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New provost's task force continues push for a diverse Cornell faculty

By: Lori Sonken,  Cornell Chronicle
October 18, 2017

Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff has launched a task force to recommend new approaches to enhance and accelerate the diversity of the Cornell faculty.

“We have made strong progress in diversifying the faculty in several areas thanks to the efforts of a number of committed campus leaders, but more needs to be done. I look forward to a thoughtful report that recommends short-term and long-term strategies that will broaden the range of faculty experiences and voices, thereby enhancing our excellence,” Kotlikoff said.

The task force is examining underrepresented faculty by race and gender. From 2001 to 2016, Cornell increased by 3 percent, from 79 to 135, the number of black, Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander faculty members. During the same period, the number of Cornell faculty women rose 9 percent, from 352 to 536.

“The goal of the task force is to provide recommendations to the provost on how we can grow and maintain a diverse faculty,” said Mark E. Lewis, professor in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, and senior associate dean of diversity and faculty development in the College of Engineering.

“We will focus on both the recruitment and retention of faculty from underrepresented groups,” said Lewis, who chairs the Provost’s Task Force to Enhance Faculty Diversity.

To build on this progress, “senior leadership continues to look for ways that Cornell can strive for excellence as we navigate an ever-changing, more diverse society,” Lewis said.

The task force asks its members to research current best practices at peer universities for hiring and retaining diverse faculty; to identify existing programs at Cornell that have led to diverse faculty hires as well as those that have not worked; cite issues contributing to attrition; and explore areas of investment to keep Cornell competitive in the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty.

Recommendations for short- and long-term strategies to improve retention rates for underrepresented faculty are to be included in a report due in spring 2018.

In a statement detailing commitments to diversity, Kotlikoff and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, announced the task force Sept. 25.

“I am grateful to Professor Mark Lewis and the entire committee for addressing this important initiative,” Kotlikoff said.

The task force is composed of faculty members from around the university with experience in hiring and retaining underrepresented academic employees. In addition to Lewis, the members are:

  • Gerard Aching, professor of Africana and Romance studies;
  • Vice Provost Judith Appleton;
  • Cathy Caruth, professor of English and comparative literature;
  • Debra Castillo, professor of comparative literature and director of the Latina/o Studies Program;
  • Nancy Chau, professor at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business;
  • Alexander Colvin, professor of conflict resolution and associate dean for academic affairs, diversity and faculty development at the ILR School;
  • Rachel Dunifon, professor of policy analysis and management, and senior associate dean for research and outreach in the College of Human Ecology;
  • Eanna Flanagan, professor and chair of the Department of Physics;
  • Nate Foster, associate professor of computer science;
  • Durba Ghosh, associate professor of history and director of Feminist, Gender Sexuality Studies;
  • Natasza Kurpios, associate professor in molecular medicine at the College of Veterinary Science;
  • Jolene Rickard, associate professor in the Department of Art and the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies and director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program; and
  • Martin Shapiro, assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Lori Sonken is program coordinator in the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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