University Commits Another $100 Million to Faculty Diversity

October 06, 2017

Columbia University will expand its ongoing commitment to diversity in its faculty, dedicating another $100 million over the next five years—in addition to $85 million since 2005—to support recruitment and career development for professors, doctoral and post-doctoral students who traditionally have been underrepresented in higher education.

"The aim is to develop new leaders and expand scholarship, initiatives and programming to meet the needs of the University,” said President Lee C. Bollinger. "This is a longstanding initiative inseparable from Columbia’s identity and core values."

As they have in the past, these funds will be a shared obligation, with contributions from the University and Medical Center to be matched by individual schools and departments. Each campus—the Medical Center uptown and the Morningside campus—will have its own committees to administer the grants.

Faculty retention, dual-career support, and mid-career grants for recently tenured faculty will also be a focus of the overarching effort. "A commitment of this magnitude will expand the types of initiatives and programming essential to the evolving needs of our University,” Bollinger said. “Each of our schools is dedicated to using these resources for recruiting the most talented faculty, retaining our diverse community, and supporting critical research.”

Related: Columbia University Commits $100 Million to Faculty Diversity, The Wall Street Journal, Oct 5, 2017

Dr. Dennis Mitchell, who has been vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion for the University since 2014, is responsible for the administration of this effort for the undergraduate schools, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools.

“I’m thrilled to see us double down on our level of commitment,” said Mitchell, who is also a professor and senior associate dean for diversity at Columbia's College of Dental Medicine. “This changes the climate and culture of the University.

His counterpart at the Medical Center, Dr. Anne Taylor, is the senior vice president for faculty affairs and career development. A cardiologist, she is also the John Lindenbaum Professor of Medicine. “I’m very interested and committed to the development of leaders out of the faculty members that we have recruited,” Taylor said. “Diversity is not just in the numbers, but is also about inclusion and success. We should be nurturing and training the next group of leaders.”

She said that Dr. Lee Goldman, chief executive of the Medical Center, has embraced this plan. “The social sciences show that diversity is a societal benefit, not an entitlement for one group over another,” she said. “That’s why I feel that Columbia is uniquely positioned to develop diverse faculty as leaders. We should be the leaders in creating new leaders.”

When Columbia began its first diversity initiative in 2005, it initially focused primarily on the Morningside campus, with the Medical Center creating its own in 2011. Going forward, "the two programs will march in lock step, parallel to each other,” Taylor said.

As the programs grew, it became apparent that there are more ways to increase the number of underrepresented faculty. “There were other challenges,” said Mitchell. One of them was dual-career hires. “We were hiring women in the sciences and other specialties, but many have partners who are also academics. Recruiting one often meant hiring two, who are often superstar scholars themselves.”

Another challenge: retention of recently tenured faculty. “That three to five years after tenure is an important time for academics,” Mitchell said. As of spring 2018 the University will be highlighting mid-career awards for faculty who contribute to Columbia’s diversity.

Mitchell himself was the beneficiary of a similar effort 25 years ago, when he was a dental resident at Harlem Hospital and participated in a program that brought residents to the College of Dental Medicine to study various specialties. He went on to do three separate residencies at the dental school and received a master’s in public health from the Mailman School of Public Health.

When he began leading the College of Dental Medicine’s diversity outreach in 2002, only 3 percent of the students were from underrepresented groups. That number now stands at 22 percent.

Mitchell noted that, other universities have established initiatives similar to Columbia’s, “We have grown our own programs,” he said. “Diversity changes the climate and the culture of the university. We can’t have excellence without diversity, and the belief that they are separate things is a fallacy."

—By Columbia News Staff