College In Process of Hiring Mellon Faculty Fellows
By Benjamin Pontz, Managing News Editor
As part of an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation secured last February, Gettysburg College is in the process of hiring its first cohort of Mellon Faculty Fellows. The cohort will begin next fall.
The fellows, who “possess the experience, knowledge and skills to support underrepresented students,” and, in many cases, will come from diverse backgrounds themselves, will serve one year teaching a one course per semester load in a similar format to what some institutions might have in a post-doctoral fellowship. After their first year, the candidates will assume a tenure-track assistant professorship and begin the standard tenure cycle and faculty governance rotation of all Gettysburg College faculty members.
The first such fellow is in the final stages of the hiring process, and the college hopes to have two more begin in the fall of 2018 and three begin in the fall of 2019 for a total of six, according to Vice Provost and Dean of Arts & Humanities Jack Ryan. The Mellon grant funds their first year of service in the fellowship capacity, and, subsequently, departmental attrition through retirements will create the permanent openings in the departments where the new faculty members will ultimately teach. Accordingly, the grant does not create any new permanent positions, but, in effect, it provides a transitional year for candidates who will later join the full-time faculty.
In addition to funding their salary, the Mellon grant provides start-up funding for a new faculty member’s research or travel program, additional support for research and travel and one-time relocation expenses. Mellon Faculty Fellows also “have the opportunity to get involved in the Faculty Success Program, which is offered through the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity … [which] allows long-distance mentoring … [to have someone] to talk to, to review materials, that sort of thing,” Ryan said.
In keeping with the Mellon Foundation’s mission of supporting the humanities, all Mellon Faculty Fellows will be in departments within the Arts & Humanities. Presently, openings in the Classics, English, French, German, Philosophy and Spanish departments have the potential to be filled by Mellon Faculty Fellows.
While Gettysburg defines diversity “as broadly as possible,” Ryan said, the college expects Mellon Faculty Fellows specifically to “have the potential to contribute to and foster racial and ethnic diversity on our campus.” Further, Ryan agreed that the college is “looking to increase racial and ethnic diversity” on the faculty. This corresponds to a goal of the college’s 2016 strategic plan, which pledges to “increase the domestic and international diversity of our students, faculty and staff.”
That strategic plan also states that a recent faculty retirement incentive program will provide the college “an exceptional opportunity to link the upcoming retirement of 20 faculty members to an increase in the rate of appointment of faculty who can bring diverse curricular perspectives and research agendas and who have experience working with students from a wide variety of backgrounds.”
To that end, if the existing searches for faculty in the previous six departments would yield candidates who do not meet the diversity requirement of the Mellon grant to become Mellon Faculty Fellows, other openings in the humanities exist that would allow the college to reach six over the next two academic years.
In addition to the hiring of these six new fellows, the Mellon grant supports departmental efforts to enhance existing curriculum to include more diverse perspectives. One such opportunity will come next semester when faculty from the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts (PLCA), which Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs currently chairs, will run a workshop on “how to diversify … existing courses, and then become external reviewers who would read these revised or updated syllabi and provide commentary,” Ryan said.
This is a voluntary program for faculty.
Each of these initiatives comes on the heels of a Campus Climate Study released in 2016 indicating that students of color, multiracial students, LGBT students and first-generation students were less likely to feel valued and to feel comfortable on the Gettysburg College campus and in the classroom.