When students feel a sense of belonging on campus and in the classroom, they are more likely to remain focused on their studies and committed to their educational goals. Diverse college faculty members play an essential role in this success.
Indiana University has made significant progress in its work to enhance faculty diversity. A key driver behind this progress is the Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative. Spearheaded by IU President Pamela Whitten and launched in the fall of 2021, this first-of-its-kind, $30 million seven-year program was developed for the sole purpose of helping IU diversify the number of tenure-track faculty members from traditionally underrepresented groups in higher education across its campuses.
These individuals include 52 total accepted offers thus far.
Many new hires are recruited from a cross-section of higher education institutions, including the University of Maryland, Auburn University, the University of Notre Dame, California State University-Stanislaus, and the University of Central Florida. And they represent a cross-section of academic disciplines.
They are world-renowned researchers, creators of new chemicals and chemical processes, historians of ancient philosophies, award-winning poets and writers, and more.
On November 29, 2022, Pamela Braboy Jackson, associate vice president for faculty and belonging, hosted a special gathering at the Indiana Memorial Union for the first cohort of faculty members associated with the Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative. President Whitten was on hand to welcome the faculty and spend time personally connecting with them.
“It is imperative that our students have access to world-class professors, teachers, and researchers who can offer different perspectives and views,” says James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership. “The Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative plays an important and vital role in IU’s efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.”
Braboy Jackson echoes those sentiments, adding that the initiative is instrumental in launching a new generation of scholars.
“My role is to work with colleagues to create a place where faculty members can connect at many levels and build a sense of community,” Braboy Jackson explains. “Most importantly, we want to be more intentional when discussing issues of diversity, equity, and accessibility. This initiative is part of that strategy.”
Other faculty members express similar enthusiasm and gratitude for the Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative. “My experience at IU has been welcoming,” said Professor Carlton Shield Chief Gover, a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. “It’s a big transition, coming straight from a Ph.D. program. The opportunities have been fantastic. I’m thrilled about the initiative to hire more faculty members from traditionally underrepresented groups, and I hope to see more indigenous faculty present. Especially since this is the state of the Indians.”
One of IU’s newest faculty, Angela Jackson-Brown, a highly regarded author, poet, and playwright, joined the creative writing program at Indiana University Bloomington in the fall of 2022 as an associate professor. Her novels, which consider American race relations from historical perspectives, include Drinking from a Bitter Cup and When Stars Rain Down and an award-winning poetry collection called House Repairs.
Jackson-Brown speaks highly of her experiences at IU—and of the Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative and its goal to make IU a more diverse place of learning.
“It has been a dream,” she says. “I’ve received everything I’ve ever wanted in terms of support from the university and encouragement from my colleagues.”
“I fell in love with Bloomington!” said Professor Jerono Rotich, who was named associate dean for organizational climate, inclusion, and belonging in 2022. “I worked in the North Carolina system for twenty-two years. I wasn’t expecting to move, but the people here were so nice and incredibly diverse. The leadership is open and present, and I feel supported here. I tell everyone, please come to Indiana University!”
Professor Lisa Lenoir, an experienced journalist and assistant professor with the Media School, emphasizes the importance of providing diverse perspectives in the classroom.
“I had a great undergraduate experience here at IU,” she says. “But unless you took Black American Studies, we didn’t discuss diversity. I think that’s why this initiative is so important now.”