Jeff Morin: Increasing diversity of faculty in higher education

President, Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design

Last updated on March 29th, 2021 at 04:09 pm

Diversifying higher education has been a long-standing challenge not only in Wisconsin but nationwide. Nearly three-quarters of faculty at colleges and universities nationwide are white, which often doesn’t reflect the diversity of students on those campuses. Diversifying faculty isn’t simply about increasing numbers of BIPOC faculty. It’s about fostering a culture of equity and inclusion and changing the ecosystems and policies that have created systemic inequities in higher education.

In art and design education, gaining the two to three years of teaching experience needed to be considered for full-time faculty positions is often a barrier. At the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, the college is taking a different approach to recruiting faculty by addressing this barrier through partnering with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design Post-Graduate Teaching Fellows program. 

The AICAD Fellows program matches high-achieving master’s degree recipients from underrepresented populations with college-level teaching positions. During the one-year fellowships, colleges provide mentors for each fellow. Fellowships can be renewed for an additional year. With the experiences gained, these fellows become eligible to apply for full-time faculty positions either at MIAD or other art and design colleges nationwide. 

In fall 2020, and for the first time, MIAD hired four AICAD fellows, and was one of only two art and design colleges nationwide hiring new fellows this year. The college is committed to ongoing recruitment of new faculty through this program.

As colleges change their hiring practices, they also need to examine their climate of equity and inclusion – from institutional policies to supporting diversity in the curriculum while mentoring faculty, staff and students. The hiring of more diverse faculty and reviewing policies at MIAD are just two pieces of a much larger college-wide Equity and Inclusion Action Plan introduced last summer. The plan calls for providing anti-racism training to all employees and students annually, decolonizing the curriculum, offering programming by diverse artists, designers and scholars to discuss the intersections of their identities with their practices, and more.

MIAD also is exploring ways to partner with Milwaukee community organizations and businesses to both recruit local talent and provide opportunities to young artists and designers to increase awareness of career opportunities in art and design. For example, as part of Greater Together’s Greater Equity 2030 initiative, MIAD is partnering with Hanson Dodge to develop a graphic design internship program for BIPOC high school students in Milwaukee. 

By partnering together in our community, and making systemic changes at our institutions, we can make great strides in diversifying faculty in higher education, thereby empowering the educational experience for all students.

This column is part of “25 big ideas for Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin’s future,” a feature included in the BizTimes Milwaukee 25th anniversary issue. To read other contributions, visit biztimes.com/bigideas

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