University aims to attract more diverse faculty

Gabe Davis

ISU officials are taking extra steps to attract more diverse faculty and their spouses.

Officials have set aside $292,000 this year to be used on hiring new faculty members and finding jobs for their spouses, Provost Rollin Richmond said.

He said the reallocation of funds for this cause has come as a result of losing valuable personnel in the past.

“We just lost a faculty member who had a promising career in social sciences because his spouse did not feel that the university was accommodating all of her needs,” Richmond said. “We’re looking at good proposals to better accommodate faculty spouses and to recruit minorities and women.”

Richmond said the funding for the recruitment effort was especially challenging because of the cuts in state funding the university experienced last year. Because of the cuts, the university had to reallocate funds within its academic budget to cover the project instead of deciding to issue additional money toward the academic budget, he said.

“Our goal had originally been to reallocate 3 percent of our budget toward this plan, but we only ended up with .15 percent, which equals $292,000,” Richmond said. “This is not money that the university is losing. We are simply reallocating money to priorities that we think are important.”

The academic plan is designed to deal not only with spousal accommodations, Richmond said, but also to recruit women and minority staff.

“When a new faculty member considers coming to Iowa State, we offer a job to their spouse either through the university, or through [the organizations] the Men’s Business Association in Des Moines, Uncanny or Amass,” he said. Richmond said spousal accommodation is important to the university in order to gain and retain additional minority faculty members.

“We need a broad perspective formed by a diverse range of teachers,” he said.

As provost, Richmond said one of his goals is to have a more diverse faculty to make the college more attractive to a broader ethnic base of students.

“If you’re an African-American student, you’d naturally like to have some of your professors be African-American as well,” he said.

The university’s job in hiring new staff is a difficult one, said Mark Engelbrecht, dean of the College of Design, because of the complexity spousal accommodation adds.

“The provost very wisely is trying to put a fund together to allow us to support a new faculty member’s partner that we need to find an ‘opportunity’ for,” he said, adding that the university must walk a very fine line in what they look at when hiring new faculty members.

“It’s really an enormous challenge for us to recruit and retain minority staff members,” he said. “The first thing we look for is excellent faculty members. We can’t just identify potential faculty by their ethnicity, nor would we want to.”

Engelbrecht said he has confidence in the new program and in the university to continue do a great job of hiring a diverse group of faculty members as it has in the past.

“Universities across the nation are working to hire more diverse faculty members, so that makes it all the harder for Iowa State to hire members of certain ethnic backgrounds,” Engelbrecht said. “Once they’re with you, you want to make sure that they are first and foremost respected as faculty members and not for any other reason.”