Last year's student protests put a spotlight on faculty diversity—but a truly inclusive campus has administrators that are as diverse as the student body, Stephanie White argues in Inside Higher Ed.
White reflects on the fact that, more than 10 years later, she still remembers the staff members who supported her as a college student on campus. White says the relationships with these administrators were as important—or more important—than the relationships she had with faculty members.
As a minority woman preparing to study medicine, White says there were few other students who looked like her. Her "academic family" became all the more important.
Administrators mentor students through some of the toughest times and choices they've faced so far, White notes. Staff members often teach students the life skills they need to survive away from home. Many of them act as advisers to student organizations.
Given the huge role they often play in students' lives, administrators should represent a "diverse range of identities" to make the campus feel truly inclusive, White writes.
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To ensure a diverse staff, White proposes that institutions invest more in professional development and, in particular, leadership development. She notes that senior administrators are typically far less diverse than the rest of campus.
White encourages campus leaders to discuss career goals and ambitions with each staff member. For example, the conversation could be incorporated into the annual review process, she suggests.
Lack of mentors is also a major challenge to professional growth for staff, writes White. She encourages leaders to develop mentorship programs and opportunities for administrators to receive career advice.
Investing more in staff development is also likely to improve productivity and reduce turnover, White argues, ultimately helping the institution's bottom line (White, Inside Higher Ed, 10/18).
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