The University’s new champion of diversity has focused this fall on bringing variety to faculty demographics by helping to develop department-specific recruitment strategies.
Terri Harris Reed, GW’s first vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said she has engaged in conversations at all levels of the University, including with vice presidents, deans, departments and faculty, about specific diversity goals.
“I’m asking departments to have a conversation about what their priorities might be in terms of diversity,” Reed said. “To do this work, it’s actually more productive if you engage folks who have to implement whatever the strategy is in defining what the strategy is, as opposed to going in and trying to impose.”
Reed has been asked to participate in many hiring decisions this fall, including several Columbian College of Arts and Sciences faculty members and a vice provost for budget and management.
During the hiring searches, Reed said she looks at the diversity of the applicant pool before a shortlist of candidates is finalized. If a search fails to attract individuals from different backgrounds, Reed said she would look at the job descriptions and the outreach strategies, potentially restarting the search to appeal to a broader range of people.
Executive Associate Dean for the Columbian College Roy Guenther said the school put a spotlight on increasing diversity and quality of faculty applicants.
“Strength of the pool in a disciplinary qualifications sense is obvious and relatively easy. Diversity of the pool takes work,” he said.
Reed is also working on longer-term diversity efforts. At the request of School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean David Dolling, Reed is meeting with the school’s six department chairs to field questions and suggestions about how to recruit more women into areas related to science, technology, engineering and math. She said she has also received feedback from staff in the Elliott School of International Affairs about hiring more faculty members from overseas.
“Diversity can be defined in so many different ways, including political positions, intellectual thought, religion, disabilities [and] veteran status,” she said.
Reed was charged with diversifying faculty based on recommendations from the Council of Diversity and Inclusion this June.
The council’s report, based on a year of research by the 14-member group, covered a dozen initiatives to expand campus diversity. This summer, University President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman prioritized six year-long focuses for Reed including employee hiring and training, campus outreach, diversity scorecards and multicultural business partnerships.
The University has not created a timeline for these initiatives, and expects to meet these goals slowly, Reed said.
An informal survey of University department chairs by the council last year reported 29 out of 40 departments tried to diversify the applicant pool when a vacancy existed. Just one-fourth of departments said their efforts were successful, the report found.
Knapp said hiring faculty of different backgrounds is at the forefront of the University’s diversity efforts and Reed will play a key role in the process.
The new vice provost, he said, would encourage faculty and staff searches to “cast the widest possible net,” looking beyond traditional employee outputs to find people with various racial, ethnic, religious and geographic backgrounds.
The University is moving away from a recruiting process where individuals use personal connections to fill a position, in line with their “preconceived idea” of who they think a candidate should be, Knapp explained. He said his cabinet does not reflect the level of diversity he wants to achieve – a trend that echoes in the University’s academic leadership. Reed has been working with the provost, the president and the Human Resources team to talk about furthering diversity “particularly at the senior-most levels of the institution.”
Knapp added that Reed is pushing recruiters to attract diverse applicant pools that will allow for “some marriage between the life experience of faculty and students.”
This article appeared in the November 21, 2011 issue of the Hatchet.