In alignment with the Office of the Provost’s mission to develop creative approaches to foster a culture that supports and sustains innovation, a faculty-centered culture transformation initiative was started in July 2017: Faculty Retention and Success through Intergroup Dialogue and Inclusion Alliance. Our goal is to improve the climate for inclusion at Purdue, thus increasing the retention, success, and well-being of all faculty, especially faculty from underrepresented backgrounds (e.g. racial-ethnic minorities and women). This initiative aims at bringing faculty across campus together to engage in diversity and inclusion educational opportunities targeted at different levels of understanding as well as intergroup dialogue events regarding inequity, intergroup relationships, and ways to promote positive transformative change at Purdue.
Our initiative was developed to dovetail strategic action recommendations of the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Diversity, including efforts to retain diverse faculty, co-curricular activities and education in support of diversity and inclusion, and progress toward a culture shift. Furthermore, this initiative addresses faculty issues that became evident in the 2015 COACHE survey. A sizable proportion of our faculty perceived the campus climate to be inequitable, not supportive, and generally “chilly” for women and racial-ethnic minorities. In some cases, half of faculty respondents believed that women and racial-ethnic minorities experienced these negative aspects of climate. Our faculty members were also in the bottom of the peer group comparisons for departmental collegiality and engagement, with women and racial-ethnic minority faculty expressing the greatest disadvantage in these areas.
We believe that diverse social identities, varied backgrounds, and intellectual breadth fuel innovation. Our campus will not reach its full potential for academic excellence unless we place highest priority on diversity and inclusion. Our alliance-based initiative—a union of scholars who are experts and activists in diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice issues—critically engages with faculty across campus. We believe this a timely opportunity to draw on the synergy of similar discussions across campus.
The primary diversity strategy of many institutions of higher education has been to focus on recruiting faculty. In turn, efforts to transform campus culture have become a secondary mission (Whittaker & Montgomery, 2014). However, culture change—a shift to inclusion of campus members regardless of their gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, ability status, parent status, and religion—is imperative for retention, success, and well-being of faculty (Aguirre Jr & Martinez, 2002; Kossek, Wipfli, Thomspson, & Brockwood, 2016; Kossek & Zonia, 1993; Moors, Malley, & Stewart, 2014; Zúñiga, Nagda, Chesler, & Cytron-Walker, 2007). Many efforts are being made concerning diversity and inclusion of student members of our campus, as evidenced by the important cultural centers, curriculum, and recent DTA funded grants focused on student life. Our campus, however, lacks parallel concerted efforts for faculty members.