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Dean puts diversity and collaboration at top of agenda

CLASS diversityThe College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences long ago claimed the title of University of Houston's largest academic unit. Dean John Roberts is determined for the College to also lead the university in faculty diversity and interdisciplinary collaboration.

"My primary goal is to integrate the college better to make it a more coherent academic unit reflective of its students' human and intellectual diversity," Roberts said.

To reach that objective, Roberts created two ad hoc committees and appointed two of the College's most innovative scholars to lead them.

Dr. Marjorie Chadwick, executive director of the university's Writing Center, heads up the Ad Hoc Committee on Collaboration and Interdisciplinarity.

The committee is tasked with tackling today's complex cultural, social and political questions proposing intellectual partnerships to probe and potentially answer those questions.

"Many key topics explored in the College increasingly are approached through interdisciplinary inquiry, including the mind, the body, and the family, and the study of these topics is blurring traditional boundaries, as new understandings of the arts, language, culture, and history are transforming thinking about texuality and visuality," Roberts said.

The committee's work starts with a survey of current interdisciplinary and collaborative research and teaching projects in the College and/or being engaged in by College faculty. It will also identify barriers to interdisciplinary and/or collaborative research and teaching in the College and recommend ways to remove them.

Roberts points to the Writing Center's studio model for teaching composition and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program's expansion of its focus to include gender and sexuality studies as two examples of outside-the-box thinking and integrated teaching.

Dr. Elizabeth Gregory, director of the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity. The committee's initial charge is to review the College's data on ethnic, gender and racial diversity and retention of faculty, staff and students. When that review is complete, the committee will recommend recruitment and retention enhancements.

"What they will find is that our faculty is not nearly as diverse as our student population," Roberts said. "That's a fact. Now we need solutions to make it untrue."

The CLASS full-time faculty is 78 percent White, 9 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and Asian-American, 4 percent Black and 4 percent international. The international category generally represents non-U.S. citizens.

In comparison, CLASS undergraduate students are is 42 percent White, 28 percent Hispanic, 16 percent Black, 10 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian. Three percent of the students did not specify a race or ethnicity.

The College's graduate student population, a pipeline to the professor ranks, is 64 percent White, 15 percent Hispanic, 11 percent Asian, 7 percent Black and less than one percent American Indian. Four percent did not specify.

The faculty also trails the student populations in gender representation. Men comprise 61 percent of the faculty compared to 39 percent women. Those numbers are basically reversed in the student ranks for both undergraduates and graduate students: 63 percent women and 37 percent men.

The committees began work in November and will report regularly to Roberts on their progress.

Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity

  • Hosam Aboul Ela, associate professor, Department of English
  • Amanda Baumle, assistant professor, Department of Sociology
  • Guillermo de los Reyes, associate professor, Department of Hispanic Studies
  • Karen Fang, associate professor, Department of English
  • Elizabeth Gregory, professor and director, Women's, Gender and Sexuality Program
  • Amy O’Neal, director, CLASS Office of Assessment and Accreditation Services
  • Demetrius Pearson, associate professor, Department of Health and Human Performance
  • Joe Pratt, professor, Department of History
  • Raul Ramos, associate professor, Department of History
  • Linda Reed, associate professor, Department of History
  • Christina Sisk, assistant professor, Department of Hispanic Studies
  • Christiane Spitzmueller, associate professor, Department of Psychology

Ad Hoc Committee on Collaboration and Interdisciplinarity

  • Thomas Behr, director, Liberal Studies program
  • Margaret Blake, associate professor and graduate coordinator, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Marjorie Chadwick, executive director, Writing Center
  • James Conyers, director, African American Studies program
  • Casey Due Hackney, associate professor, Department of Modern and Classical Languages
  • Liz Goodin-Mayeda, assistant professor, Department of Hispanic Studies
  • Susan Kellogg, professor and director, Latin American Studies Program, Department of History
  • Rex Koontz, associate professor, School of Art
  • Samantha Kwan, assistant professor, Department of Sociology
  • John Reed, professor and chair, School of Art

—Shannon Buggs