Effort adds diversity to faculty

Mai Hoang

The odds that a student will encounter a minority professor when they show up to class have improved.

This fall, three black and four Asian-American faculty members began their careers on the Hill.

The increase is a reflection of extra effort to recruit minority candidates to apply for open positions, Provost Barbara Burch said.

“I think our faculty and administration are taking recruiting very seriously,” she said. “You just cast the net widely enough that you reach as many well-qualified candidates as possible.”

Academic department faculty search committees have utilized the help of John Hardin, assistant to the provost for enhancement.

Hardin provides faculty search committees with information such as contacts from minority organizations to help them recruit candidates.

While the Council on Post-Secondary Education is focused on hiring blacks under the Kentucky Plan, Hardin said that recruiting for all cultural groups is needed.

“Those faculty members will not only have the academic credentials, but they provide experiences from their culture that will enable students to be more sensitive to people from different cultures and get a sense of the complexity of the world,” Hardin said.

Saundra Ardrey, head of the political science department, said it is hard to recruit minority candidates to Western because it can’t provide incentives that larger universities provide nor an urban community.

“African-Americans tend to gravitate where there are more cultural opportunities,” she said.

The political science department is using several recruiting techniques to capitalize on its strengths to minority candidates, Ardrey said.

She said she has sent information about open positions to historically black colleges, placed advertising for open positions in publications for minorities and talked to minority contacts in the field.

Audrey said she makes sure black applicants meet other black faculty members and do activities that would interest him or her.

She also mentions the benefits of living in Bowling Green.

“I think the personal touch is always important for all candidates, especially minority candidates coming into an atmosphere where there are not as many familiar faces,” she said. “You have to go the extra mile to make them feel comfortable and know that they’re welcome here.”

In fact, Ardrey has welcomed a black faculty member to her department this semester.

Political science professor Robert Didle came to Western from Fresno, Calif. to become director of its public administration master’s program.

Didle found out about the position through an ad in the American Political Science Association Personal Newsletter.

“Western is a good school, and its program is well-known,” Didle said.

But it was his campus visit that convinced him to come. He had the opportunity to talk to faculty. Folk studies professor Johnston Njoku even called Didle’s wife to assure her that she and her family would do well in Bowling Green.

“It made me feel that there are people who wanted me to come, that I was needed here,” Didle said. “They convinced me that Western is a nice place to come.”

Sherron Jackson, assistant vice president of finance and equal opportunity for the Council on Postsecondary Education, said Western has exceeded its goals for minority hiring under the Kentucky Plan, which sets standards for the recruitment of blacks in the state’s public colleges.

Regardless, Western will continue its goal to recruit more minorities to the Hill.

“There are many minority faculty out there,” Hardin said. “They are seeking employment; it’s now a question of advertising, recruiting and marketing the institution in such a way that they’re attracted to Western.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]