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Stanford faculty more diverse today, though study finds academic environment could improve for minority professors

The Stanford faculty is more diverse today than it was five years ago, and programs to recruit and develop a more diverse professoriate are contributing to gradual growth in the number of underrepresented minority faculty members.

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of underrepresented minority faculty members (black/African American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native) grew 43 percent, from 102 to 146, compared with a 9 percent overall growth in the professoriate at Stanford. The Faculty Development Initiative has been particularly successful in attracting to Stanford 11 new faculty members who add excellence and diversity in the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Graduate School of Education.

However, a study based on interviews with 52 underrepresented minority faculty from throughout the university describes areas for attention and improvement in the academic environment, particularly with respect to research isolation, diminished peer recognition and lesser collegiality experienced by some faculty of color.

"It is vitally important that all faculty members experience an encouraging and rewarding environment, and that we pay attention to the issues raised in this report," said Karen Cook, vice provost for faculty development and diversity. "I am grateful to the faculty who participated in the study for their candor, and for highlighting specific areas where we can focus our attention."

The interviews were conducted in fall 2010 and winter 2011 under the direction of the Provost's Panel on Faculty Equity and Quality of Life. The interview study was a follow-up to an earlier 2008 survey that found high overall faculty satisfaction, at 79 percent, but a lower sense of inclusion and supportiveness reported by underrepresented faculty at that time.

Results released in two parts

The results of the follow-up study will be released in two parts, with the first part focusing on recognition and collegiality to be shared today at a town hall meeting convened by the panel. The second part, focusing on mentoring and voice in decision-making, will be released at a similar gathering in the fall.

For the study, 119 underrepresented faculty members were invited to participate and 52 interviews were conducted, including 32 men and 20 women. Of the 52, 18 were medical center and clinical faculty not in the academic council faculty lines. All had been at Stanford for at least one academic year and many had been at Stanford for longer.

The first part of the study identifies six findings that represent "the most prominent shared experiences" revealed by the underrepresented faculty through the in-depth interviews.

The interviews found that underrepresented faculty "feel valued, recognized and part of a collegial environment when colleagues engage with and express appreciation for their scholarship," in both formal and informal settings. Those same faculty members often experience "research isolation," however, when they lack colleagues whose research is similar enough to provide feedback or join collaborations. For example, in some cases, assistant professors had trouble finding appropriate mentors, or the research specialization of a faculty member was viewed as marginal.

Along the same theme, some faculty members reported feeling "that scholarship on race/ethnicity is marginalized in their campus units," although Stanford's Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, as well as the race/ethnic community centers, provide "a needed collegial home for faculty members whose scholarship focuses on race/ethnicity."

The hiring of additional underrepresented minority faculty would help "prevent overburdening the existing underrepresented minority faculty with service demands," many study participants said. They expressed concern that they perform a disproportionate amount of diversity-related university service and that their service is not always recognized by unit leadership. "Promotion of diversity and support for students of color is seen as the responsibility solely of faculty of color, rather than as a responsibility shared by all faculty members," according to study participants' accounts.

With respect to self-promotion, those interviewed reported that both women and underrepresented minority faculty are less likely than their white male counterparts to advocate strongly for recognition, potentially leading "to misperceptions or lack of recognition of their scholarly success in Stanford's culture."

The final finding is that "a collegial work environment that communicates value and respect for a faculty member's work is critical to satisfaction and increases the likelihood of remaining at Stanford."

Hope for further conversations

Shelley Correll, professor of sociology and chair of the panel, indicated that the findings from this study provide a sense of how Stanford can improve the experiences of faculty of color. Panel members said they hope that the report will also stimulate conversations at the department level about ways to increase collegiality and inclusion.

Provost John Etchemendy, who requested the follow-up study, said the findings "will inform university priorities and the recruitment and retention programs that have been contributing to the growth in underrepresented minority faculty."

Those programs include the Faculty Incentive Fund, which helps make it possible for departments and schools to make incremental appointments of qualified individuals who would bring diversity to the faculty. This support can be directed toward minority scholars and (in disciplines in which they are underrepresented) women scholars, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions of diversity to the university's research and teaching programs.

The highly successful Faculty Development Initiative, under the leadership of Professor Al Camarillo, special assistant to the provost, is ongoing with two new searches authorized for next year.

The Gabilan Faculty Fellows program provides funds to help deans and department chairs recruit and retain women in the science and engineering fields.

In addition, the university has made investments to enhance the pipeline of underrepresented minorities who obtain doctorates and enter academic careers. The DARE doctoral fellowship program – the acronym stands for "diversifying academia, recruiting excellence" – is administered by the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education to support Stanford doctoral students in their final two years.

This year, DARE will reach a milestone of 100 fellows whose presence will help diversify the future professoriate as underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, as well as first-generation college students, women in underrepresented fields, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students, and students with disabilities.

"The faculty who participated in the study interviews made it quite clear that one of the primary ways we can improve the academic environment for underrepresented minorities at Stanford is to increase their numbers," Cook said. "We will continue to develop programs aimed at this purpose, and hope that in future years we will find that issues around peer recognition and collegiality will also improve."

An executive summary/copy of the full Follow-Up Study of Underrepresented Minority Faculty at Stanford University can be viewed online at https://facultydevelopment.stanford.edu/data-reports/reports-publications. The town hall meeting will be held today, May 29, at 4 p.m. in the Bechtel International Center Assembly Room.