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Office for Faculty boosting support for underrepresented professors

Emma E. Houston, assistant vice president for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and chief diversity officer, leads the Spring 2023 State of the Black U meeting in March.

As the University of Utah continues to work to increase the number of underrepresented faculty on its campus, progress is being made.

During the Spring 2023 State of the Black U on March 17, Myra Washington, the assistant vice president for faculty equity and diversity, shared that from 2018 to 2022 there has been a 23% increase for all faculty of color in both health sciences and the main campus. 

These trends are part of a deliberate effort leadership at the U is making to ensure recruiting processes at the university are more equitable and that the campus community as a whole is more supportive and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. 

“Our best practices are still currently the best practices in higher education,” said Washington.

One of the best practices the U has implemented is proactive recruitment efforts, which include things such as extending personal invitations to applicants from underrepresented groups and expanding the networks the university draws from for excellent candidates. 

The university is also updating search committee training with a focus on mitigating bias throughout the entire process and thinking about what the application and interview process feels like for the participant. 

“Position announcements are written to address department and university commitments much more directly,” Washington said. “What I’ve found is that the language has been much more welcoming to applicants, especially from historically excluded groups.”

Another element Washington said the university is working to better build into the faculty recruitment and hiring process is to make much more explicit connections between finalists and affinity groups and networks on campus. 

“Based on what I’ve heard from folks who accepted offers during our last hiring season, knowing they could build a sense of community was really the deciding factor for them,” Washington said. 

While there is more work to be done in recruiting, welcoming and creating a community around minoritized faculty, Sarah Projansky, the associate vice president for faculty, said the current trends are encouraging.

“Broadening the life and professional experiences of our faculty and the communities they represent benefits us all—the education we provide to our students, the intellectual inquiry we support in our faculty ranks, the ways in which we work with staff, and the community we create for the entire campus,” Projansky said. “Our classroom and workplace experiences are better, and our research is more meaningful and impactful. This effort is essential to the future of this institution.”