By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer
A virtual event to welcome faculty of color was held on Tuesday in order to ring in the new school year. They discussed changes that have been made to campus to improve diversity as well as the different organizations available to faculty minorities.
While this event has been hosted in-person in the President’s Suite at McLane Stadium and has featured appearances from the mayor of Waco for the past three years, it has shifted to a virtual medium this semester.
Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, dean for student development, said it is a welcome reception for faculty of color, but all faculty were invited to attend.
“It’s for everyone. We just focus on making sure that our faculty of color can meet other folks in their own areas and of course, in other areas, just to start building that sense of belonging – that sense of family,” Palacios said.
This event was hosted by Dr. Lori Baker, vice provost for Faculty Development and Diversity, and featured nine faculty speakers from different areas of campus.
Baker said that she hopes this event allows people to build networks with one another.
“I’m hopeful that maybe in the spring, we’ll be able to do something that will be in person and allow people to get to know one another in the ways that we’re traditionally used to using to get to know one another,” Baker said. “But for now, at least we can introduce some folks and help to connect people.”
Baker said that it is easy for faculty of color to become isolated in their area of study.
“How exciting would it be to be in a room where you’re in the majority for once while you’re at Baylor since we’re a predominantly white institution,” Baker said. “I thought this might be a really enjoyable experience for our faculty.”
As Baylor is a predominantly white institution and many faculty are new to teaching, Palacios said that any support while acclimating to a new environment is beneficial.
“Just making a sense of belonging and an environment of supportive, great networking,” Palacios said. “We get to meet people that you might share interests, that you might share backgrounds and have commonalities [with],” Palacios said. “But it’s just a more intimate opportunity to meet people.”
President Linda Livingstone spoke to participants about what changes have been made to campus to promote an engaging and welcoming environment.
She discussed the new Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which has created a goal to share a more honest history of the university, as well as a mandatory diversity education that is in progress for all faculty, staff and students for later in the semester, the revision of their Civil Rights policy and the recent campus climate survey.
“To our faculty of color, I want to say, you matter,” Livingstone said. “Particularly to our new faculty of color, you’re here because we believe that you have a unique and important contribution to make to our strategic plan, Illuminate.”
Provost Dr. Nancy Brickhouse then expanded on diverse faculty hiring processes and a new core curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“In these courses, we find real opportunity to provide an education that really celebrates the diverse contributions of people from all over the world,” Brickhouse said. “And the way in which they have contributed to our culture into our society.”
Brickhouse said that she realizes the university still has work to do in the area of diversity.
“For our faculty of color in general, for underrepresented minority faculty in particular,” Brickhouse said. “We need to do more and to create the kind of environment, the support and the leadership to enable all of our black faculty, including our faculty of color, to flourish.”
Christina Chan-Park, coordinator of the Faculty of Color Alliance, then spoke about the mission of the Alliance and upcoming events.
“About 125 of approximately 200 faculty of color are on the [email list] right now,” Chan-Park said.
Chan-Park said that there are a lot of departments on campus that still only have one faculty member of color.
“When you first come, those are the only people you know and it’s hard and depending on what your background is, the other place faculty meet each other at Baylor is at church,” Chan-Park said. “You might come from a different faith background.”
Tonya Hudson, president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, also spoke about the BFSA and its upcoming events.
“What we want to try to do is create a place where faculty and graduate students have access to professional development,” Hudson said. “And then we can connect undergraduate students with faculty and staff for the mentorship programs.”
Brooke Blevins, co-founder of Women’s Colloquium, then spoke about her organization and its history. Riz Klausmeyer, chair of Women in Science and Engineering, or WISE, spoke about her organization and Cuevas Peacock, assistant director of Community Relations-Cultural Wealth spoke about the Solid Gold Neighbor initiative and the recent Waco Culture Guide.
Lastly, Malcolm Foley, special advisor to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement, introduced himself and told attendees how he can assist them throughout the year.
Baker said that she hopes faculty know the commitment of President Livingstone and Dr. Brickhouse to faculty diversity.
“There are some faculty that joined us this fall, that we’ve been recruiting for a number of years to come to Baylor,” Baker said. “And so we’re excited that they’re here and we want to make sure that they’re well connected and part of the community.”