Minority faculty rate outpaces national average

The University employs 2 percent more minority faculty members than the national average, but some schools are better at fostering diversity than others, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research.

In the United States, 17 percent of full-time higher education professors are minorities, and the numbers are smaller for tenured and tenure-track faculty, according to the American Council on Education. As of fall 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, 19 percent of GW’s full-time faculty were minorities, with 4.4 percent being black, 3.6 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian, and one Native American faculty member, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Dr. Joel Gomez, a Graduate School of Education and Human Development professor whose research has included diversity, said having a strong representation of minority faculty was important to creating diversity at the University, especially in the student body.

“University life is about intellectual growth and development, and a diverse faculty can have students challenge the assumptions that students grew up with and we can help them with questioning those assumptions in their quest for growing intellectually,” Gomez said. At GW, minority professors comprise a smaller portion of faculty than do minorities in the student body, where 24 percent were minorities in 2008, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Of the University’s various schools, the full-time faculty in the School of Engineering and Applied Science is the most diverse, with 25 percent of instructors representing a minority. The School of Public Health and Human Services is one of the least diverse, with a 9.5 percent minority, according to Office of Institutional Research figures. Of the 42 full-time SPHHS faculty in 2008, two were Asian and two were Hispanic.

SPHHS Interim Dean Josef Reum, however, said those numbers would increase significantly if part-time and research faculty were included.

“I believe faculty from all of our disciplines, and from every rank, and every classification are here because they believe in the work of public health. They make a difference each and every day in how we do work and the richness of our shared experience is of benefit to all,” Reum said in an e-mail.

Gomez said University President Steven Knapp is on the right track, having made diversity a priority with his announcement earlier this month of the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion and a new administrative position – the associate provost for diversity and inclusion.

“Having a faculty that reflects the diversity of America, and indeed of the world, is one of the best ways we can show prospective students that diversity is something we truly value and embrace,” University President Steven Knapp said in an e-mail.

Gomez said GSEHD students actively seek a diverse learning environment. He said he is “spoiled” by his GW experience because he believes that many GSEHD students in particular choose the school for its proximity to international resources in D.C. and also appreciate a faculty with diverse international experiences and values. Sixteen percent full-time faculty of the GSEHD are minorities.

The Elliott School of International Affairs has a 13 percent minority faculty, and that number has increased over the past several years, said Barbara Miller, Elliott School associate dean for faculty affairs.

“The Elliott School believes that it is extremely important to hire minority and international faculty because they provide enriched classroom experiences for our students,” Miller said.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences has a 19 percent minority faculty, which is an important part of creating a 21st century learning community at GW, said Peg Barratt, the school’s dean.

“The rich diversity of backgrounds of the faculty in Columbian College of Arts and Science clearly enriches our student’s learning and our community,” Barratt said.

Gomez also said that success for students in an increasingly global society depends upon exposure to “a diversity of thought, lifestyles, customs, and traditions,” and that universities should take part in that exposure.

“We had better get our act together because we are going to be living in a colorful society,” Gomez said, referring to the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the United States.

Gomez said that the most important thing a university can do to attract a more diverse faculty is to publicly value diversity.

“That sends out a signal to students and that sends out a signal to faculty, and that sends out a signal to the larger society and professors who may be interested in working here,” Gomez said.

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