Mellon Foundation to Fund Expansion of Duke Model For Mentoring Underrepresented Early Career Faculty

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
by Camille Jackson

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is funding the expansion of Duke’s Summer Institute on Tenure and Professional Advancement (SITPA) program. SITPA is an intensive research mentoring and professional socialization program for early career faculty who are from underrepresented groups or who otherwise deepen diversity at their institutions.

One of SITPA’s objectives is to address a nationwide problem in higher education—the underrepresentation of various racial and ethnic minority groups on the faculties of U.S. colleges and universities.

The SITPA approach concentrates support and mentoring of junior faculty early in their career, with the goal of enabling a successful transition to tenured associate professor rank. The Duke program will receive $698,000 over three and a half years, from July 1, 2018, to December 31, 2021.

“Duke is committed to the value and need for diversity in the professoriate,” noted Valerie Ashby, dean of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. “I have seen this program in action, and this approach will enable us to build a stronger, more inclusive university community which is essential to our future.”

The U.S. has succeeded in significantly increasing the number of minorities receiving doctorates in a broad range of fields in recent decades. However, faculty diversity has changed only marginally and is not keeping pace with the nation’s shifting population demographic.

“We need underrepresented minority faculty members and others who recognize the importance of having diverse faculties to become long-term stakeholders who help shape the mission, curriculum, student body and faculty at our institutions,” said SITPA creator and Director Kerry Haynie, an associate professor of political science and African & African American studies. “We’ve designed a program that provides promising scholars with the knowledge, strategies and support they need to earn tenure.”

Haynie plans to present the SITPA model at national conferences over the next three years and to publish on the benefits of this faculty development approach. In addition, he hopes to enlist two to three colleges to pilot the program on their own campuses.

Duke launched the SITPA program in 2014 with the support of the Mellon Foundation. To develop the program focus and format, Haynie utilized existing research, sought input from senior faculty from a wide range of fields, and made use of lessons learned from his experiences with other mentoring initiatives. The need for universities to invest more in the success of junior faculty was a consistent finding from these inquiries.

“We’ve designed a program that provides promising scholars with the knowledge, strategies and support they need to earn tenure.”
– Kerry Haynie

Research reveals that graduate programs do not routinely include professional socialization as part of their formal training. In addition, most university faculty mentoring programs fail to address some of the distinctive concerns and needs of faculty from underrepresented minority groups.

For example, a significant proportion of humanities and social sciences faculty of color specialize in research related to race, ethnicity, difference or intersectionality. However, few senior faculty will have matching expertise in any given department or university. As these topics are positioned at the margins of most disciplines, it is more challenging for such scholars to publish in leading disciplinary journals. As a result, it is more difficult for underrepresented minority faculty to become part of professional networks with influential scholars in their fields.

To date, three cohorts of 16 fellows are engaged in the sustained, two-year sequence of SITPA programming. Each fellow has ongoing guidance and feedback from a senior faculty mentor in their discipline at an institution with similar expectations for tenure. Thirty-eight of the 48 fellows come from doctoral universities, five from master’s colleges and universities, and five from baccalaureate colleges, including two from historically black colleges and universities.

At the start of the fellowship, selected SITPA faculty members attend a three-day workshop to learn about the formal tenure process. They also learn how to develop a research agenda and teaching portfolio that meets the standards and requirements for tenure at their particular college or university. Fellows engage in conversations about constructing a teaching portfolio, navigating university service demands, making effective use of professional networks, and managing work-life demands.

Preliminary evaluation results suggest SITPA fellows are outperforming a selected comparison group with regards to research productivity, said Haynie.