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For the last two years, I have taught a required class on evangelism for ordination at the United Methodist Church at Asbury Theological Seminary on the Orlando Campus during the summer and January terms. The course is structured as an intensive class delivered over five days. Over these two years, ...
Beginning a Career in Academia: A Guide for Graduate Students of Color
Date Reviewed: September 18, 2016
Touting itself as “the first scholarly volume to exclusively mentor graduate students of color” (x), this collection of essays offers invaluable insights for navigating the academic job market and working as junior faculty.
This volume is divided into three sections. The six chapters comprising the first division, “Practical Advice for Finding Success in the Academic Job Market,” provide concrete examples of how to deal with various aspects of the job application process. For instance, Michelle Camacho outlines steps from submitting a CV to negotiating terms of hire. Her sample messages illustrate proper email etiquette.
The second part of the book, “Identity, Fit, Collegiality, and Secrets for Thriving in the Ivory Tower,” includes four chapters of advice for avoiding career derailments commonly faced by tenure-track faculty of color. Various professors share their experiences of both hardship and success. Nayeli Chavez-Dueñas and Hector Adames challenge the reader, via “ten reflective questions,” to introspect concerning motivations and commitment to a career in academia (124). Furthermore, their tables “Skills Required for Entry-Level Academic Positions and Alternatives to Strengthen Application” and “Seven Psychological Strengths of People of Color” (132-133) can be referenced daily, for goal setting and encouragement. Every academician would be wise to avoid the pitfalls Elwood Watson highlights in his essay “Fifteen Missteps That Can Derail Faculty Early in a Career.”
The final five chapters make up the segment entitled “Work-Life Balance: Strategies for Transitioning From Graduate School to the Classroom.” It addresses decisions that scholars of color should make early in their careers to effect sustainable work-life balance. The articles urge both students and faculty to develop healthful ways of being.
A few additions to the volume would enhance what is already a strong collection of essays. An article on the role of social media in the hiring and tenure process for scholars of color would be a welcome expansion. While Watson warns of the dangers of inappropriate social media posts (113), graduate students are also grappling with how to use social media to enhance career prospects. Similarly, a full chapter on crafting and presenting a conference paper would be an elucidating follow-up to Nadine Finigan-Carr and Natasha Brown’s insightful chapter “Navigating Professional Conferences.” Finally, while Tom Otieno’s essay “Transitioning Strategies from Graduate School to Early Career Faculty” explicates different types of academic institutions (74), an expanded orientation to the field would also be beneficial. This could include more explanation of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s classification system (74) and definitions or etymologies of terms such as “research I universities” (9).
This volume is a great resource for new initiates to the academic job market and workplace, as well as for those who already have some familiarity or experience. The short, engaging essays, which can be read in any order, invite scholars to revisit this guide often for help to land a new job or maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Faculty Identities and the Challenge of Diversity: Reflections on Teaching in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: February 19, 2015
This book is dedicated to a full-orbed challenge to discrimination – and promotion of multiculturalism – in higher education, from the classroom to “changes in the cultures, structures, and policies of the institution” (194). It will benefit faculty and administrators seeking to better understand, promote, and implement solutions regarding various diversities in university contexts. While Christian educators may question certain philosophical and religious presuppositions being advocated, many descriptive, reflective, and practical insights can be critically embraced for pedagogy and classroom, course development, broader curricular intentions, and governing cultures and mechanisms.
Perhaps centrally beneficial to faculty are the narratives of diverse women and men faculty – white and of color, representing both natural science and social science disciplines – responding to a face-to-face interview protocol of open-ended and broad questions: queries seeking responses to eight topical areas primarily focused on teaching and diversity, race and gendered experiences, general diversity issues in higher education, and agential roles in supporting or bringing change involving diversity and multiculturalism (26-28).
This work’s broad purpose is to explore how university faculty members of various races, ethnicities, and genders – awarded for undergraduate teaching effectiveness in diverse classroom environments – engage demands and expectations from students, from higher education as a social institution, and from themselves, in racially and ethnically diverse classrooms: especially toward improving the teaching-learning process (viii-ix).
The book comprises four parts: background and context, difference and diversity in classroom interactions, identity role examination, and larger contexts and change. Each part contains three chapters. References are extensive and effectively utilized and the index is well-designed.
The opening chapter argues that white male dominance in university settings significantly affects white women and faculty of color, as well as students, especially of non-majority groups. Negatively, this includes exclusion and discrimination via traditions that focus on individualistic value orientation and norms that “diminish the importance of teamwork and skills in interactions among the faculty,” leading to a sense of isolation and lack of community (3). In the classroom the individual achievement emphasis, combined with presumed universalistic norms related to tests or criteria as indicators of merit, entail pedagogical approaches that minimize students’ cultural and socioeconomic identities, backgrounds, and relationships, undermining collaborative learning. Nevertheless, all faculty are responsible for personal and organizational change, whether white faculty especially using their authority to adopt practices that challenge the commonplace habitus, or underrepresented faculty utilizing the margin for building communities of marginalized faculty and links to communities and groups outside academia (19).
Chapter 2 outlines the project/study design and purpose, “to explore the ways in which faculty members’ social identities impact their experience in the university, especially but not solely in the classroom” (21), while Chapter 3 describes and elaborates “five major constitutive elements of conflict in the educational setting” – the instructor, the student, the pedagogical approach, the classroom space, and the course material – that help readers decipher “how varied forms of conflict emerge given the different ways in which these elements converge” (39). Each element is expounded in later chapters.
It seems appropriate to conclude this review with a primary thesis of the book: “ultimately, whatever the causes of perceived challenges to authority and expertise, the key pedagogical dilemma for faculty is to work at ensuring and preserving the authority that has a place in relationships with students while also maintaining an inquiring, empowering, and vibrant educational climate” (63).