By Carla J. Kimbrough, VCCS Diversity and Strategic Recruitment Manager/Diversity Officer
Having faculty of color makes a difference in how well students perform academically, according to a growing body of research.
The benefits of matching the racial/ethnic demographics of teachers and students have been noted in multiple academic studies. Among the findings:
• Students of color have better outcomes, including on tests.
• Students of color see adult role models who counter negative beliefs that students cannot succeed.
• Non-white teachers have higher expectations for students of color.
• Teachers of color also use different instructional strategies and include culturally relevant materials in class that can create higher engagement.
Such results add urgency to the need to hire more faculty of color to serve students within the Virginia Community College System. Students of color make up just over 43 percent of all students across the 23-college system, while people of color represent only 19 percent of all full-time teaching faculty – a 24-percentage-point difference.
From Kimbrough’s presentation to VCCS State Board Sept. 19
The VCCS has 12 colleges – 52 percent – where students of color make up at least 30 percent of the enrollment, but many of those colleges have higher rates.
At three colleges – NOVA, Tidewater and Thomas Nelson – students of color are at least half of the enrollment, based on 2018 figures. NOVA is a majority-minority institution, with 59 percent of its student body identifying as Latinx (22.5 Percent), Asian (16.7 percent) and African American (15.5 percent).
Tidewater Community College’s enrollment is 51 percent students of color, with African-American students alone making up nearly 31 percent of the enrollment, followed by Latinx students at 9.4 percent, students of two or more races at 6 percent, and then Asian students at 5.3 percent.
In terms of faculty composition, 91 percent of the VCCS colleges do not reflect the diversity of their student bodies. Only two colleges – Mountain Empire and Wytheville Community College – reflect the diversity seen in their student enrollment, which is extremely low. Nationally, faculty of color were about 20 percent at public two-year institutions, based on 2016 IPEDS data.
Adding rigor to the search and selection process is among the 3R strategy steps – Reflection. Recruitment. Retention – being built to increase diversity, inclusion and equity in the VCCS. One of the recruitment strategies includes the search advocate process – modeled after Oregon State University’s search advocate program – that addresses barriers initial search stages, including job descriptions, and promotes practices that both advance diversity and mitigate biases. Using the search advocate process will be a priority for all jobs, but particularly faculty, managers of teams and those who work closely with students.
Anne Gillies, director of Oregon State’s search advocate program, spent five days in Virginia, training 65 individuals from all institutions to become search advocates in two-day sessions held in Roanoke and Richmond and addressing more than 80 leaders, from deans to presidents, during a two-hour executive session. The new search advocates will help identify and train additional search advocates on their college campuses.
After Kimbrough’s presentation to the VCCS State Board, Chair Susan Gooden noted Virginia’s Community Colleges have a long way to go, but she is pleased the system is taking a serious approach to increasing diversity in leadership and faculty.
“I commend the work that’s being done, it’s great to see that the Virginia Community College System is investing in this effort,” said Gooden. “If we’re going to really promote student success, then we have to succeed in our own effort to get the best talent in leadership and the classroom, and that means ensuring a truly diverse set of faculty and college presidents.”
Gooden noted that the VCCS is not alone in seeking out the best minority talent. Other colleges and higher-ed systems around the country also are working to diversify their organizations.
As the VCCS set out earlier this year to hire an extraordinary number of college presidents, Chancellor Glenn DuBois noted that he is committed to more diversity in their ranks.
Eight of the VCCS’s 23 presidents currently are women. Two of the system’s presidents are African-American; one is Latino. Of ten VCCS college presidents hired over the past two years, seven have been women.
Editor’s 2nd note: Read more about Carla Kimbrough here.
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