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Excellence in Diversity Fellowship Program

This program offered incoming junior faculty one-year Fellowships to help them develop productive long-term careers at the University of Virginia. Originally funded by the Provost and by the Deans of Arts & Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the program eventually received permanent support from the University of Virginia. It later morphed in the Center’s Ignite Program.

EDF 2004 Margarita Goal
The Excellence in Diversity Fellows Program supports the University of Virginia’s commitment to making diversity an integral part of the institution’s educational excellence. This Fellowship Program cultivates new and diverse colleagues’ connection to the University. In doing so, it helps them navigate the challenges of being junior faculty members and fulfill their potential as excellent teachers and researchers.  Our goal is to invigorate the intellectual climate and the educational experience of our students by supporting our diverse faculty in building thriving long-term careers at the University of Virginia.

Assumptions about Faculty Retention
The University of Virginia believes that diversity is important in providing quality education. A recent statement from the Office of the Dean of Students affirms that “diversity enriches the educational experience, promotes personal growth and a healthy society, and strengthens communities and the workplace.” In an increasingly heterogeneous society, learning and understanding others’ values and ways of thinking is integral to the educational process. As a result, the intellectual vitality and well-being of our student body depends in great measure on having a faculty that reflects the level of diversity our graduates will find in society and in the work place. Therefore, specific assumptions underlying the EDF Program include these:

  1. Faculty are more likely to find their place within the University when they feel broadly valued and appreciated, in ways such as these:
    • They believe they contribute.
    • They feel successful and valued in their research and teaching.
    • They have effective mentors and confidants.
    • They see progress in their careers.
    • They interact positively with senior colleagues.
    • They feel recognized for their contribution
  2. Committed mentoring and strong peer and extended professional connections are essential to the professional success of faculty. Research has shown that networks may not be as accessible to non-traditional new faculty as they are to those from majority groups. Such collegial isolation, one of the main reasons for early career disillusionment, can best be avoided by ensuring pre-arranged networks of support and mentoring. (Boice, “Early Turning Points,” 1993)
  3. Because retention depends on individual faculty choice and administrative tenure decisions, this Program helps junior faculty develop a tenurable profile and enhances their desire to remain at U.Va.
  4. As a result of recommendations from the U.Va. President’s Commission on Diversity and Equity, we expect that administrators and senior faculty will work increasingly with diverse faculty and will benefit from direct and constructive interaction with those colleagues. In addition, junior faculty will gain insights into policies and procedures and will develop greater confidence and comfort in communicating with their senior colleagues.

Program Objectives
This program will accomplish these objectives:

  • Offer new junior faculty direct, early insights into how to succeed in the academic world, including engaging them in defining their teaching and research agendas
  • Promote a peer-level support network and serious intellectual discourse among a diverse group of faculty members
  • Initiate and support productive interactions between Fellows and the senior faculty (Senior Consultants) who serve as knowledgeable, generous mentors, thus deepening and broadening their connections to colleagues and to the institution
  • Offer senior faculty opportunities to share and develop their mentoring skills
  • Foster improved interactions among junior and senior faculty members, and academic administrators
  • Support faculty in teaching students from diverse backgrounds and in creating inclusive learning environments
  • Establish and maintain an environment in which junior faculty, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, develop a sense of belonging to a community, not only within individual academic units but also to the University as a whole
  • Offer senior faculty and administrators insights into perspectives and concerns of diverse faculty members.

Boice, R. (1993). Early Turning Points in Professorial Careers of Women and Minorities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 53, 71-80