RESEARCH ACTION GROUP: WOMEN IN HIGHER EDUCATION – NETWORKING TO
Location: Spelman College
Event Date: Saturday, June 2, 2007
Group Discussion Leaders:
-Ines Hernandez-Avila, Director, Chicana-Latina Research Center, UC Davis
-Donna Shavlik, Principal, The Timberline Group
-Caryn McTighe Musil, Vice President, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives, AAC&U
“Putting leadership for diversity together with diversity in leadership is essential.” Betsy Jones
“They pay lip service, but how do you get the university to up the ante [for diversity]?” Lisa
“Access is important, but we need institutional change to keep [underrepresented students] in
school and graduate them.” Donna Shavlik
“We need to know who wants to do this work [on diversity], and we need more space to talk with
each other… where we can work together to have action agendas.” Caryn McTigue Musil
Participants agreed that the Council has a central role in encouraging greater diversity within its
centers and within their larger institutions.
The Council’s project on the impact of leadership on diversity in higher education highlighted the
essential role women’s research and studies programs can play in creating more inclusive and
equitable institutions of higher education. The final report from that project should be widely
The Council’s new project on diversity within women’s research and studies centers on college
and university campuses will include an RFP to select 6 to 8 centers to participate in the project.
Participants suggested that the RFP include questions like, “Have you looked at the AAC&U
programs?” “Have you had contact with the NWSA program on diversity?” Centers like the one at
the University of Buffalo would be more interested in participating and get more institutional
support if other top Research I universities were participating.
Campus Women Lead, a project coming out of the American Association of Colleges and
Universities, mobilizes women through one or two day workshops to make their campuses more
inclusive. They encourage multicultural alliances among women, help strategize action plans for
specific campuses, and provide education on how institutions work. Participants suggested a
session with Campus Women Lead at the Council’s Annual Conference and a separate session
with the Council’s Board.
Campus programs that incorporate students in diversity work include the LEADS Project at
Spelman, programs at Cottey College in Nevada, and the Center for Women’s InterCultural
Leadership (CWIL) at St. Mary’s College in Indiana. These programs tend to integrate the
curricular and the co-curricular. For example, at St. Mary’s, the CWIL program incorporates
course work, community activism, study abroad, cross-cultural components, and gender
components. Proponents at Xavier are in the early stages of developing a women’s studies
minor. Seventy-five percent of their students are women. But women’s studies in Catholic
institutions are always complicated. At St. Mary’s, the women students have been a force for
such programs. At Xavier, a more controlled campus, there has been less opportunity for
Participants listed barriers to successful diversity efforts on their campuses:
Some campuses, for example Boise State Univeristy in Idaho, don’t have a natural
multicultural population. Lip service is paid to the value of diversity, but with relatively
low salaries and isolated venue, it is hard to attract diverse populations to the
campus. How can we encourage the university to make diversity a priority.
Some schools like Xavier have a hard time retaining African American faculty,
especially in the humanities since salaries are low and the teaching load is high.
At large public universities like the University of Buffalo, faculty of color have a heavy
load because they are asked to advise and serve on committees without course
relief. There has been a need to protect younger faculty from the service demands
placed on them by the community.
Too often, emphasis has been on access, not student success. We need to look at
the smaller pieces – like the types of coalitions and programs – that help students
succeed. Institutions are going to have to change in order to keep underrepresented
students and see them graduate.
Participants suggested that the Council:
Do an audit of the centers to:
Develop a list of who’s working in the area and their contact information.
Determine what the diversity within member centers actually is.
Make a sweep of best practices to be sent back to centers.
Identify programs that combine leadership and multiculturalism.
The audit could be a simple form and one member center could volunteer to
analyze the results. This would be very helpful work but would not cost a lot.
Organize centers by clusters – perhaps according to type, like Research I universities
or liberal arts colleges, or by region – to identify what worked and what didn’t in each
context. If it was made easy and enough visibility was given to the institutions, it
would not cost a great deal of money. The AAC&U newsletter could focus on the
project and thus give everyone publicity. ACE might also highlight the centers. This
would only work with centers where there is institutional commitment.
Provide more opportunities for interested people to talk with each other and develop
common action agendas and strategies. Next year, send invitations to specific
individuals to come together to set a research agenda, not necessarily NCRW’s
agenda. Provide more time, perhaps from 9:00 to 12:00, to focus, and assign a
coordinator to help keep the work moving.