Message from the Chief Diversity Officer: Increasing representation among faculty and staff

Sunday, June 28, 2020

In recent years, the Chief Diversity Officer’s Advisory Board — formerly called the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity — and many others across campus have made requests and proposals to enhance the culture of inclusive excellence on our campus. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with hundreds of faculty, staff and students who understand and elevate this important work — including the announcement by Chancellor Everts last week that we will be renaming several buildings so they convey our commitment to being a welcoming, safe campus for all.

As I mentioned in my message to campus on June 19, I would like to share more information on our work to increase diversity of our faculty and staff. On our campus, 17.4% of students are underrepresented, compared to 11.1% of full-time faculty. Research indicates underrepresented students perform better academically in environments in which they can see faculty and staff who look like them — one reason we are prioritizing these efforts.

As we examine our diversity recruitment initiatives, we see significant opportunities to increase the diversity of our applicants — the first step to having a more representative faculty and staff. Not only can we now share historic departmental data regarding hiring disparities, we are also working to help search committees better connect with diversity networks and colleagues at other institutions, and the Office of Human Resources continues to advertise our faculty vacancies through prominent search sites and publications to ensure they reach diverse populations. We are also working to expand position descriptions to include language related to our institutional priorities of diversity and inclusion.

We are making advancements. As I shared previously, in the last five years, our underrepresented staff has more than doubled, increasing from 60 in 2014 to 124 in 2019, and this year, 34% of our new faculty hires are from underrepresented populations. Additionally, the Division of Student Affairs engaged an executive search firm to prioritize hiring a new director for intercultural student affairs, who will begin their position at Appalachian on July 1.

As part of our diversity recruitment initiatives, Appalachian formed the Faculty Diversity and Recruitment Training for Search Committees team, a distinct group made up of myself; Shelley Leder, the lead talent acquisition specialist in the Office of Human Resources; and Dr. James Denniston, coordinator of faculty diversity recruitment and inclusion initiatives in the Division of Academic Affairs. From fall 2019 to spring 2020, we conducted 18 training sessions with 227 attendees, and we held our first virtual training session last week. This fall, we plan to host regular sessions via Zoom. In our training sessions, we provide search committees with relevant pipeline data and insights into increasing and monitoring applicant pools, best practices for conducting searches and training on implicit bias, which often manifests in the screening and interview stages of the hiring process.

In our first year of these trainings, we focused primarily on gathering data on each search and providing search committees with resources, specifically the Diversity Hiring Toolkit, which has information about how to consider diversity and inclusion in each stage of the search process. This toolkit has proven to be a valuable resource — the webpage has been viewed more than 1,000 times since it launched last fall.

As we move into our second year of these initiatives, our training sessions — which are required for all faculty search committees — incorporate case studies of successful and unsuccessful searches and help attendees think reflectively about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the hiring process.

The work of the Faculty Diversity and Recruitment Training for Search Committees team complements the comprehensive and proactive faculty recruitment plan developed in January 2019 by the Faculty Recruitment Working Group. In fall 2019, five of the group’s recommendations were put into action, including:

  • The development of departmental inclusive excellence statements.
  • The creation of recruitment plans to increase diversity in applicant pools.
  • The development of evaluation rubrics to minimize bias and ensure equitable evaluations of candidates.
  • The creation of interview questions that focus on qualifications and avoid discovery of protected information.
  • The monitoring and comparison of the compositional diversity of the applicant pool to relevant pipeline data at each stage of the search process.

We continue to work with departments to refine their work on these initiatives.

We are working diligently to cement strategies that will allow for consistent, long-term growth. I am confident we will see change — we should and we must.

/s/ Willie C. Fleming

Dr. Willie C. Fleming