Improving Campus Climate for Faculty from Underrepresented Groups

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Conference Proceeding

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A continuing challenge in engineering in higher education is that of professional equity regarding opportunity for advancement and job satisfaction due to differences in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability and other factors. Because there are more women and persons of color visible within engineering faculties and administrations than ever before, casual observers might conclude that significant progress has been made in creating an equitable climate in academia. A preponderance of recent studies, however, demonstrate that while women and individuals from other underrepresented groups have gained access to some faculty and administrative positions, this has not necessarily translated into consistent patterns of success through all levels of academic hierarchies and leadership positions. For example, some universities do a good job of recruiting and hiring women faculty and faculty of color, yet beyond this, both groups are consistently underrepresented at certain levels of faculty administration, such as department chair, dean, and endowed chairs.1-7

In 2005, Boise State University, a mid-sized, metropolitan university, administered a Campus Climate Survey to gain an understanding of how these national trends presented themselves on a particular campus, with the long-term goal of transforming campus climate and culture to enhance opportunities for underrepresented groups. In general, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the faculty who responded to the survey reported that they have been treated fairly and equitably while at the university. The following analysis sheds light on the approximately one-quarter to one-third of faculty members who did not feel that they had been equitably treated while also focusing on responses from the science and engineering faculty in particular. Additionally, this paper explores ways in which engineering and science departments and universities can use climate data to inform strategic plans of action.

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