Grant Provides Diversity Funding

By Isabelle Dietz

Middlebury, along with Williams College and Connecticut College, collaborated in a new initiative to increase faculty diversity called the Creating Connections Consortium (C3). The program is sponsored by a $4.7 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“We recognize now that trying to do this alone doesn’t solve the problem. Middlebury, Williams, Connecticut College and the other [Liberal Arts Diversity Officers Organization] schools are all committed to creating a more diverse faculty,” said President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz of the Consortium in a press release on Dec. 12. “Studies have shown that the quality of education is enhanced with a greater diversity of ideas and perspectives that come with a diverse faculty.”

“Now we have a strong, effective, multi-faceted strategy rooted in collaboration, and we’re very grateful to the Mellon Foundation for recognizing its potential,” he continued.

C3 will help address a problem liberal arts colleges have faced when trying to maintain a diverse faculty.”

“[Liberal arts colleges] are in isolated locations, and my insight is that many top graduate students at research institutions are hardly ever advised to think about teaching at a liberal arts college,” said Dean of the College Shirley Collado. “We’re not on their radar. There are a lot of myths about liberal arts colleges, especially if you’re coming from a major research institution to a place with different demographics that is rural and isolated. This provides an additional barrier.”

“As a minority hire, I believe my presence affirms Middlebury’s commitment to act in a culturally conscious manner to achieve the goal of diversity on this campus,” said Christal Brown, assistant professor of dance, and the only female African American member of the College’s faculty.

“In my opinion, that goal is to reconfigure a systematic inequality that engenders change,” said Brown. “The issue of diversity is one of many worthy social battles that the College is investigating in an effort to lead our students and peer institutions into an era where cultural pluralism is met with respect, sensitivity and inquiry rather than assessment and assignment.”

Middlebury, Williams and Connecticut College will be working with the other 23 Liberal Arts Diversity Officers Organization (LADO) member institutions and will seek to create a relationship between these colleges and two large research universities — Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.

“Liberal arts colleges and research universities do not typically work with one another,” explained Liebowitz. “By bringing these two types of institutions together and sharing our resources, we’re creating a clearer and wider pathway to the professoriate for underrepresented groups.”

There are five elements to the C3. The first is an annual Summit for Diversity and Innovation that will be held at a LADO college to provide networking opportunities. In addition, postdoctoral fellowships will be offered to graduates from the research universities as an invitation to work with professors at one of the three consortium member schools.

The postdoctoral fellowship has mutual benefits for the professors as well as the College.

“[Postdoctoral fellows] get to come here not alone, and they get an automatic network of support,” said Collado. “We get the benefit of their talent.”

As the third component, partner universities will offer summer opportunities to underrepresented students at these three colleges. The fourth part is the C3 Faculty Exchange Program, which is a long-term goal for LADO member colleges. In the fifth and final part, the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School will help assess and reflect on strategies for implementing diverse faculty at the LADO schools.

“The Center for Institutional and Social Change is excited to be participating in this game-changing partnership with C3,” said Susan Sturm, George M. Jaffin professor of law and social responsibility and director of the center at Colombia University. “Together, we will provide a knowledge and collaboration hub with a pragmatic yet visionary approach to diversifying higher education. Building on a track record of unusual institutional collaboration and partnerships among liberal arts colleges and research universities, C3 offers an ambitious yet doable strategy for building higher education institutions that will attract and retain diverse students and faculty, enable them to succeed and thrive and in the process, to build inclusive learning communities.”

Many hope that C3 will expand to more LADO schools and research universities. After the first year of the program, a fourth LADO College will be joining Middlebury, Williams and Connecticut College.

“We are very proud of the results our efforts have achieved to date on our own campus, and are delighted to be part of this new consortium that will assist other colleges as they seek to build a more diverse faculty,” said Roger Brooks, dean of the faculty at Connecticut College.

“It’s my hope that our faculty colleagues will see this as a significant opportunity to infuse our curriculum, add talent to our teaching pool, provide an opportunity to build community here and mentor and support members of the faculty,” said Collado.