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Bridging the Gap: Preparing Diverse Faculty Through the Inaugural AACTE/Holmes Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

The road to tenure can comprise unforeseen barriers to success for some underrepresented faculty of color, barriers that often start before pursuit of a tenure-track appointment. Underrepresented faculty describe gaps in mentoring that can begin in graduate school and later impact their opportunity to receive a tenure-track offer as well as their success during the tenure process (Cole, McGowan, & Zerquera, 2017Garrison-Wade et al., 2012).  For those faculty who receive tenure-track appointments, gaps in mentoring can persist during the tenure process. Underrepresented faculty of color discuss not receiving quality support and mentoring from senior faculty during the tenure process. They also discuss feelings of isolation, lack of value for their research, and an expectation to serve as the diversity consciousness of their department. A 2016 report by the TIAA Institute made visible the impact of barriers to tenure among underrepresented faculty of color. The report found relatively small gains in the number of underrepresented faculty of color across a twenty-year period. Gains were mostly attributed to an increase in non-tenure-track appointments.

To address underrepresentation in tenure-track faculty appointments, Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development created the inaugural AACTE/Holmes Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in 2018. The postdoctoral program was designed to (1) expand and deepen the research repertoires of early career scholars in education and human development-related fields who address issues of equity and educational justice; (2) prepare early career scholars for academic research and teaching careers that will significantly influence theory, practice, or policy in their specific fields of expertise; and (3) identify and support career development opportunities for early career scholars from underrepresented groups who will assume tenure-track faculty positions at research universities. 

Our session at the AACTE 2020 Annual Meeting shared the journey of developing, implementing, and evaluating the AACTE/Holmes Postdoctoral Fellowship program at Boston University. Our postdoctoral associates are mentored by faculty members who are committed to creating a more racially/ethnically diverse faculty. The program demystifies the tenure-track process and illustrates how postdocs can collaborate with and advocate for educational equity at multiple levels. Our university’s institutional policies and mission statements clearly call for greater support of diversity and inclusion goals, however, evidence of intentional practice is limited. Ultimately, success of the program provides a model that can be replicated across the university, and within other institutions.

An audio recording of the full AACTE 2020 Annual Meeting session, “Bridging the gap: Preparing diverse faculty through the inaugural AACTE/Holmes Postdoctoral Fellowship Program” is available to Annual Meeting attendees at aacte.org.