In 2011, UNM Health Sciences Center and Main Campus officials began a program to facilitate a more diverse faculty community at HSC, and it has been paying dividends in the years since its implementation.
The program is called the Advancing Institutional Mentoring Excellence Pilot Project (AIME), and according to a 2016 status report, the initial objective was to foster a more diverse workforce, mentor junior faculty members in “understanding of relational structures” and create educational tools for faculty to set and realize goals.
“The rationale for this identity-conscious pilot project was to gain the full academic benefits that flow from a diverse faculty to all stakeholders in the HSC’s core mission of providing excellent education, research, clinical practice and community service to the people of New Mexico,” the document states.
The report was co-authored by Emily Haozous, an associate professor in the College of Nursing, and Margaret Montoya, a visiting professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine.
The report noted that, this year, African American and Native American faculty members combine to comprise only two percent of HSC tenure track faculty members, but AIME is looking to increase that number to five percent by 2025.
In comparison, 16 percent of current faculty are Hispanic/Latino and 15 percent Asian American, the report stated.
Montoya said that hiring professors of color was not the problem — rather, it is retaining them in a competitive market.
This same concern was expressed by Josephine De Leon, vice president of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, who also mentioned that, because of UNM budget restraints, retaining faculty of color can be tricky, requiring strategies other than monetary incentives.
“Over the years we have been fairly successful in hiring particularly Native American faculty members, but then we have more of a problem retaining and promoting them,” Montoya said. “What we are really recommending is that we need to have a special focus on the retention of those two groups of faculty, and that requires a very intentional mentoring of those faculty.”
In 2002, almost 86 percent of HSC tenure track faculty were white, and 14 percent of were of color, while the report noted 30 percent of tenure track faculty members were female.
Faculty demographics in 2016 look very different, according to data from both the Office Institutional Analytics and the AIME report.
The data presented in the report revealed that tenure track faculty members of color make up 34 percent of the faculty base in 2016, and 43 percent of tenure track faculty are women, showing a faculty community more balanced in terms of ethnicity and gender.
That presents a stark contrast with the rest of the country. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 75 percent of faculty at “high-activity research universities” across the country are white, with about 20 percent made up of Asian, Hispanic, American Indian and African American professors.
Roughly 65 percent of national faculty members are male and 35 percent female.
These national statistics indicate that HSC is fulfilling its goal for a more diverse faculty, at least compared to the national numbers. It is also an indicator that the AIME program has helped junior faculty members set and achieve goals for long-term success at UNM.
“The data establish that the HSC can be proud of the exceptional overall diversity of its faculty workforce,” the report states. “These impressive results demonstrate the resources the HSC has invested to create a diverse academic workforce.”
Taking advantage of diversity
In 2009, Paul Roth — HSC chancellor and Medicine School dean — started the Faculty Workforce Development Committee under the leadership of Vice Chancellor of Diversity Valerie Romero-Leggott and Montoya.
Montoya said the FWDC focused on creating a conversation with HSC faculty of color to improve recruitment and retention. Many faculty members felt that mentorships would prove to be very helpful in climbing the complex ladder of academic success and leadership.
“(They) expressed that better mentorship would allow them to both understand the pathways to leadership but also understand the complex skills that are required by environments that are diverse and very complex,” Montoya said.
In 2011, Romero-Leggott, Haozous, Roth and Montoya collaborated to create the AIME initiative based on comments, committees and forums held by faculty who said they would like to stay at UNM and in New Mexico, yet felt their racial and ethnic backgrounds were not being taken advantage of or fully appreciated, Montoya said.
“One of the things we heard repeatedly from our faculty of color (at FWDC) was that they very much wanted to be at UNM, they very much wanted to be in New Mexico,” Montoya said. “But they felt that the Health Sciences Center was not getting the full benefit of this diversity.”
The AIME project has various goals and ambitions outlined in its initial report. While it has helped start conversation about the importance of having diverse faculty, it has also led to the creation of a video series where faculty discuss their life experiences, as well as an online database with learning tools and a mentorship program.
The mentor program allows junior faculty to interact with senior faculty, who help analyze strengths and weaknesses and give advice on navigating academia to leadership positions while fostering discussion about mentorees’ places in the world in regards to gender, race and socioeconomic status, Montoya said.
AIME mentoree Sylvia Acosta called her participation in the program “invaluable,” with mentors that, while varied in style, provided necessary guidance.
“As a result, I gained the confidence I needed to realize that I was ready to apply for promotion,” said Acosta, who added that she was recently promoted to associate professor within HSC.
The AIME initiative is currently making toolkits to help facilitate junior and senior faculty mentoring discussions. That project is in its final stage, and a final report will be released in the coming months which will outline concrete outcomes, officials said.
“What we're really focused on is improved healthcare outcomes for New Mexicans,” Montoya said, “and when we are talking about New Mexicans we are talking about a racially and ethnically diverse patient group. If we can get providers from all backgrounds to successfully treat New Mexicans, we have a better healthcare system.”
Jonathan Natvig is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Natvig99.