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Stanford launches Faculty Development Initiative to recruit best scholars of ethnicity and race

Stanford University has launched a five-year effort to appoint the best young scholars in the nation whose research focuses on the study of ethnicity and race.

The endeavor, known as the Faculty Development Initiative, involves marshaling new university resources and leadership to recruit and hire rising stars in the humanities and social sciences. It directly follows Provost John Etchemendy's commitment last spring to create 10 incremental faculty positions in the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE), which now consists of more than 100 affiliated faculty members from 15 departments and five schools.

In September, the center, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost, began the search to enhance "diversity" at Stanford, meaning both extending the range of fields of study at the university as well as the race, gender and sexual orientation of the faculty. "The tried and true methods of recruiting, hiring and retaining well-qualified and diverse faculty members have not been enough," Etchemendy said. "We must take a new, more vigorous approach to fostering diversity if we are to remain at the forefront of knowledge, creativity and public service."

The initiative leverages a gift of $2.5 million, matched by another $2 million in a grant from the Hewlett Foundation to the School of Humanities and Sciences. Through a variety of search strategies that will identify outstanding prospects—from advanced graduate students finishing their doctoral dissertations to assistant and newly tenured associate professors—Stanford is seeking the most promising talent in academia for appointment.

Al Camarillo, professor of history and the Miriam and Peter Haas Centennial Professor in Public Service, is leading the initiative. While acknowledging that the initiative is unprecedented in many ways, he noted that it also continues a Stanford tradition.

"When I was hired by Stanford at age 26, I was struck by the fact that so many of my colleagues in the History Department and elsewhere across the university had begun their careers at Stanford and had stayed for 10, 20, 30 or more years," Camarillo said. "It was made clear to me early on by my senior colleagues that Stanford was a place where you could advance your career, and with the support of abundant university resources make your mark in your field of expertise.

"The CCSRE's Faculty Development Initiative will weave this longstanding tradition of growing our own talent with the newer tradition of excellence in the study of race and ethnicity. In the end, this initiative will add immeasurably to Stanford's status as one of the leading universities in the nation in the study of race and ethnicity."

All social science and humanities departments were invited to participate in the Faculty Development Initiative. The Department of English was among the first to respond.

"We welcome the opportunity to bring new perspectives and new fields of inquiry into the Stanford community," said Ramón Saldívar, the Hoagland Family Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, chair of the English Department and professor of comparative literature. "This initiative is imperative if we are to engage creatively and innovatively the most pressing questions in the humanities in the 21st century."

In addition to the type of searches customarily carried out by departments and schools, the Faculty Development Initiative will employ newer strategies such as the two thematic, multi-departmental searches already in process: one in the "Literatures of the African Diaspora" in the humanities and the other in "Immigration and the Second Generation" in the social sciences. According to Camarillo, both are already leading to excellent candidates.

"We are very excited about the potential for this program to buttress Stanford's growing commitment to multidisciplinary research and teaching," said Richard Saller, the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences and professor of classics and of history. "We are looking for unique thinkers who transcend the traditional categories, people who are accomplished in their own disciplines but comfortable working on the boundaries of new knowledge and intersecting fields."

Although the project is slated for five years, Stanford officials declined to put a timeline on the hiring process. They noted that the initiative is operating in an extremely competitive environment. The pool of scholars in these areas is not large, and the top universities are all competing to attract the very best. But they added that the initiative would undoubtedly allow Stanford to tailor its positions to the individuals.