Share / Discuss

Advocating Diversity

It was an embarrassment of riches when the inauguration weekend of President Valerie Smith serendipitously corresponded with the 2015 Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD). (Both were historic occasions, since Swarthmore, a founding member institution of CFD, had never hosted the annual meeting.) 

“I thought this was an awesome coincidence, actually,” laughs Sunka Simon, the consortium organizer and associate provost for faculty development. “What better opportunity for our fellows who want to know how to succeed in academia than to see someone with a career path like Val’s?” 

Happily, Simon was right, as the consortium and inauguration echoed each other, kicking off with a Friday evening welcome address from President Smith. In fact, CFD’s mission, of increasing the diversity of students, faculty, and curricular offerings at liberal arts colleges, dovetailed with one of the major themes of Smith’s inaugural address. 

“When we commit to diversifying our
institutions, we improve our institutions
as well,” Smith said. 

Attendees agreed, with this year’s event drawing more CFD fellows than ever before. Ultimately, this event serves as a planning and networking conference for early-in-their-career academics by connecting them with small liberal arts colleges.

In addition, CFD attendees spent Saturday in two panel discussions—“From Fellow to Faculty” and “Liberal Arts Colleges and Diversity in Institutional Culture, Teaching, and Research”—then a lunch discussion, to which Swarthmore’s nine Mellon Mays fellows were invited. 

Afterward, attendees adjourned to a series of workshops on campus visits and offer negotiations, mock interviews, getting published, and the first 10 years of career development. The day wrapped up with dinner at the Justice Roberts Library one block from Philadelphia City Hall.

Despite the effort inherent in coordinating a complicated event during the same weekend as an even larger and more complicated event, it was well worth it, according to Simon.

 “The way it all came together sent a very strong message that diversity is important both to Swarthmore and to Val,” she says. “It made our mission come alive.”