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In a research study exploring whether educators of returning adult students changed their teaching approaches to meet their students’ needs, an unexpected finding emerged (Allen, 2018). Faculty reported that race had a direct impact on how they interact with their students. This was an unprompted yet vital finding in a study where more than half of the participants were people of color (nine identified as Black and one as Hispanic). This chapter adds to adult learning literature by exhibiting the perspectives of Black faculty who educate returning adult students. It further explores how and why some Black faculty at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) individualize their teaching approaches (delivery, communication style, and content) based on the race/ethnicity of their students. It ends with suggested faculty: diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and retention strategies for leaders and decision makers in higher education.
When I first started teaching as an adjunct Psychology Instructor eighteen years ago, I taught at an institution where most professors, staff, and students were either Black or Hispanic. At that time, my only “real issue” was the fact that I looked much younger than I was, which resulted in me frequently being mistaken for a student. More an inconvenience than a struggle, for many years I knew that I was experiencing ageism, but as I grew older and moved into more predominantly White spaces, my experience began to change. I went from being one of several faculty of color to being one of very few people of color at the institution. Instead of being mistaken for a student, I was now being mistaken for the one staff or faculty member who was also a Black female.
This chapter highlights what the authors call programs with promise. The focus is not on perfection as much as potential. Whether it is a small initiative or a large-scale program, if it makes an impact on the retention, inclusion, and/or mental wellness of Black or diverse faculty, then it is worth sharing with others. The chapter provides readers with examples of initiatives and programs that they can replicate, utilize a modified version of, or simply be inspired by. According to Barnett (2020), peer institutions are excellent sources from which to draw on successful integration of diversity and equity issues. This chapter will only share a handful of the numerous programs that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for faculty in higher education.
In the United States, only 6% of the 1.5 million faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions is Black. Research shows that, while many institutions tout the idea of diversity recruitment, not much progress has been made to diversify faculty ranks, especially at research-intensive institutions. We're Not Ok shares the experiences of Black faculty to take the reader on a journey, from the obstacles of landing a full-time faculty position through the unique struggles of being a Black educator at a predominantly white institution, along with how these deterrents impact inclusion, retention, and mental health. The book provides practical strategies and recommendations for graduate students, faculty, staff, and administrators, along with changemakers, to make strides in diversity, equity, and inclusion. More than a presentation of statistics and anecdotes, it is the start of a dialogue with the intent of ushering actual change that can benefit Black faculty, their students, and their institutions.
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