University of Oregon

Integrating New Faculty

A growing body of research indicates that diverse working groups are stronger than homogenous workgroups in terms of production, creativity and innovation.  Research also suggests that diverse faculty groups enhance the quality of both teaching and research (Herring, 2009; Page, 2007).

Despite this empirical data, most new faculty members, including new underrepresented faculty members, are expected to assimilate into the existing culture of their department by fully conforming to the norms of the existing faculty group.  As a result, the benefits of diversity in research, teaching styles, past experiences, life stories and cultural lenses are greatly diminished.

In addition, UR faculty often experience a set of challenges that majority faculty don’t, including (a) implicit expectations to work harder than their colleagues (b) serving as a primary resource for racial, ethnic or gender issues within the department; (c) treatment as a “token” representative on committees; (d) having their identity as a woman, person of color, or other UR identity supersede their professional capacities and accomplishments (Smith et al., 2002; Turner, 2002).

Recommended Practice Associated Challenges
Create mentoring opportunities for all new faculty members.  This can be traditional senior/junior faculty mentoring or cohort/peer mentoring.  (See University of Massachusetts at Amherst and University at Albany below). Mentoring programs take time, intention, knowledge of best and promising practices to set up successfully.  Throwing together a last minute mentoring opportunity for a new colleague can backfire.
Pay close attention to the ways in which new UR faculty may be asked to take on advising and/or service loads that keep them from their research in ways that white or male faculty are not.  Click here for an example. When differences in service and/or advising loads are not recognized and accounted for, there can be a direct and negative impact on the research agenda and ultimate professional advancement of UR faculty.
Be aware that some forms of service and advising can contribute to a positive sense of purpose, belonging and/or community. Without this recognition, opportunities for new faculty to integrate and positively impact students may be missed.
To the degree that new UR faculty do end up engaging in greater service or advising loads compensate for their time in other ways. When such compensation is not made, the new faculty member can feel unsupported, treated unfairly and may decide to leave the UO.
Develop an explicit practice of adapting the culture to accommodate new hires as well as expecting new hires to adapt to the existing culture. Allow and expect people to retain characteristics that make them unique and valuable (Oregon State, 2010). This kind of mutual accommodation of differences is at the heart of creating a multicultural organization.  It takes intention, sensitivity, humility and interpersonal skills.  The UO Center on Diversity and Community can be a resource in this regard.
Offer to assist new faculty members find resources in the community as they begin to integrate as a new community member. If a new faculty member does not feel a sense of community, s/he will be less likely to remain at the UO.

This article provides insight and useful reminders about how to create a welcoming environment for your new faculty colleagues.

Resources:

Fine, E.  (2010).  Benefits and challenges of diversity in academic settings.  University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Gasman, M. 2012. How to Treat Your New Faculty Colleagues, June 14, 2012. Retrieved on June 16, 2012.

Herring, Cedric. (2009). “Does diversity pay?: Race, gender, and the business case for diversity.” American Sociological Review, 74, 208-224.

Oregon State University. (2010). Search Advocate Handbook.

Page, Scott E. (2007). The difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Smith, W., Altbach, P., Lomotey, K. (2002).  The racial crisis in American higher education: Continuing challenges for the twenty-first century.  Albany, NY: State University of New York.

Turner, C. (2002) Diversifying the faculty: A guidebook for search committees.  Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

University at Albany, State University of New York.  Mentoring best practices:  A handbook.

University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Office of Faculty Development (nd)., Mutual mentoring guide.

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