California State University, Long Beach
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Faculty Of The Future

Published: October 1, 2015

About half of CSULB’s student population is comprised of diverse, historically underrepresented groups, and campus leadership understands they are a big part of the future success of the nation and the economy.

“One of the most important issues facing United States’ higher education is the success of historically underrepresented students who are fast becoming the majority of students in public higher education,” said CSULB Interim Provost David Dowell. “The future of our democratic civic society and the future of the U.S. economy depend strongly upon preparing this diverse generation of young people.”

In the late 1990s, the U.S. was near the top of developed nations in college graduation rates; now it is 17th, Dowell said, citing data from the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes the world’s developed nations.

“It’s not that U.S. higher education is getting worse; it’s that other developed nations are making larger gains,” he said. “The U.S. is also one of the few developed nations in which the younger generation is not better educated than the older generation. If the U.S. does not improve success of diverse young people in higher education, economic effects may be felt, not so much in this decade but in the future, affecting our sons and daughters.”

When Dowell was named provost in 2013, the state budget situation was improving and the university was developing plans for more tenure-track hiring. Recognizing the importance of ensuring that new hires are well-prepared to help CSULB’s diverse students be successful, he worked closely with the academic deans to develop several new practices.

Now every tenure-track search committee meets with each respective dean at the beginning of the hiring process to discuss the “faculty of the future” and how to select new faculty who are well-prepared for CSULB students.

“A tenure-track hire is a big deal for an academic department and it becomes a teachable moment to engage members of hiring committees in an important conversation about well-serving our diverse students,” Dowell said.

Applicants for tenure-track positions are also asked to provide a statement about their experience with diversity as part of their application process. The campus Diversity Plan articulates a broad definition of diversity including race, ethnicity, multilingual knowledge, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and religion, among other cultural identities and experiences. Some questions used in phone and face-to-face interviews with candidates address working with diverse students.

“I read every statement on diversity from every finalist,” said Dowell. “Committee recommendations and dean recommendations for hiring must be justified, at least in part, based on the preparedness of candidates to work with our students. I won’t approve a hire unless that faculty member is ready to work with our students.”

Over the past decade, the overall campus graduation rate has increased 22 points reaching an all-time high of 65 percent. Gains for all ethnic groups also reached all-time highs. In addition, gains occurred for low-income students, for men and women, and for students with additional academic preparation needs. Diverse Issues in Higher Education annually ranks the university among the nation’s best for conferring bachelor’s degrees on students of color.

Dowell, who has been a driving force behind expanding the university’s student success efforts, expects those gains to continue and believes that the new hiring policy will contribute to future gains.

“There is quite a bit of evidence about pedagogy that is effective with diverse students,” said Dowell. “Active modes of learning create engagement that makes students much more likely to recall learning. Active learning is most effective with diverse students and in fact with all students. Also, when new ideas connect with knowledge already possessed by the students, more learning occurs, so teachers who understand the context and culture of students are more likely to be effective.”

CSULB’s most recent graduation rates place the institution at or near the top of 27 reporting Hispanic-serving public master’s institutions in graduating Hispanic/Latino and Asian-American students, while ranking third in the nation for African-American students. Dowell praised the faculty for these achievements.

“Our highly accomplished and committed faculty and staff have been indispensable to these achievements,” he said. “As our fiscal outlook improves, our energies will be directed toward implementing our staff and faculty recruitment initiatives and accelerating our transition to an even more diverse employee community. An increasingly diverse employee community will be critical to meeting the needs of our students in this competitive global economy.”