State research universities partner to increase faculty diversity

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KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University is a partner with the state's other four research universities in a 3.5-year, $1.32 million project sponsored by the National Science Foundation that ultimately would boost the number of minority faculty members.

WMU is joining with Michigan Technological University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University to test strategies designed to increase the number of domestic underrepresented minority graduate students pursuing careers in academia. The project will involve an extensive research component that will test the effectiveness of mentoring and community-building events on graduate students' persistence toward a degree and interest in continuing on to a career in academia.

"I am excited about this opportunity and proud to partner with the graduate colleges of the other Michigan research universities to collect data on the design and implementation of different mentoring and learning community models and to test the effectiveness of these models on the academic and career outcomes of all students," says Dr. Susan Stapleton, dean of the Graduate College and the WMU lead in the initiative. "A goal is to not only help us better meet the needs of our own students who are considering a career in academia, but also possibly serve as a national model for graduate schools across the country."

The project

Called the Michigan Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, the research project is strengthened by having five very different universities participating in it. Leaders at all of the universities recognize that the demographics of the U.S. population are changing dramatically.

The project's goal is to diversify the ranks of higher education faculty to be more representative of the U.S. population at large and better meet the needs of students and employers. The project ultimately will help graduate schools across the country learn more about how to better serve students.

Also taking part in the project will be Tony Dennis, director of recruitment in the Graduate College, who will serve as a project coordinator. Faculty members from a number of areas will be selected to help design and implement the mentoring communities.