This fall, the Office of the Provost launched the Early Career Fellows initiative, bringing 26 top-performing postdoctoral scholars from schools across the country to the Forty Acres. With more than $3 million in university and departmental funding, the program aims to recruit and retain outstanding scholars who seek to advance research in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“What makes this program unique is the size of it,” says Dr. Lydia Contreras, managing director of diversity in the Office of the Provost. “Similar programs at other institutions aren’t hosting as many postdocs—and the commitment to train and attract them for faculty jobs here at UT is outstanding.”
Selection committees from departments across the university chose the fellows based on their potential to advance new scholarly and creative works in emerging fields of study that address some of society’s biggest challenges that disproportionally impact marginalized communities.
“We are training a very diverse cohort of scholars who are working to contribute to growing bodies of work in areas like health, education, housing and various other societal issues,” Contreras says. “The underlying motivation is to prepare these fellows as they work to push our society forward.”
During their time in the two-year fellowship, the scholars receive training and mentoring from both the Office of the Provost and their respective departments. They also benefit from being a part of a community of scholars who all seek to bridge social disparities and improve lives across the world.
“Our goal is for these fellows to consider employment at UT, but ultimately we want to train them to be successful at any top university,” Contreras says.
In addition to advancing new research, Contreras says, the fellows demonstrate a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. They also bring a high level of expertise to their students, expanding the curriculum and matching the growing diversity of the student population. She applauds the many participating departments for their concerted efforts in bringing this new initiative into fruition.
“The departments should really be commended for putting an immense amount of energy and enthusiasm in to this program,” Contreras says. “They are pioneering new strategies for recruitment and faculty development and have placed a great effort in identifying and recruiting top scholars who are already bringing great value to the university.”
Created in fall 2020, the program started under the leadership of Dan Jaffe and Sharon Wood of the Office of the Provost and is designed and implemented under the vision of Vice Provost for Diversity Ted Gordon. Visit the Office of the Provost website to read more about the first cohort of Early Career Fellows.