Currently, six Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD) Fellows are teaching on campus, a number the College expects to maintain next year. The College will start looking for replacements for the three departing fellows as soon as CFD dossiers become available in early November.
"In the past, we hadn't taken full advantage of the program," said Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd. Bowdoin is now one of the most actively involved of the 43 liberal arts colleges that constitute the consortium.
Previously, the College only looked to the CFD pool when tenured professors' sabbaticals created openings and then would only review applicants belonging to those specific disciplines.
Now, the College reads the applications of all the CFD scholars—about 250 each year—regardless of their areas of study, thanks to budgetary funding allocated toward maintaining a cohort of six fellows on campus.
"We were able, in 2006, as part of the College's commitment to the diversity of our faculty, to start a plan that would move us toward having six fellows on the campus, so we allocated that in the budget," said Judd.
According to Judd, the increased number of CFD fellows benefits the faculty, the curriculum, and the students.
First, the influx of CFD fellows injects diversity into the faculty, which otherwise has very little turnover given the lengths of tenured professorial careers. The College conducts only four to eight searches for tenure track positions annually.
"That's a tiny percentage of the faculty that's changing each year, so a program like the CFD allows us to create ongoing change in a way that can have very immediate impact for students," said Judd.
Judd identified the relative homogeneity of Maine as an obstacle in recruiting diverse faculty.
"There's definitely, I would say, a little more of a challenge here in terms of diversity," said CFD Post Doctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Art History Olubukola Gbadegesin, who attributed the challenge "primarily" to location.
"I feel like Bowdoin is an example of a place that does way more than most people do in order to try to counteract that homogeneity and...to establish a really diverse blend of people of all shapes, sizes and stripes and that's to be commended," said CFD Fellow Nestor Gil, a lecturer in visual art. "The fact that it's located way up in Maine...that's not Bowdoin's fault."
The CFD fellows do not only bring ethnic diversity to the departments they join, they bring intellectual diversity by teaching courses that fall outside the usual offerings.
"What the CFD program has allowed us to do is bring in a group of post-doctoral fellows who have very different experiences than many of our faculty," said Judd. "It's allowed us to offer courses in new areas, and to do that with a kind of nimbleness."
For instance, "In art history, we will have some courses that deal with African art, which is not a specialization of our faculty," said Judd of Gbadegesin's unique focus.
The art history's department willingness to offer courses in an area it does not typically represent was part of what convinced Gbadegesin to accept the fellowship.
Of the art history faculty, Gbadegesin said, "They seemed interested in expanding the scope of the department into non-western ideas and non-western topics and for me that's very important being that I'm an Africanist and I'd like to feel that there is that encouragement."
According to Judd, the relationship between the College and the CFD fellows is highly reciprocal. While the College benefits in terms of its faculty and curricular diversity, the fellows gain teaching experience, mentorship and a chance to continue their research.
"It's been great to be a welcome member of an academic community and get my feet wet in that world," said Gil. "And also, because it's sort of new for me, it's been very helpful to find a couple of people who've been really good mentors."
"The main appeal of a post-doc to me is to give me a little bit of time to settle and to review the work I've been doing for the past few years for my dissertation, to get a few articles out, to be productive in a way that I wasn't really able to do while I was writing my dissertation," said Gbadegesin.
Though both Gil and Gbadegesin spoke to the support they had experienced, both named the same challenge: intensive interactions with students.
"The students at Bowdoin are not an unchallenging bunch. You are very bright and willing to work hard—most of you—and that demands a teacher who rises to the challenge," said Gil, who is in the second and final year of his fellowship.
"This is my first experience in a liberal arts college," said Gbadegesin, who received her Ph.D. from Emory and her B.A. from Cornell. "I'm really enjoying that there seem to be a lot of really engaged students here...It's also challenging in a different way because I'm used to...focusing only on my research, so it's a good thing to learn to incorporate this really intensive teaching component and interactions with students—I think that can only be a good thing."
"It's attractive for somebody to come to Bowdoin in a teaching post-doc," said Judd, who noted that post-doctoral fellowships are becoming more common. The fellows get "great exposure, they get mentored, they're teaching at a fantastic place, but they're not teaching a full-time load.They're getting their research off and running and we're doing our best to make sure that we launch them to a career in the academy."
"The program, the College, my colleagues—it's been a sort of waterfall of support that I've been basking in for the past year and a half," said Gil.
"It's a great way of making that transition from graduate school to faculty," added Judd.