Message from the Chief Diversity Officer: Retaining underrepresented faculty members

Friday, July 10, 2020

In my most recent message to campus, I shared information about the Faculty Recruitment Working Group’s efforts to help Appalachian increase representation among its faculty members. This group’s work goes beyond recruitment of more diverse faculty and extends into strategies for retention. Currently, we are working on recommendations and best practices for mentoring new faculty members and helping them connect with the university and access resources they might need to be successful in their work and in their transition to Appalachian.

The Faculty Recruitment Working Group, led by Hayes School of Music Dean James Douthit, includes myself and:

  • Dr. Jacqui Bergman, vice provost for faculty affairs.
  • Dr. Claudia Cartaya-Marin, chair of the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences.
  • Dr. James Denniston, coordinator of faculty diversity recruitment and inclusion initiatives in the Division of Academic Affairs.
  • Dr. James Ivory, associate professor in the Department of English.
  • Dr. Mira Waits, assistant professor in the Department of Art.
  • Dr. Kelly Williams, associate professor in the Department of Social Work.

Our group researches practices at other institutions, examines what is possible for us and makes recommendations that are practical and sustainable over the long term for Appalachian. We gather and create support materials that are critical to the successful implementation of our initiatives. As an example, our group developed the Diversity Hiring Toolkit, which offers resources to help search committees conduct a diverse, inclusive and equitable search and includes examples of best practices from universities and organizations across the country.

As we assessed the myriad strategies for retaining diverse faculty members, we decided to first focus on mentoring opportunities for new pre-tenure faculty. We will provide recommendations and support materials to all academic departments in early August.

Other resources for faculty and staff of color that can be accessed immediately include:

  • Two affinity groups on campus — the Black Faculty and Staff Association and APP Unidos, the Hispanic/Latino Faculty and Staff Association.
  • ComPsych® GuidanceResources®, the university’s enhanced Employee Assistance Program, provide employees and their dependents confidential support, resources and information for personal and work-life issues. These services include resources such as speaking to children about diversity and discrimination, examining workplace diversity, understanding the trauma of racism and exploring mental health first aid.

On Monday, a group of students sent a list of demands to Chancellor Everts and members of the administration, as well as Student Affairs personnel and the Board of Trustees. Chancellor Everts immediately responded to the group and extended an invitation to meet to discuss these critical issues. This morning, the Chancellor’s Cabinet replied to the group, establishing an accountability team and inviting the students as well as many of the recipients of Monday’s email to join that group (view the response here). In the Cabinet’s message to these students, we indicated that many of the items have already been identified as key university priorities currently underway and to be addressed in the Strategic Diversity Plan that will be rolled out this fall from the CDO Advisory Board. We have every expectation that some of the demands can be accomplished within a semester. Developing resources that aid in the recruitment and retention of Black faculty and staff was one of the items the petition identified.

We are committed to continuing to put relevant resources in place, and making them easier to find. If you have suggestions for other needed resources, please let me know by emailing

/s/ Willie C. Fleming

Dr. Willie C. Fleming