Emory Report

 September 2, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 2

First Person:

Setting goals for minority
presence a good first step

In the first essay of this two-part series (Emory Report, Aug. 25), I argued that Emory's move toward internationalization should not be made at the expense of its commitment to improve the environment for African Americans and other minorities in the University community. Most would agree, I think, that significant additional steps can be taken to increase the number of minority students, staff and faculty on our campus, and to enhance the working and learning environment for those already here and those who may later join us.

I would argue that we have been less successful than we might have been in achieving these objectives; in part because of our failure to adopt a systematic and comprehensive approach to the issues of minority recruitment, retention and support. What we have done has been done piecemeal, without an overarching mission or strategy. Our very first step, then, should be to establish our objectives. What do we hope to achieve by implementing programs in these areas? Should we establish specific goals related to the recruitment of minority students, faculty, administrators and staff? What additional steps must be taken to improve the climate for African Americans and other minorities at Emory? These are issues that the community should discuss and the Emory administration should address. Once we've come to some conclusions with regard to our mission, there are several strategies that might be used to increase our effectiveness in recruiting, retaining and supporting minority students, scholars and administrators.

1. Establish an office of minority affairs­I use lowercase rather than capital letters here because my point has to do with the functions of the office rather than with its official name. The office should be headed by a high-ranking administrator and would have the authority to initiate new programs and to coordinate existing programs between Emory's schools, colleges and administrative units.

2. We should solicit advice from other institutions regarding minority programs that have and have not worked for them­We might begin with our sister institutions in the University Athletic Association. Our recent election to the Association of American Universities provides an obvious opportunity for us to learn from the experiences of some of the country's most prestigious universities.

3. We could establish what might be called an "Emory Academy"­We would, in cooperation with local school systems, select a number of minority students each year for admission to the academy. In addition to their high school courses, they would take courses designed to prepare them specifically for admission to Emory. Those courses might, for example, focus on enhancing writing, mathematical and analytical skills. In addition, one component of the academy's curriculum should involve preparing the students to take standardized tests. Students who successfully complete the program should be guaranteed admission to Emory.

4. We could use existing minority faculty more effectively to identify minority candidates for faculty positions­Departments that intend to fill faculty positions could make their intentions known to the office of minority affairs at the beginning of each academic year. That office could then provide a list of available faculty positions to all the minority faculty at Emory with the request that those faculty contact colleagues at other institutions who may know of suitable candidates for the positions in question or who may be interested in those positions themselves.

5. Emory might establish a minority postdoctoral program­This program would recruit recently minted minority PhDs to work with Emory faculty, would provide an opportunity for the postdoctoral fellows to continue their scholarly pursuits and should also provide the chance for the fellows to gain teaching experience and learn what faculty life involves.

6. Emory might attempt to establish relationships with institutions and agencies that could serve as sources of potential minority faculty candidates­The office of minority affairs could prepare a list of those institutions that graduate significant numbers of minority PhDs, could compile the names and the credentials of those graduates each year and could make those names available to departments and programs seeking to fill faculty slots. Both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health support minority postdoctoral fellowship programs. The office of minority affairs could obtain a list of fellows who are finishing their postdoctoral appointments each year and add those names to the pool of candidates for faculty positions here.

7. We might consider instituting a "two for one" program to encourage the hiring of minority faculty­In such a program, the hiring of a minority faculty member would provide a department or program with an additional faculty slot that would not ordinarily be available to that unit.

8. We might establish stronger relationships with other institutions, the historically black colleges and universities and other schools with significant minority undergraduate populations, to attract their graduates to our graduate and professional schools.

9. We might look outside the academy for minority men and women who are qualified to fill various administrative positions­Such persons would, of course, need to possess the requisite educational credentials. It is possible that their administrative experience, even though it may have been gained in business, government or industry, would be quite appropriate for a position as dean or vice president at Emory.

10. We might institute an administrative internship program for minorities­In such a program the successful candidates would spend a year as an apprentice to the president, or to a vice president or dean, much like the ACE fellow we have on campus now.

Let me make three essential points before closing. First, Emory must not be reluctant to take the lead in implementing programs of the sort described above. We cannot wait for our sister institutions to provide such leadership. Second, if we are truly committed to the objectives the strategies above are intended to achieve, we must not be afraid to fail. Not all the minority students, faculty, administrators and other staff we attract to Emory will succeed here. Not all the programs we implement to attract, support and retain minorities will succeed. This is to be expected. Exactly the same statements can be made for programs not directed toward minorities and for persons who are not member of minority groups. There will be failures, but a commitment to succeed will ensure there are also significant successes.

Finally, our quest to become a more international community should not result in our substituting foreign-born students and scholars for American minorities (as has been done at some institutions) in the programs outlined above. International students and scholars bring necessary experiences and expertise to our community and add a flavor to it that is indispensable. We need and want them here. But let me close this article as I did the last. It is my fervent hope that as we move toward the laudable goal of increasing Emory's engagement in programs and projects that are international in nature, we will not forget our responsibilities to those segments of our existing community that still deserve our attention and support. As we strive to internationalize, let us not forget our own.

George Jones is the Goodrich C. White Professor of Biology.

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