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Mentoring Aspiring Women Junior Faculty of Color

Center for Women
October 29, 2018 Dr. Sherry Early Marshall University

I was honored when asked to submit a blog for NASPA, but I thought—Why?  I’m not *that* cool.  I’m not famous.  But, then I realized—it’s because of those reasons I might just be legit. So, I am happy to tell you what a very uncool faculty member has learned about trying to help others out—if you are so inclined.

My story is that I was a total student affairs person—then I crossed over to the “dark side” and became faculty. I like to call myself academically bilingual. Anyhow, I thought about how I wished folks had told me how very white and male the academy was and I realized a change was necessary. So, I reached out to my women of color and encouraged them to apply for faculty positions. I affirmed their worth. Much to my surprise, this was something they were unaccustomed to.

I then decided to hit the conference circuit.  I put in conference proposals on mentoring/socializing faculty.  However there was one tiny obstacle—I was still junior faculty.  However, I assured participants these were transferable skills that could be used by any faculty member.  Luckily, I got my “street cred” and was taken seriously.  Through dialogue with other faculty one thing became clear—we SUCK at mentoring other faculty.  We have good intentions.  We are excited for a new hire.  But we really do not take them under our wings and mentor them.

My challenge to any faculty out there (no—you don’t need to be a woman or a person of color) is to value and appreciate your junior faculty and if you don’t have a mentoring program—suggest one. Share your syllabi. Take new faculty out to lunch. It can make an immeasurable difference in their perception, especially if they are a woman of color. It can also help with retaining talented women faculty of color. So now, onto the hard facts…

Did you know statistically women of color get the lowest course evaluations of all faculty? They have been labeled as intimidating, aggressive, and just plain mean. Were you aware they are also the faculty who are tapped to be on more search committees and university/college committees than any other faculty (we need some pigment)? Did you know most students have never seen an educated woman of color in a leadership or educational capacity? As a profession, this is a problem we need to address. My call to our readers is to address this concern through a more inclusive academic environment for all faculty, administrators, students, and other stakeholders.  Are you with me, NASPA?

Dr. Sherry Early is an Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies at Marshall University. Dr. Early was previously highlighted by the Women in Student Affairs Knowledge Community. Connect with Dr. Early on Twitter at @earlyshe.