The level of faculty diversity at the close of this academic year is reflective of the notable success of the College's concerted efforts to expand the range of perspectives and areas of research on campus.
In October, Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd issued a report to the Special Committee on Multicultural Affairs outlining the College's approach to improve faculty diversity. Her statement reported that faculty of color now comprise 20 percent of the Bowdoin faculty, a 10 percent rise from the 2005-2006 academic year.
Much of the increase is due to the College's focus to recruit, hire and retain scholars from a diverse range of backgrounds—efforts stemmed by the College's reaccreditation evaluation of 2005-2006, which found that, "the College has had serious challenges in attracting and retaining African American faculty."
The Working Group on Faculty Diversity now collaborates with Judd in defining the search process for new candidates and worked to develop a comprehensive plan for the College to improve its level of faculty diversity.
Professor of Mathematics Mary Lou Zeeman sat on the Committee for Faculty Diversity in the 2008-2009 academic year and said, "we were thinking about how we recruit, how we advertise widely, how we attract people, and how we inspire people to stay here once they come."
This multi-faceted approach to improving diversity on campus necessitates the involvement of the entire faculty.
"We worked on developing a strategy for the College that the entire faculty could get behind," said Zeeman.
This strategy mandated that each department creates a "search plan" designed to reach out to graduate programs known for producing first-rate doctoral candidates from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Active recruiting at a large number of institutions and organizations has significantly widened Bowdoin's pool of applicants to a point where the College's strategy for attracting professorial candidates was lauded in The Chronicle of Higher Education last year.
"We're thinking broadly about what faculty diversity means," said Judd. "The [Working Group on Faculty Diversity] passed a policy for changing the way we do searches, so we're really going into each search gradually."
Judd emphasized the necessity of a complete revision of the way the College approaches hiring that would focus on hiring first-rate academics from a range of diverse backgrounds, rather than recruiting ethnic candidates solely to increase the College's quota.
"We're trying to do all of the up-front work...we could perhaps play a numbers game that wouldn't result in systemic change...that would be a hollow outcome," said Judd.
This new approach to faculty recruitment has already begun to produce results because of the efforts of Judd, Zeeman and the working committee.
Zeeman reported that aBa Mbirika and Manuel Reyes will be joining the mathematics department next year, and said, "we have two fabulous mathematicians coming in next year, and it was very good to see that the top of our candidate pool was truly diverse."
The addition of faculty members like Mbirika and Reyes exemplifies exactly the type of success Judd hoped of the new recruitment program.
"Our success will be that we have an incredibly diverse pool of applicants, that people are eager to come to Bowdoin, and that we are accurately representing the diversity of the workplace," said Judd.
Mbirika will join the math department next year as a Consortium for Faculty Diversity fellow, one of three new faculty members who were recruited as CFD fellows to combine their research with teaching at the College.
One of the primary ways that the College reaches out to diverse candidates is through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity in Liberal Arts Colleges, which was founded 20 years ago through the collaboration of various liberal arts colleges. The Consortium has a permanent commitment to increasing the diversity of students, faculty and curriculum offerings.
Bowdoin is one of the most active member institutions of the CFD, with six fellows currently on campus.
The CFD offers pre- and post-doctoral fellowships to candidates of diverse backgrounds from top academic institutions, allowing them the opportunity to enter a liberal arts environment and continue their intensive academic research.
Judd described the College's evolving relationship with the CFD, saying, "We would [originally] go to this pool of applicants if we had an opening...we were fortunate four years ago to be in a place where we had the financial support for creating specific lines within our faculty for fellows from the CFD."
Gradually, the College increased its number of fellows from two to six, and Judd said "we were able to do it to a large degree without regard to specific replacement requirements."
Consortium for Faculty Diversity Post Doctoral Fellow in history Karen Teoh is now finishing her two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the College and will be moving onto a tenure-track position at Stonehill College next fall.
"Compared to other institutions in the CFD, Bowdoin hires more actively—at the annual CFD conference it is almost overrepresented. [Bowdoin] has hired about four CFD fellows per year over the past two years, compared with a maximum of two elsewhere...they're quite serious about finding ways to incorporate fellows into the faculty," she said.
Zeeman lauded that the efforts of Judd to increase faculty diversity on campus, and said, "something I've noticed about Bowdoin is that when they decide to do something, they do it well...they genuinely care."
Zeeman said that Bowdoin's participation in the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference was good evidence of the College's enduring commitment to diversity.
"Every year [at the conference], under-represented minority scientists become the majority—it's a quantum leap in understanding their rich potential," she said.
Through the CFD and its new recruitment strategies, the College has been able to create a vibrant group of multicultural faculty members on campus, a marked departure from its position even five years ago.
The presence of CFD fellows on campus brings a wealth of diversity to the curriculum and the community that would otherwise be impossible to achieve through the addition of tenure track faculty members.
"We make a number of two-year offers so that we have an overlapping cohort," Judd said. "This brings fields of specialization to campus that we wouldn't have otherwise, connects us back to graduate schools, and is fantastic for our students. It helps us with issues of critical mass in the faculty, because it's a way that we can make a change quickly in any given year. With just 3 to 5 percent turnover in tenure track faculty, the change would be a much longer one."
Because Bowdoin has been able to create a community of pre- and post-doctoral fellows on campus, the College has developed a vein through which it can rapidly increase the depth and breadth of subjects taught, as well as the level of faculty diversity present on campus.
Bowdoin is "on the threshold of having a critical mass of diverse faculty," said Zeeman.
CFD Pre-Dissertation Fellow Mariana Cruz came to Bowdoin to finish her dissertation, while simultaneously continuing her doctoral work.
"I consider myself an active member of the faculty of color community at Bowdoin," she said. "I have very much felt that the general campus climate is one that is committed to 'defining in' its faculty of color...It's a climate of inclusion."
Assistant Professor of Romance Languages Nadia Celis said, "I'm so excited to be here at a moment when they're diversifying the College."
Celis is an adviser for the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) who originally came to Bowdoin after completing her doctorate at Rutgers University.
"It was a very different environment, so it was quite a change at first...I was very impressed by the human quality of [Bowdoin]," she said.
Both Cruz and Teoh praised the CFD program for giving them the opportunity to continue their professional work while continuing to teach.
"I definitely feel that the promise of the fellowship has been borne out," said Teoh. "Both have incorporated their doctoral work into the undergraduate courses, breathing new life into the curriculum."
"I don't necessarily buy into the idea that just because you're offered an opportunity that is centered on initiatives of diversity means that there's a lesser value to it in the world of academia...I think quite the contrary—just because it's 2010 doesn't mean we don't still need to promote diversity initiatives," said Cruz.
Through its relationship with the CFD, and with its revised approach to searching for new faculty, the College has achieved an unprecedented level of faculty diversity on campus—though there is still room for improvement.
Celis said she would like to see more dialogue between students and faculty on issues of diversity so that the outreach is not one-sided.
"There are going to be challenges," she said. "It would be so good to have a two-way dialogue, to really take advantage of the opportunity to get to know these different perspectives."
While the level of faculty diversity on campus is now growing robustly, faculty stressed that Zeeman felt it is important to remember the reasons why having a variety of different voices is integral to the liberal arts experience.
"In order to create a good learning environment for students we want them to trust us...It's easier to trust someone when you feel that the person who you're talking to understands where you're coming from, what your background is," said Zeeman.
The College is "positively growing...[it's] transforming the canons of traditional scholarship in robust ways," said Cruz.