Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 14, 2024

University dedicates $5 million to diversifying faculty

By Heather Barbakoff | April 9, 2008

The University has pledged to provide at least $5 million over the next five years to help departments both hire and retain outstanding female and minority professorial candidates through a pilot program, the Mosaic Initiative.

University-wide, women currently comprise 38 percent of full-time faculty and less than 20 percent of full professors. The numbers for underrepresented minorities are even lower, comprising a mere 6 percent of full-time faculty members and less then 4 percent of full professors.

"One of the most significant reasons [for the Initiative] is that diversity of the faculty on all dimensions enriches the educational life we give to students. I am inclined to think as broadly as possible about what it means to diversify the faculty ... I think the goal is to enrich the faculty," said Adam Falk, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

Compared to 2004 numbers, 206 more women and 45 more members of underrepresented minorities have been appointed to Hopkins's full-time faculty of 3,519 for this academic year. United States citizens or resident aliens who are Native American, African American or Hispanic American are considered to be underrepresented minorities.

At Homewood, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences has a total of 261 faculty members, 65 of whom are female. The Whiting School of Engineering had in the past less than 10 percent of its faculty as women; the current statistic is now close to 20 percent. The gender division varies by subject field and school.

Women tend to be better represented within the humanities, but underrepresented in the science disciplines. Falk says that this trend is representational of the national scene. He explained that academic careers tend to be very long, and there are issues that influence the number of women in academic professions.

In engineering, the pool of potential faculty members who belong to certain minorities, such as Native Americans, are so small as to be almost nonexistent. This makes it increasingly difficult to identify and hire these minorities, perhaps accounting for the fact that the percentage of underrepresented faculty members in engineering is very small. The school was, however, recently able to recruit a Hispanic- American woman to the staff.

Karen Beemon, chair of the biology department, has been involved in trying to recruit underrepresented minority graduate students to Homewood programs to help increase this future applicant pool.

Despite the fact that there are many female graduate students in biology, "It's hard to find people," she said. Beemon stated that her department hired one additional woman for this academic year, bringing the number of women to six out of 25 faculty positions.

University President William Brody wrote in an e-mail that the University's previous lack of female and minority faculty speaks to not having qualified candidates in areas like the sciences and engineering. This, however, "has changed in recent years with a greater influx of women and minorities into the sciences."

Individual departments within the Whiting School of Engineering have slowly been increasing the number of women on its faculty; two years ago, the computer science department and the electrical and computer engineering department did not have any female faculty members. There is currently one female faculty member in the computer science department and two in electrical engineering department.

"The departments are definitely benefiting from the ability to hire more diverse candidates. The people recruited are fabulous additions to the faculty, we wouldn't have chosen them if they weren't," said Nicholas Jones, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering.

The Mosaic Initiative will increase the ability for the University to compete for the most qualified candidates.

"If we don't have a diverse faculty, it will be harder to recruit diverse student body. Furthermore, we would be eliminating a certain significant fraction of potential academic 'stars' from the faculty if we only hired white males," Brody said.

Falk says that Hopkins continues to make progress in diversifying its faculty. "The process isn't as fast as we would like," he said.

Jones stressed that it was necessary to "keep encouraging individuals who are women and underrepresented to continue in engineering and to make themselves available."

The funding for the Mosaic Initiative comes from the offices of both President William Brody as unrestricted gifts to the University and Provost Kristina Johnson and will be distributed University-wide across all of Hopkins's campuses.

"These funds would allow departments to recruit highly qualified women or minority faculty when they are available - a so-called 'target of opportunity,'" Brody said.

Individual departments may request a maximum of $250,000 to be used over the course of three years to help with the faculty recruitment process. These sums can be put towards salary, research support and laboratory equipment. The money will not cover all the requests, so there will have to be prioritization across the University's schools.

In addition to the money provided by the president and the provost, there will be efforts to approach other donors - individuals and potentially foundations and corporations - to help increase the supplemental funds available to departments. The University's Society of Black Alumni has already committed itself to the effort.

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