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An Introduction: Thematic faculty initiative at the University of Texas at Austin

Faces of facultyThe Division of Diversity and Community Engagement seeks to transform learning, teaching, research and service in an effort to support an inclusive and diverse environment at The University of Texas at Austin. Key to our work is the Thematic Faculty Initiative that incorporates a three-tiered approach to prepare, recruit and retain faculty.

First, to support diverse students as they advance through graduate school and prepare for future academic careers, DDCE hires graduate research assistants who are mentored within the division’s many units and exposed to the value of working in an academic environment committed to diversity and inclusion. Second, in collaboration with colleges and schools across campus, DDCE recruits intellectually and culturally diverse faculty members, providing a line of funding for these hires. And third, DDCE provides fellowships to faculty members across the university whose research, teaching or special projects focus on diversity and community engagement issues.

The success of the division’s Thematic Faculty Initiative is clear. The DDCE has helped cultivate the professional careers of nearly 50 outstanding graduate students and the thematic faculty hires have been garnering professional awards and receiving tenure and promotion at an impressive rate. The excellence of faculty recruited through the initiative also contributed to the establishment of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, which is the only PhD-granting department of its kind in the Southwest. The faculty fellow program actively extends the boundaries of the university to diverse communities across the state, helping the university revolutionize its mission of service.