University News

Program looks to boost postdoc diversity

Postdoctoral Fellowship Program set to launch first phase with hiring of six fellows

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 24, 2014

Six postdoctoral fellows will be appointed in the next two years as part of the President’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, said Kevin McLaughlin P’12, dean of the faculty. The hiring of these fellows is the first phase of a three-part program aimed at expanding the faculty’s diversity.

Originally, the program was slated to award three one-year fellowships, but President Christina Paxson agreed to provide extra funding last week to enable the program to fund six postdocs for two years each, McLaughlin said.

The program will recruit scholars from underrepresented minority groups and who are studying questions related to race, ethnicity and gender in order to further the University’s mission of increasing diversity in hiring. The University will target recruitment efforts at African Americans, American Indians and women in the sciences and economics, he added.

Most fellowships will be awarded to “scholars at the very beginning of their career,” including graduate students in the final phases of their dissertations, McLaughlin said.

During the first phase, which is beginning now and will last roughly two years, various centers and institutes will each hire a postdoctoral fellow, and each fellow will be affiliated with one academic department, McLaughlin said. The departments will be encouraged to retain the fellows on tenure-track positions after two years, he added.

Director of the Haffenreffer Museum Robert Preucel has recruited a new postdoctoral fellow to facilitate research on American Indian artifacts and the development of the museum, McLaughlin said.

The Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Watson Institute for International Studies will be the next three centers to hire new postdoctoral fellows under the program, McLaughlin said.

The University’s ability to retain the postdocs as faculty members after two years will receive a boost from Paxson’s plan to grow the faculty by 1 percent per year over the next decade and from the Target of Opportunity program, which allows departments to hire new faculty members before positions become vacant, McLaughlin said.

The postdoctoral fellows are expected to spend approximately two-thirds of their time on expanding their doctoral theses into books, conducting additional research and publishing academic articles, said Liza Cariaga-Lo, associate provost for academic development and diversity.

Each postdoctoral fellow will also teach one course, likely a seminar, every semester, she said. The fellows are expected to participate in events and discussions in their affiliated centers or institutes, she added.

After the program’s initial phase, administrators hope to expand the number of fellowships awarded over a five-year period, Cariaga-Lo said. The administration intends to support the second phase with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an organization that provides higher education grants, McLaughlin said. The University applied for the grant and expects to receive results within the next week, he added.

The final phase of the program seeks to establish these fellowships as a regular, ongoing program funded by an endowment supported by donors, McLaughlin said.