Feb. 14, 2007

Cornell professors advise minority faculty at Spelman workshop

Two Cornell professors joined colleagues from around the nation to participate in a January workshop, co-sponsored by the Future of Minority Studies (FMS) Summer Institute, on professional issues important to faculty at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) at Spelman College in Atlanta.

"The meeting at Spelman is the beginning of a very important alliance, one which will strengthen the faculty at historically black institutions and strengthen Cornell's ability to interact with some of the best young minds in the country," said Kenneth McClane, the W.E.B. DuBois Professor of Literature at Cornell, who led a workshop on writing life stories.

"One of the most important challenges facing [faculty members at] historically black colleges is their heavy teaching load and lack of institutionally funded sabbaticals," McClane noted. "This year FMS will provide minority faculty members the opportunity to spend a term at Syracuse University or the University of Michigan with an FMS faculty mentor."

McClane said he hopes that funds can be raised locally for FMS grants to bring HBCU faculty to Cornell. "FMS believes that good mentoring for graduate students and faculty of color needs to be undertaken by all of us who are committed to the future of minority education, no matter where we are located geographically," McClane notes. "The number of minority faculty who leave the profession is shocking, and much of this exodus has to do with poor mentoring. It is difficult enough to survive in the academy with a wealth of support; it is almost impossible with little or none."

The workshop was organized by Cornell Professor of English Satya Mohanty, director of the FMS Summer Institute, and Johnnella Butler, provost and vice president of Spelman College. Mohanty and Butler led a workshop on challenges faced by minority junior faculty.