Attracting and retaining a diverse faculty can be a challenge. But as the student population becomes increasingly diverse, it’s more important than ever to meet that challenge.

The statistics on faculty diversity tell a sobering tale. According to data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2011, 79 percent of full-time instructional faculty members at degree-granting postsecondary institutions were white. Males outnumbered females — 44 percent were white males, and 35 percent were white females. Instructional faculty included professors, associate professors, assistant professors, instructors, lecturers, assisting professors, adjunct professors and interim professors.

Among full-time professors, the figures were even more stark. In that group, 84 percent were white, and 60 percent were white males. Other parts of the breakdown included: 4 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic, 8 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and less than 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.

Members of Dean & Provost’s Advisory Board participated in a conference call to discuss the strategies that work to recruit and retain a diverse faculty at their institutions.

Start with a diverse pool

A diverse faculty starts with diverse applicant pools for open positions. Strategies that help with that include:

  • Joining The PhD Project. This organization was founded on the belief that increasing the diversity of the business school faculty will increase diversity in the workplace. The project supports blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans who want to earn Ph.D.s. The group provides mentoring and networking, said Marsha Kelliher, dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University. Learn more at
  • Starting recruitment early. At Hofstra University, administrators give approvals to departments to start the hiring process as soon as they have an idea about the next year, said Herman Berliner, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. The process has begun earlier and earlier as administrators and departments seek to compete for the best-qualified and most diverse faculty members, he said.
  • Reaching out to associations. Member associations in STEM and health care fields have been helpful, said Lisa De Jesus, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at Albany Technical College in Georgia. They have proven especially productive for recruiting women — or men — in fields where the gender is underrepresented. “Those colleagues can be very instrumental in providing referrals,” De Jesus said. De Jesus said that statements on the job postings such as “Women encouraged to apply” have helped. But other Advisory Board members said they leave out such statements to cast as wide a net as possible with the initial recruitment.
  • Hiring guest artists/professors. In two cases, the College of Fine Arts at the University of Florida has hired guest artists as permanent faculty, said Dean Lucinda Lavelli.
  • Working with community leaders. In the northeast, demographics make diversity a challenge, said Jill Murray, executive vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Lackawanna College. The college has enjoyed some success recruiting diverse faculty through community connections, but that strategy hasn’t resulted in as many hires as administrators had hoped, she said.
  • Showcasing diversity during the interview process. Advisory Board members arrange for candidates to meet faculty members they might connect with during informal sessions of interview visits. Those faculty members could be the same race or gender or could, like the candidate, have small children.

Sell your institution

If you’ve identified a faculty member you’d like to make an offer to, the next step is to convince that individual to accept the offer. Advisory Board members have found strategies that help seal the deal, both for candidates who contribute to the institution’s diversity and others:

  • Offering benefits to help the professor get started. At Hofstra, science labs have high start-up costs, and the university has increased funding to help with those, Berliner said. Also, the university owns five houses that first-year faculty can rent at slightly below market rates. They are available on a first-come basis. Living in campus housing enables professors to get to know the area to determine where they want to live. Since there are 120 school districts on Long Island, choosing the best place for a permanent residence can be challenging, he said.
  • Help “trailing spouses” connect with the community and find jobs. Spouses needing jobs are the biggest challenge to attracting faculty at a rural institution, said Stephanie Fabritius, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College at Centre College in Kentucky. At Centre, spouses have use of the career development center, and officials help with informal networking. For example, Fabritius shares curriculum vitae with her counterparts at other institutions in the area.
  • At Susquehanna, the university uses its network to help spouses find work, Kelliher said. Also, the institution involves spouses and children in events and traditions so that they make connections in the community. When Kelliher came to Susquehanna, officials appointed her husband to several committees that enabled him to make connections in the community.

    Under a program to hire spouses at the University of Florida, the host unit pays one-third of the spouse’s salary, the receiving unit pays one-third, and the provost’s office pays one-third, Lavelli said. That arrangement lasts for three years. Administrators are considering extending that time because if the receiving department doesn’t have the funds to pay the full salary after three years, the institution runs the risk of losing the professor.

Help new faculty start strong

Once new faculty members start their jobs, try these strategies to make sure they get off to the best start possible:

  • Support time management. One issue that faculty members of color — or the one woman in a math department — sometimes face is that many students look at them as role models, Fabritius said. They end up doing a lot of informal advising in addition to their other duties, she added. Fabritius worries about the unofficial responsibilities these faculty members take on and works to make sure they aren’t overwhelmed.
  • Limit advising. Faculty members at Centre don’t officially advise students in their first year. At Hofstra, professors are excused from advising during their first semester.
  • Provide mentoring. At Hofstra, new faculty members have two classes of release time. They work with mentors outside their departments. And they can have classes recorded so that they can evaluate their own teaching. Administrators don’t see those recordings, Berliner said.
  • At Centre, professors participate in a yearlong new faculty orientation. One goal is to provide faculty with a clear understanding of expectations.

    At Susquehanna, faculty members set three- and five-year goals. Besides helping the faculty members stay on track to earn tenure, those help Kelliher and other administrators ensure that the new faculty members have sufficient resources to do what they need to do.

The bottom line …

To recruit and retain a diverse faculty, follow this advice:

  • Start early on recruiting.
  • Work with associations, organizations and community leaders.
  • Help new faculty members make connections on campus.
  • Provide support for the transition.
  • Allow release time and training to help new professors be successful.