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Provost’s Office to launch fellowship

Laura McCrystal | Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Moreau Academic Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship, a two-year program run through the provost’s office that is part of an effort to bring more diverse and female faculty to the University, is set to begin in the fall of 2010 with two fellows.

University President Fr. John Jenkins mentioned the fellowship in his address to faculty members last Tuesday, and the fellowship will be formally announced in early October, Vice President and Associate Provost Don Pope-Davis said.

“We tried to think of a non-traditional and yet effective way to try to bring people into the University,” he said. “And we hope people will be interested in coming here.”

The Moreau fellowship will bring two diverse post-doctoral scholars to campus each year to conduct research projects, teach classes and interact with academic departments, Assistant Provost Susan Ohmer said.

“They will primarily be here to work on their research projects and to engage with the University,” she said. “Their role depends partly on their backgrounds and area of interest. We will encourage them to get involved with other faculty, to get involved in the department where they’ll be based.”

During their two years, the Moreau fellows will have the chance to become acquainted with the University. The program is designed for fellows to become faculty members at the end of two years if the University is a good fit for them, Pope-Davis said.

“The number one driving force behind the fellowship is that we want our students to be able to engage with a multicultural world,” Ohmer said.

The establishment of the fellowship is a result of recommendations made by the University committee on Cultural Diversity and the University Committee on Women Faculty and Students in reports issued last spring.

The committee reports found that Notre Dame needs to recruit and retain more women and diverse faculty, as it is not as strong as other private universities that are members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) in these areas.

In the fall of 2006, 23 percent of Notre Dame’s faculty was female, according to the report from the Committee on Women Faculty and Students. The AAU average was 28 percent.

The Committee on Faculty Recruitment and Retention reported that in the fall of 2007, 13 percent of Notre Dame faculty represented minority races. The University of Chicago leads AAU private universities in this area, with 20 percent minority faculty.

This summer, Pope-Davis and Ohmer worked with a group to implement the committees’ recommendations for improving in these areas. Among the recommendations was a proposed post-doctoral program, which developed into the Moreau Fellowship.

Ohmer is hopeful that the University will receive many applications for the fellowship.

“We really do want to cast a wide net, and we’ll see,” she said. “I would expect several hundred [applicants].”

Another recommendation in the 2008 committee reports was the creation of an office devoted to diversity.

The University opted to appoint Ohmer to a new position in the provost’s office rather than create a new office. She began as assistant provost Aug. 1, and her main goal is to work through the committee recommendations.

“Rather than have a separate office, we would work with the provost’s office and the president’s office jointly,” she said. “This way we’re pulling together resources in different areas and bringing them to bear on the issue.”

Ohmer plans to work systematically through the committee recommendations and encourage interaction and sharing between offices and departments on the topic of diversity.

“Data collection and analysis is one of my specific priorities this semester,” she said. “We want to develop the best practices that people have found for attracting and keeping faculty, and then we want to share them across campus.”

Pope-Davis, who is dedicated to faculty affairs, is also taking a leadership role in these efforts. After the postdoctoral program is established, he plans to develop a faculty mentoring program.

“Rather than talk about retention, we want to talk about engagement,” he said. “What we are hoping to do is to bring communities of women and faculty together around areas of research and scholarship.”

The program will aim to promote faculty members’ academic and social engagement, participation in the broader community and understanding of the University’s unique values. Pope-Davis said the program will include all faculty members.

Pope-Davis and Ohmer said the efforts to recruit and retain diverse faculty are ultimately for the enrichment of students’ experiences at the University.

“I think we’re all aware that we live in a global, multicultural world, and it’s going to increase as students get older,” Ohmer said. “The number one driving force behind the fellowship is that we want our students to be able to engage with a multicultural world.”

University President Fr. John Jenkins has also lent his support to the efforts to support and create diversity, Ohmer said.

The desired result of the Moreau postdoctoral fellowship, Pop-Davis said, is increased diversity among the faculty, which he hopes will attract a more diverse undergraduate student body to the University.

“It’s important that we have a University that reflects the broad universal nature of the world in which we live,” he said.