Following a university working group’s recommendation to increase the hiring of diverse faculty members, the percentage of minority faculty members on the main campus has jumped from 12 to 14 percent in 2011.

Since the beginning of this year, the university has hired seven minority faculty members, according to Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity RosemaryKilkenny. Two new deans also identify as minority faculty members.

“If you look at the stats, you will see tremendous success in response to the initiative,” University Provost James O’Donnell said.

In 2009, University President John J. DeGioia launched the Diversity Initiative to address inclusiveness on campus. As part of the effort, three working groups on admissions, academics and student life examined diversity on the Hilltop in their respective areas.

In its 2010 report, the working group on academics called for the hiring of more minority faculty members as well as more course offerings focusing on underrepresented populations. Shortly after the report’s release, however, the percentage of minority faculty dipped slightly, from 13 percent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2010.

Advocates hope that the recent increase in the percentage of minority faculty signals a reversal of this trend. Kilkenny also noted that two of Georgetown’s recent hires hold key positions in the administration.

“What is noteworthy is that Georgetown hired its first Asian-American dean and its second African-American dean,” she said.

Martin Iguchi, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and David Thomas, dean of the McDonough School of Business, both took up their positions at the beginning of the academic year.

Iguchi, who came to the NHS after serving as the chairman of the department of community health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, said part of Georgetown’s appeal was the strong sense of community he perceived.

A self-described advocate for diversity, Iguchi said he planned to continue his efforts by actively fostering an environment where all faculty members are able to succeed.

“In my past positions, it was clear that the greatest threat to increasing faculty and student diversity was complacency rather than discrimination,” he said.

Despite the rise in minority representation, some think there is more to work to be done in promoting diversity at Georgetown.

“It is good that there are more diverse faculty, but that doesn’t mean the university has changed much by adding seven minority faculty,” said Stephanie Frenel (SFS ’12), who sat on the academic working group during her freshman year. “I’d love to see how diverse the faculty becomes over five or 10 years.”

José Casanova, a professor of sociology, said he thinks adjusting hiring strategies could further address the issue.

“I understand the university has a tight budget and that it is hard to change an institution,” she said. “But I think it is important to educate the departments to identify candidates and to encourage the departments to hire two rather than just one when there are extraordinary candidates.”

O’Donnell, on the other hand, indicated the importance of selecting faculty who are the best fit.

“I tell the departments and the deans that when we are hiring someone, we must expect that they will be here for more than 30 years,” he said. “So it is worth the wait and work to get it right if they are going to be here quite a while.”

Another suggested asset of having a more diverse faculty comes from a recent paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study, which examined students at a community college in Arizona, found that having minority faculty teach minority students helps eliminate the racial achievement gap that exists between white students and minorities in the classroom.

Leslie Hinkson, a professor of sociology who teaches a course on race and ethnicity, said that having a professor from a similar background can help make students feel more comfortable.

“Seeing someone who looks like me pushes them to go to [me] a professor to ask for help,”Hinkson said.

Even with the university stepping up its minority recruitment, retention remains a significant hurdle.

“The more visible and successful our faculty is, the more likely other institutions will come and compete with us,” O’Donnell said. “But we make sure the faculty who are contributing to the university are happy here, gaining both visible dignity and the right salary.”

For Frenel, the importance of diversity goes beyond mere statistics.

“I think we as a university have downplayed the values we claim identify Georgetown, specifically social justice,” Frenel said. “Although I am not a faculty member, I think the existing professors would appreciate having more faculties contributing to this justice work from different angles andperspectives.”

KAVYA DEVARAKONDA/THE HOYA Data from Rosemary Kilkenny, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Data from Rosemary Kilkenny, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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