UCR Reinvigorates Postdoctoral Fellowship Program to Encourage a Diverse Faculty

Recipients of UCR Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for the Promotion of Faculty Diversity Announced

Emily Hue, one of five recipients of UCR Chancellor’s postdoctoral fellowships for 2015-2016

This June, the recipients of the UCR Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for the Promotion of Faculty Diversity were announced. The program, established to increase the diversity of the faculty and recognize the various perspectives integral to excellence in higher education, expanded upon the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, which was established in 1984 to encourage outstanding women and minority Ph.D. recipients to pursue academic careers at the University of California.

The current program offers postdoctoral research fellowships, professional development and faculty mentoring to outstanding scholars in all fields whose research, teaching and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity at UC.

Ameae Walker, vice provost of academic personnel and professor of biomedical sciences, said the program is a priority for Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Paul D’Anieri, who is trying to build a faculty pipeline as an investment in the future of UCR.

A program to emphasize faculty diversity is much needed in Riverside, Walker says. “We have diversity in the undergraduate years to be very proud of, but our faculty are not reflective of that. The degree of diversity in faculty is nowhere near what we would like it to be. One important reason to have a diverse faculty is that the [students who come] to campus will see themselves reflected in the faculty and then aspire to become faculty themselves. So these postdocs are role models.”

Vivian U

Vivian U

Vivian U, one of this year’s fellowship recipients, agrees. As a student of physics, she says that UCR’s reputation in astronomy research institutions led her to apply for the award. “UCR is admiringly unusual in that half of the astronomy faculty are female. It is not only encouraging but also crucial to have role models to whom young scientists can relate in their academic experience, and thus increasing faculty diversity is extremely important for the progressive culture of academia as educational institutes,” she said

Walker says UCR used to fund one to two postdocs yearly; but when budget cuts were enacted around 2008, the program was cut from funding. In January, when Walker became the vice provost of academic personnel, she and D’Anieri relaunched the program based on the applications received for the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

UCR selected five postdocs for the school year 2015-2016; another five will be selected for 2016-2017. Both sets of postdocs will have a two-year tenure. “The post docs were chosen based on the quality of the proposal, the match between the postdoc and the proposed mentor, and the contribution to the aims of the program,” Walker said.

The fellowships are in line with D’Anieri’s goal to hire 300 new faculty by 2020, and aim to diversify the pool that UCR will choose from. There will be incentives for colleges to hire the chosen postdocs from this program as faculty. “So we’re attracting the very best candidates that contribute to diversity through this program to the campus, and hopefully we will keep a substantial number of them. We already have on campus a number of faculty who came to us through the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program,” Walker said.

One of these is Juliet McMullin, who is again in the program, this time as a mentor.

The fellowships, Walker added, are a wonderful opportunity for UCR “to bring these young people to the campus and intrigue them with what we have to offer.”

Emily Hue, another recipient of the fellowship, says her goal is to produce a book manuscript on the Burmese diaspora. “UCR is an ideal site at which to conduct interviews, attend exhibitions and collect materials on Southeast Asian diasporic performances because of its regional connection to major hubs of Southeast Asian resettlement in California,” she said.

Raquel Rall

Raquel Rall

“The postdocs will not be teaching but will be improving their research profile to be competitive in the job market,” Walker said, adding, “ But we hope that wherever the postdocs come from, they would be interested in having a faculty position here,” Walker added.

While getting a chance to work with her mentor John Levin was a huge draw, Raquel Rall, one of the scholarship recipients this year, feels that being at UCR would lead her to expand her research on the governance of public higher education institutions.

The fellowship itself is important because increasing the diversity of faculty who study university governance is important to bring new and more robust ideas regarding the pivotal decision-makers in higher education to light, Rall said.

“Faculty diversity is essential to improving the educational experience for all students, particularly students of color.”

Recipients of the UCR Chancellor’s postdoctoral fellowships for 2015-2016 are:

  • Raquel Rall, mentored by John Levin in the Department of Education
  • Vivian U, mentored by Gabriela Canalizo in the Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Jade Power, mentored by Jacqueline Shea Murphy in the Department of Dance
  • Emily Hue, mentored by Mariam Lam in the Department of Comparative Literature
  • Christina Bejarano, mentored by Juliet McMullin in the Department of Anthropology and Division of Clinical Sciences

A call for applications for 2016-2017 will be circulated this month (Sept. 2015).

 

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