have collaborated on grant proposals and – when the pandemic curtailed their social gatherings – held informal FaceTime gatherings. They bonded.

“The cohort model is a key feature that has contributed to the development of a diverse university network and, most importantly, a sense of community,” said Kristen j mills, who was hired as an assistant professor of higher education and student affairs.

The program’s design goes beyond numbers, Arnold said, but cohort size was key because representation and belonging are important. The college more than doubled its number of postdoctoral fellows of color when hiring all eight fellows in 2019.

The way colleges recruit is also important. As part of the Dean’s initiative, scholarship applicants were brought together in 2019 for three days of events, including a banquet, poster sessions, meetings with professors and university leaders, and seats at the first Olivia J. Hooker lecture featuring author Ta- Nehisi Coates.

“I had friends in the (academic) workforce who said, ‘I just felt like the token,'” said Autumn Bermea, now assistant professor of human development and family sciences. “It didn’t look like that at all. When we came for interviews, I felt like, “We are here to feed you and we appreciate what you are going to bring to help the department grow. “

The keys to building a diverse faculty

Just after Steven stone sabali applied for the scholarship, he was offered a tenure-track position at another university in the Midwest. Ohio State responded by offering him a visiting professor position and all the support of the postdoctoral program. He accepted and has now been hired as an assistant professor of school psychology.

The college’s focus on diversity enabled Stone-Sabali to settle in the state of Ohio.

“The announcement of their values ​​unabashedly signaled to me something in the sense that this might be a safer space to embrace my research,” which examines discrimination against students of color in the mental health education system, a- he declared. “My research focuses on race. The way people react to it can go any type of path. I felt that my research would have a safe home and be supported. I didn’t have to tone down or worry about how people perceive my work.

The fact that the college leadership is proactively supporting its commitment to diversification signaled the college’s priorities early on, Stone-Sabali said.

“In black psychology, we have a cultural distrust of others,” he said. “It turned out to be a protective factor, as black individuals have been hurt in the past by society. So, supporting diversity must be more than just talk; there must be measures to support that.

“The story is that all of these universities want to diversify. But for some strange reason, they can’t figure out how to do it. The dean did. It says something.

See articles in Inside higher education and Various issues in higher education.

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