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Consortium for Faculty Diversity aims to enrich student educational experiences

February 10, 2023

Increasing diversity in academia has been a significant concern for collegiate institutions in recent years. As a result, organizations and programs, such as The Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD), have emerged to address disparities in diversity in higher learning. The CFD works towards this goal by introducing new perspectives and enriching students’ educational experiences by recruiting fellows from under-represented backgrounds. The Consortium is composed of 70 member institutions—including Bowdoin—committed to accepting postdoctoral fellows from the program.

Gettysburg College founded the CFD to strengthen the ethnic diversity of faculty and encourage under-represented groups in academia to pursue research and teaching at liberal arts colleges. Post-doctoral applicants submit a general proposal to the consortium; committee members of the consortium’s partner institutions then select candidates for a potential fellowship position. One of these committee members is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Pritchard, who selects applicants who she believes will enrich and complement Bowdoin’s curriculum.

“It’s really important to us not to bring someone here who’s going to offer courses that there’s no audience for. That’s why it’s important to look at [courses] that we could teach that students will be drawn to,” Pritchard said.

This year’s CFD fellow Paula Cuellar Cuellar teaches in the Latin American, Caribbean and Latinx Studies department. Cuellar Cuellar received her doctorate from the University of Minnesota. As a history major and humans rights minor, she studied sexual violence by security and guerilla forces towards women and girls in the Salvadoran armed conflict. Cuellar Cuellar also holds several master’s degrees in international human rights law and peace studies from various universities in both Latin America and the United States.

Prior to coming to Bowdoin, she also worked for multiple non-profit organizations, including the Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico where she investigated patterns of enforced disappearances and human rights abuses. Before pursuing her Ph.D., she served as the Director of the International Assistance Unit for the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador and a judicial clerk for the Constitutional Chamber.

Through her classes, Cuellar Cuellar connects her doctoral dissertation and human rights advocacy work to her teaching and presents the harsh history of violence in Latin America through an innovative lens.

“For my first semester, I taught the History of Politics and Culture of Soccer in the Americas,” Cuellar Cuellar said. “Through the class, you can learn that this sport is deeply connected to a lot of aspects of life like politics, history, economics, violence and culture.… It has deeper connections with society than we think. Civil war, dictatorships and issues of race, gender and nation-state formation can all give you a very diverse look of Latin America.”

According to Pritchard, the goal of the CFD is to support postdoctorates from diverse experiences and backgrounds as they kickstart their academic careers. CFD Fellows receive grants to continue their research as well as funding to attend conferences and other professional development opportunities.

“Bowdoin gives you the opportunity to get funds for continuing research. That’s not something that every university offers. Bowdoin really invests in their professors not only on the teaching side, but also in creating new work and research,” Cuellar Cuellar said.

As part of the CFD program, selected fellows receive mentorship and feedback to develop their teaching skills. Although the program typically only lasts one to two years, the CFD aims to establish a framework for these professors to start a tenure track at their institution.

Visiting Professor of Government Túlio Zille, is a former CFD fellow who now teaches several classes such as “Global Political Ecology” and “Borders, Migration, Difference.”

“When my contract was up, I was offered a visiting position and decided to stay because I really enjoy the connections I have made at Bowdoin,” Zille said. “The program has helped me by giving me the opportunity to create and teach new courses, as well as by supporting fieldwork trips and participation in different research conferences.”

The program benefits both the postdoctoral fellows and the College community.

“This pool of candidates not only shows us where the disciplines are heading in their particular fields and what the cutting edge areas of research [are], but truly how to build inclusive institutions,” Pritchard said.

For Cuellar Cuellar, the CFD program has allowed her to plant a seed in the next generation of human rights advocates and inspire her in unexpected ways.

“Bowdoin has been an amazing opportunity for me to grow both professionally and personally, and every day I now wake up feeling that I have the best job in the world. When I decided to take the academia path, I didn’t think it was going to be so rewarding and so fulfilling,” Cuellar Cuellar said.


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