In the works for several years, Tompkins Cortland Community College is moving forward with an aggressive plan to create greater faculty diversity on campus. The Emerging Scholars Program is designed to encourage and provide opportunities for African-American and Latino graduates of Tompkins Cortland to pursue a career teaching at the College. The hope is the program will add as many as four new faculty members of color over the next four years. The program is entirely privately funded through support from Arthur Kuckes, an Ithaca business owner, member of the College Board of Trustees, and generous supporter of several initiatives at the College.
The Emerging Scholars Program is open to any African-American or Latino graduate of Tompkins Cortland Community College who has either already earned a bachelor’s degree or is within 15 credits of completion. Scholars will receive a stipend of $13,000 per year during two years of graduate work, while also working closely with a faculty mentor at Tompkins Cortland. Upon completion of a master’s degree, the scholar will join the faculty at the College. The graduate work stipend will be in the form of a no-interest loan; each year of the loan obligation will be forgiven for each subsequent year spent on the full-time faculty at Tompkins Cortland.
This program was designed by Provost and Vice President of the College John Conners. He said the plan is in response to changes that the College has experienced in recent years, “There is an evolution of our student body, and we are finding a growing percentage of our students come from African American or Latino backgrounds,” said Conners, noting the percentage of students from those backgrounds topped 21% in 2013-14 academic year. At the same time, the College’s faculty includes people from those backgrounds only at a rate of about 4 percent. “So there are discrepancies there. There is an issue of having the appropriate voices within our faculty who come from backgrounds where there is a much deeper and experiential understanding of what our students are bringing to us. Frankly, it’s something that can’t be done by someone not from those backgrounds. This program is a real opportunity for us to change the face of our faculty.”
The timing is important, notes Conners. “We’ve seen a significant number of retirements in recent years – 19 people over the last 5 years. We’ve replaced four of them, but that leaves many opportunities that we can use to redraw our faculty in a very meaningful way.”
Another key is what Conners calls the “Grow Your Own” aspect of the program. “We are recruiting people who are familiar with us and had success during their associates’ degree studies at the College,” said Conners. “We know that those positive experiences will make them a better candidate for long-term success as a faculty member at the College.”
The Emerging Scholars Program has started to accept applications with two to be selected to begin graduate work in the fall of 2016 and join the faculty at the College in the fall of 2018. A second round of two scholars would begin graduate work in fall 2018.
“I’ve thought about this for some time,” said Conners while speaking on WHCU radio’s “All Things Equal” show on November 3. “We have now reached a point in the evolution of the College where it is appropriate. I think we can sustain a program like this, and it’s not just a matter of preparing people and moving them into the faculty, it’s about supporting them so they can be successful in building long-term faculty careers at the College.”
“We’re addressing a very significant challenge and opportunity that is in front of us. We’re addressing it with private dollars, and we’re investing our time and energy to make some really significant changes, not only for ourselves, but much more so for our students and for our faculty. I think in the long run this is going to be a very successful development for us.”
Contact Provost and Vice President of the College John Conners by email or by calling 607.844.8222, Ext. 4370.