Provost ramps up support for diversifying the faculty

Provost Michael Kotlikoff has announced increases in spending – some from central funding and some from departments and colleges – to enhance the recruitment of diverse faculty and provide ongoing retention support. The additional funding will bring total spending toward recruiting and retaining diverse faculty to more than $60 million over the next five years.

“We want to foster an environment that attracts faculty from all backgrounds, ethnicities and perspectives, seeks out scholars of diverse viewpoints, and encourages them to pursue their careers at Cornell for the long term,” Kotlikoff said. “That environment is dependent on all of us already at Cornell welcoming our new colleagues and promoting an inclusive community in which all faculty can succeed, as well as recognizing and rewarding the contributions of all faculty to the university as a whole.”

Kotlikoff has dedicated new central funding to several programs recommended in the July report submitted to him by the Provost’s Task Force to Enhance Faculty Diversity. The most significant of these recommendations makes it easier for departments to be competitive when hiring faculty by increasing central funding to support salaries of faculty recruited to Cornell who diversify their departments; Kotlikoff increased this support from 25 percent to 75 percent for five years. The task force estimated that this funding could support some 12 new faculty members each year, or 60 new diverse faculty over a five-year period.

Kotlikoff also has committed central funding to a new Presidential Faculty Fellows program that will augment the university’s potential faculty recruitment pool by identifying the most talented young scholars through faculty searches, providing them with fellowships and supporting them during completion of their training prior to assuming their appointments at Cornell.

The Presidential Postdoctoral Program will be expanded to include annual fellowships to those underrepresented in their academic fields.

These programs will supplement current faculty recruitment and development efforts by Avery August, vice provost for academic affairs, and by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, led by Yael Levitte, associate vice provost. “We already sponsor multiple mentoring programs – including networking lunches and peer mentoring grants – and a range of training programs and tools for fair and inclusive faculty searches,” said Levitte.

August noted: “The environment we present to our candidates during the search process and to new hires during their first few months here is critical to their retention. Lasting impressions are formed by how we recruit for diversity, welcome and orient new faculty to departments and colleges, and give them the resources they need.”

August stressed the importance of search committee training, which helps members seek out and recruit the best diverse candidates to Cornell, and department chair development and training, which helps department chairs be more aware of the roles they play in shaping an environment supportive of an inclusive climate. New mentoring and recruitment guidelines are available online, as well as in-person sessions with Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble, which is reaching out to departments across campus, he said.

“We have received very positive response for making these tools available,” said Levitte.

But retention needs to be deliberate and maintained throughout the career span of each faculty member, said August. That will take central and departmental funding through awards recognizing campus leadership in diversity issues and in advising and mentoring diverse students; resources for travel to attend conferences and campuses for recruiting faculty; and networking opportunities to help integrate diverse faculty with their peers across campus.

“We need to build a sense of community and shared values if we are to give faculty compelling and sustained reasons to feel they belong here,” August said.

Kotlikoff said that while increased central support for diverse faculty hires is already in effect, increasing the retention of diverse faculty will be a major focus over the coming year.

That work will be given considerable attention this semester, he added, through the creation of a campuswide statement reaffirming Cornell’s core values, which President Martha E. Pollack wrote about in her Sept. 7 update on Cornell’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Additional programs and policies geared toward enhancing recruitment and retention are also under development and will be the subject of future discussions with the Faculty Senate, dean of the faculty and other campus leaders.

Media Contact

John Carberry