UNCW College of Arts & Sciences Launches Diversity and Inclusion Cluster Hire Initiative

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

As part of coordinated diversity and inclusion initiatives within the UNCW Division of Academic Affairs, UNCW’s College of Arts and Sciences is launching a cluster hire initiative in the areas of Africana studies, race, racial inequality and social justice.

New faculty will serve within existing departments and programs connected to their specific discipline and will also form a cohort of scholars to contribute to the college’s interdisciplinary minor in Africana studies and the planned interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in Africana studies.

“When I took over as interim dean, a primary focus was to increase diversity and inclusion within the College of Arts and Sciences. This specific initiative was within that charge and driven by department chairs and faculty who felt the need to move beyond just understanding the need and having the desire to diversify our faculty,” said Richard Ogle, interim CAS dean. “We realized that given the history of Wilmington and our region, we should take action and develop UNCW as a leader in these areas of study. We had a level of investment in this idea that led to departments changing the focus of planned replacement hires to areas of study that would allow us to begin to build this strength.”

Diverse representation and voices are also essential to providing a rich educational experience to students, Ogle added. The initiative will also improve the college’s ability to attract diverse and underrepresented students.

“We cannot truly fulfill our mission of educating students to be the next generation of problem solvers and global citizens unless our faculty are truly representative of the multitude of voices and perspectives we see in the United States and beyond,” he said. “A wealth of research shows that diverse teams provide better solutions to problems. We know that culturally competent individuals succeed in the current marketplace. We owe it to ourselves, our students and our world to ensure that students have the experiences necessary for them to succeed – awareness of and understanding underrepresented voices is one of these critical experiences. Students often choose a university where they hear their voice and where they get to see its importance lived out on a day-to-day basis."

Department chairs who were the driving force behind the initiative are Mike Maume (sociology and criminology), Theodore W. Burgh (philosophy and religion), Lynn Mollenauer (history), Julian Keith (psychology), and Mariana Johnson (film studies).

“It’s a solid step in a positive direction, but the energy, time, money, and a committed, collective effort must be maintained for as long as it takes,” said Burgh. “UNCW's past actions and incidents continue to make it a challenge to bring faculty from underrepresented groups to campus. Nevertheless, new hires will benefit the university with fresh ideas, enthusiasm and innovative courses. However, along with the challenge of hiring new faculty, UNCW must work to make them want to remain here.”
The hires will be in the area of psychology, history, sociology, criminology, film studies and philosophy. As this is a multi-year initiative, additional future hires in other disciplines are planned.

“This is not the only way in which we are focusing on increasing the diversity of the faculty and staff in CAS,” Ogle said. “We are also working with Academic Affairs on best practices to ensure that all our recruitments allow us to maximize our ability to diversify our faculty and staff and to create an inclusive environment for all.”

-- Venita Jenkins