Retention of Underrepresented Minority Faculty: Strategic Initiatives for Institutional Value Proposition Based on Perspectives from a Range of Academic Institutions

J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2015 Jul 7;13(3):A136-45. eCollection Summer 2015.


The student and faculty make-up of academic institutions does not represent national demographics. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately underrepresented nationally, and particularly at predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Although significant efforts and funding have been committed to increasing points of access or recruitment of under-represented minority (URM) students and faculty at PWIs, these individuals have not been recruited and retained at rates that reflect their national proportions. Underrepresentation of URMs is particularly prevalent in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This reality represents a national crisis given a predicted shortage of workers in STEM disciplines based on current rates of training of all individuals, majority and URM, and the intersection of this limitation with persistent challenges in the recruitment, training, retention and advancement of URMs who will soon represent the largest pool of future trainees. An additional compounding factor is the increasingly disproportionate underrepresentation of minorities at higher professorial and administrative ranks, thus limiting the pool of potential mentors who are correlated with successful shepherding of URM students through STEM training and development. We address issues related to improving recruitment and retention of URM faculty that are applicable across a range of academic institutions. We describe challenges with recruitment and retention of URM faculty and their advancement through promotion in the faculty ranks and into leadership positions. We offer specific recommendations, including identifying environmental barriers to diversity and implementing strategies for their amelioration, promoting effective and innovative mentoring, and addressing leadership issues related to constructive change for promoting diversity.

Keywords: STEM; diversity; faculty retention; higher education; institutional transformation; under-represented minorities (URM).