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ACM Colleges and Big Ten Research Universities Join Forces to Encourage Underrepresented Students to Become College Faculty

Published: April 6, 2015


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The ACM and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) — a consortium of the Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago — have announced an unprecedented partnership to foster a more inclusive pathway to college professorships. The joint effort, launched with major support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to expand participation by underrepresented groups in the career pipeline from college student to liberal arts college professor.

"This extraordinary collaboration with the CIC presents opportunities to enhance the education of all students at our colleges,” said ACM President Christopher Welna. “The Mellon Foundation's generous support will help colleges increase diversity among their faculty so they can better encourage inclusive curricula and pedagogies, providing support for students from all kinds of backgrounds to succeed and thrive."

ACM and CIC logos

The seven-year initiative, called the Undergraduate and Faculty Fellows Program for a Diverse Professoriate, gathers institutions from the two sectors on an unusual scale. The partnership brings together the 14 liberal arts colleges in the ACM with the CIC's 15 research universities to build multiple levels of connection among the institutions, their students and faculty.

"The Fellows Program will leverage the strengths of these two consortia," said Barbara McFadden Allen, Executive Director of the CIC, "both individually and as partners in collaboration, to address the challenges of diversifying the professoriate. Together we can connect undergraduate and graduate programs across research universities and liberal arts colleges. This allows us to foster a systemic approach to broadening access for new scholars, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, and preparing them for success as faculty."

The $8.1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will allow the two consortia to launch a program that encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to participate in new initiatives to help college students prepare for graduate school and consider careers teaching at liberal arts colleges.

"One of the most remarkable features of American higher education since 1950 is its democratization," observed Mellon's president, Earl Lewis. "The number of colleges and universities has doubled, the number of first-time enrolled students has grown sevenfold, and access has increased significantly. As we look to the future, it remains for the academy to develop an ever more diverse pool of talent that matches this continued democratization. This grant aids in that effort and it serves as a model for collaboration between the liberal arts college and research university sectors."

The program will offer college students paid summer research opportunities in the humanities, humanistic social sciences and the arts at the CIC research universities. It will also help the ACM member institutions attract new Ph.D.s interested in helping the colleges strengthen diversity on their campuses through a new program of faculty fellowships. Funds will also underwrite workshops to help colleges use inclusive hiring practices.

The key components of the Fellows Program include:

  • Undergraduate fellowships to support mentoring, career development, and experiential research opportunities for 280 students from ACM colleges over the next seven years. These will include a paid summer research internship on a CIC campus in which students will work directly with a graduate professor in their field to give them firsthand experience of the benefits that could be achieved through graduate training.
  • Faculty fellowships in tenure-track positions at ACM colleges for 30 new scholars with terminal Master's or doctoral degrees, preferably from CIC universities, whose backgrounds, life experiences, and goals will enhance diversity on the ACM campuses. The program will offer mentoring and scholarly development support in the first two to four years of their faculty appointments.
  • A series of annual ACM-CIC meetings and workshops focused on strengthening connections between the liberal arts colleges and research universities in the two consortia. These meetings will provide resources for colleges to create academic settings and hiring practices to support diverse and inclusive faculties.

The program's initiatives will be open to all qualified applicants, while also encouraging applications from individuals from underrepresented groups. These include African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and first generation college students. It also includes individuals who have followed non-traditional pathways to college due to exceptional talent and motivation in the face of adversity, such as societal, economic, or academic disadvantages, and other individuals with a demonstrated commitment to applying and including diverse backgrounds and perspectives to learning, scholarship, service, and leadership in the academy.

The Undergraduate and Faculty Fellows Program for a Diverse Professoriate is the second grant-funded effort involving the ACM and the CIC currently in place. In the Enhancing the Midwest Knowledge Ecosystem (EMKE) program, also supported by the Mellon Foundation, the two consortia are exploring possible collaboration in the digital humanities and language sharing. EMKE recently issued a Call for Pre-Proposals, seeking ideas from faculty at ACM and CIC institutions for collaborative projects in those two areas.


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