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Mellon Foundation to Fund Expansion of Duke Model For Mentoring Underrepresented Early Career Faculty

SITPA 2017The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is funding the expansion of Duke’s Summer Institute on Tenure and Professional Advancement (SITPA) program. SITPA is an intensive research mentoring and professional socialization program for early career faculty who are from underrepresented groups or who otherwise deepen diversity at their institutions.

One of SITPA’s objectives is to address a nationwide problem in higher education—the underrepresentation of various racial and ethnic minority groups on the faculties of U.S. colleges and universities.

The SITPA approach concentrates support and mentoring of junior faculty early in their career, with the goal of enabling a successful transition to tenured associate professor rank. The Duke program will receive $698,000 over three and a half years, from July 1, 2018, to December 31, 2021.

“Duke is committed to the value and need for diversity in the professoriate,” noted Valerie Ashby, dean of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. “I have seen this program in action, and this approach will enable us to build a stronger, more inclusive university community which is essential to our future.”

The U.S. has succeeded in significantly increasing the number of minorities receiving doctorates in a broad range of fields in recent decades. However, faculty diversity has changed only marginally and is not keeping pace with the nation’s shifting population demographic.

“We need underrepresented minority faculty members and others who recognize the importance of having diverse faculties to become long-term stakeholders who help shape the mission, curriculum, student body and faculty at our institutions,” said SITPA creator and Director Kerry Haynie, an associate professor of political science and African & African American studies. “We’ve designed a program that provides promising scholars with the knowledge, strategies and support they need to earn tenure.”

Haynie plans to present the SITPA model at national conferences over the next three years and to publish on the benefits of this faculty development approach. In addition, he hopes to enlist two to three colleges to pilot the program on their own campuses.

Duke launched the SITPA program in 2014 with the support of the Mellon Foundation. To develop the program focus and format, Haynie utilized existing research, sought input from senior faculty from a wide range of fields, and made use of lessons learned from his experiences with other mentoring initiatives. The need for universities to invest more in the success of junior faculty was a consistent finding from these inquiries.

“We’ve designed a program that provides promising scholars with the knowledge, strategies and support they need to earn tenure.”
– Kerry Haynie

Research reveals that graduate programs do not routinely include professional socialization as part of their formal training. In addition, most university faculty mentoring programs fail to address some of the distinctive concerns and needs of faculty from underrepresented minority groups.

For example, a significant proportion of humanities and social sciences faculty of color specialize in research related to race, ethnicity, difference or intersectionality. However, few senior faculty will have matching expertise in any given department or university. As these topics are positioned at the margins of most disciplines, it is more challenging for such scholars to publish in leading disciplinary journals. As a result, it is more difficult for underrepresented minority faculty to become part of professional networks with influential scholars in their fields.

To date, three cohorts of 16 fellows are engaged in the sustained, two-year sequence of SITPA programming. Each fellow has ongoing guidance and feedback from a senior faculty mentor in their discipline at an institution with similar expectations for tenure. Thirty-eight of the 48 fellows come from doctoral universities, five from master’s colleges and universities, and five from baccalaureate colleges, including two from historically black colleges and universities.

At the start of the fellowship, selected SITPA faculty members attend a three-day workshop to learn about the formal tenure process. They also learn how to develop a research agenda and teaching portfolio that meets the standards and requirements for tenure at their particular college or university. Fellows engage in conversations about constructing a teaching portfolio, navigating university service demands, making effective use of professional networks, and managing work-life demands.

Preliminary evaluation results suggest SITPA fellows are outperforming a selected comparison group with regards to research productivity, said Haynie.

Duke Fellow Explores U.S./German Cultural Differences

For Thomas Stelzl, a semester spent as a high school exchange student in Wisconsin seeded a strong interest in American culture, and how it differs from German culture and politics.

“I’m drawn to American Studies because of the U.S. influence in the world,” said Stelzl who came to Duke from the University of Passau in Bavaria for a two-month, post-graduate research fellowship sponsored by the Duke Club of Germany and the Bavarian American Academy.

“When I tell people I am in American Studies and they ask what it is, I say ‘cultural studies.’ Sometimes I get as a response, ‘American culture, does it exist?’” Stelzl said. “People think of culture as being this Shakespearean thing. It’s different in the U.S. There is a distinctive American culture very different from European and German culture.”

Stelzl’s research straddles several fields including American Studies, political science and intercultural communication. In Germany, he is a lecturer and Ph.D. candidate who teaches seminars in cultural studies and American literature, exploring iconic moments in U.S. history such as Watergate and 9/11.

At Duke, Stelzl has been able to focus on researching and writing his Ph.D. thesis, tentatively titled, “Cultural Bias in Post-9/11 German and American Foreign Policy – An Intercultural Comparison.”

Stelzl says that although Germany and the U.S. have a lot in common in terms of trade, human rights and shared values most of the time, there are moments when foreign policy doesn’t translate well — or not as well as we expected.

“Of course, there are hard reasons like different capabilities and interests, but a very important factor is cultural differences. For example, American exceptionalism. There is no German equivalent anymore,” he said. “In post-WWII Germany there cannot be an equivalent.”

Stelzl says the countries also differ in their tolerance for military action with Germans much more hesitant to use their military because of historical experience.

“When was the last time massive numbers of German military forces were unilaterally sent abroad? That’s something we don’t want to repeat,” said Stelzl who is being hosted on campus by Duke’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender (REGSS). He will return to Germany in November.

“The fellowship is really helping because I have been able to get a lot of new input, and I can get away from the daily routine of my job and focus on my research for two months,” said Stelzl who has made use of library resources, attended lectures and panel discussions on campus, and also enjoyed festivities surrounding the inauguration of Duke’s president.

“My university won a prize for being the most beautiful campus in Germany. It’s a young university at the intersection of three rivers. But I think Duke can compete with the beauty of campus. It’s a bit like Disneyland for academics.”

Applying Science in the Real World

Duke Senior Researching the Effects of STEM on Girls in Kenya This Summer

By Camille Jackson

PetersTeachingSenior Jenna Peters was planning to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor. She thought she’d join a neuroscience lab, but then a summer abroad in Kenya exposed a new interest.

“I did not know I loved teaching,” said Peters who developed her passion after traveling to Muhuru Bay, Kenya during summer 2015 to teach a class of 90 girls in an engineering club. “I was so nervous. I tried not to speak for more than 10 minutes at a time and to switch gears often to keep it interesting and stay ahead of the students.”

Peters worked  for WISER, or the Women’s Institute of Secondary Education and Research, a community development organization focused on empowering underprivileged girls in a rural area of Kenya. Founded by Sherryl Broverman, an associate professor of the practice in biology and global health at Duke, the WISER secondary school is in its 6th year.

This summer Peters has returned to Kenya after being awarded the Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship for her proposal, “Evaluating the Effects of STEM Education Intervention for Female Students in Rural Kenya.” The fellowship is part of Duke’s participation in the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research on Women and Girls of Color, an affiliation of U.S. institutions committed to improving research, housed under the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity.

“Anecdotally we know they are applying their engineering skills outside of the classroom,” Peters said. “The goal is to see if they believe they can continue in STEM fields or succeed in math classes. We want to see if they pick more science-focused classes as related to their involvement in the club.”

WISER students come from a communities plagued by poverty and HIV, but most continue their education after attending the highly-ranked program.


Jenna Peters spent the summer in Kenya conducting research for WISER.

“The girls are extraordinarily busy,” Peters said. “Before the WISER program was introduced very few girls from the community sought higher education. The program provides clothing, shoes, books — and more importantly, takes them away from everything so they can focus on their schooling.”

Peters, who already had an interest in global health, said WISER helped her understand the impact of education on improving health.

“I chose WISER because I am interested in working with girls. I am very practical and investing in girls is one of the best things you can do for a community,” Peters said. “It results in improved health outcomes and the girls are more likely to invest in their own families and children. It’s a good way to achieve global health goals.”

Last summer Peters helped design curricula as a Global Women’s Health Technology Fellow.

“I got them to apply science knowledge to real-world applications,” said Peters of helping the students in the engineering club build flashlights and evaluate whether flashlights could become the basis of a new business in the community.

“We explored the pros and cons with the girls and determined it would not be a viable business, but it was a great problem-solving exercise,” Peters said. “It was so wonderful to see these girls present their ideas. We want them to take their entrepreneurial mind-set back to their communities and to improve their problem-solving skills, ultimately giving them an opportunity to learn outside of rote memorization.”

The learning worked both ways. For example, Peters learned that innovation does not necessarily mean inventing new things. When the students were asked to innovate, they reimagined preexisting materials.

“A dishwasher detergent bottle became a toy, broken glass could serve as barbed wire on top of the WISER building, soap scraps could be melted down to make new soap,” Peters explained. The students were engaged in active learning.

One positive outcome of the engineering club that Peters noticed immediately is that girls in the club will fix their classmates’ broken calculators, determining whether there is a problem in the circuit or a dead battery.

“They don’t need to be saved,” said Peters of the common misconception applied to communities of color. “We just need to open the door and get out of the way.”

Here, Peters shares her story of personal transformation and acceptance during her first summer in Kenya: