Expansion of the Dissertation Diversity Fellowship Program

By Molly Israel, July 11, 2016

Expansion of the Dissertation Diversity Fellowship Program

History and Background of the Program

The Ithaca College Dissertation Diversity Fellowship Program was initially created in 2010 in the School of Humanities and Sciences to increase the racial diversity of Ithaca College faculty and, in so doing, bring fresh perspectives to the college’s curriculum and the learning experiences offered to students.

Having served as a successful model for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty, the program, now in its sixth year, has welcomed 16 fellows to campus. As a result, the college has retained six of those fellows in tenure-track positions, including Dr. Ashley Hall, who will begin her tenure-eligible position in communication studies in the fall semester of this year. In addition, one former fellow, Dr. Donathan Brown, was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor on an accelerated timeline in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments.

During the one-year term of the diversity fellowship program, fellows teach one course per semester, participate in one forum per semester related to their research and dissertation projects, and work to complete their dissertations. As a particularly important aspect of the fellowship, all of the diversity fellows create their own course, adding to the richness of the learning experience offered in the departments hosting fellows. More generally the program offers support that is often critical for graduate students from racially diverse backgrounds to move forward in the completion of their degrees and the enhancement of their careers.

Expanding the Program for 2016–17 and Beyond

As we at Ithaca College continue to grow the Dissertation Diversity Fellowship Program to reflect goals in the IC 20/20 plan and to address institutional equity, the program, which has been renamed the Ithaca College Diversity Scholars Program, is being expanded to include additional schools beyond the School of Humanities and Sciences, where the program began.

With the outstanding leadership of Dr. Donathan Brown, associate professor of communication studies, we have identified new strategies for enhancing this program. Over the course of the past academic year, Dr. Brown conducted exit interviews, collected and analyzed data, and held meetings with numerous stakeholders, resulting in the identification of several opportunities to improve and grow the program:

  • A sustained program budget will be designated to fully fund multiple redesigned, newly created, and expanded aspects of the diversity scholars’ experience.
  • For the 2016–17 academic year, we have chosen four diversity scholars through a very competitive national search process in accordance with standard college procedures for all faculty searches: Kayla Wheeler (religion), Natasha Bissonauth (art history), Henrietta (Awo) Osei-Anto (health promotion and physical education), and Sae-Mi Lee (exercise and sport sciences).
  • We have also made a first-ever diversity post-doctoral appointment through the same rigorous search process. Dr. Maria Nandadevi Cortes-Rodriguez will serve a two-year term in this position in biology.
  • During 2016–17, we will conduct a search for four new diversity scholars to serve in the 2017–18 academic year, with two each in the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Roy H. Park School of Communications. We aspire to expand the program to sponsor fellows in other schools in the future.
  • To streamline and unify our efforts in identifying pre- and post-doctoral candidates in each of the schools, we have created one college-wide committee.
  • Dr. Brown, who has served as the H&S pre-doctoral committee chair for the past two years, will serve as chair of the college-wide committee. Reporting directly to the provost, he will have program oversight and will work with the deans, interim chief diversity officer Dr. Roger Richardson, and colleagues in the Office of Human Resources.

This story was originally posted on Intercom on behalf of Dr. Benjamin Rifkin, Provost and Vice President Educational Affairs, and Dr. Roger Richardson, Interim Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Provost for Inclusion and Engagement.