June 21, 2018, Ann Arbor, MI -- Creating college campuses and classroom experiences that accurately reflect the country’s diversity is a challenge for higher education, and one that the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts is leading the charge to change. Through an ambitious hiring initiative, LSA is recruiting postdoctoral fellows who excel in their fields and whose research, teaching, or service will foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in higher education.
LSA announced today a new cohort of LSA Collegiate Fellows, part of a five-year pilot program to recruit 50 exceptional early career scholars whose scholarship, instructional approach, service, and other related efforts will contribute to long-term transformational change on campus. Through a partnership with the National Center of Institutional Diversity (NCID), academic departments select fellows first and foremost on excellence in their disciplines, and also upon the strength of their experience in DEI research/scholarship, teaching/mentoring, or service/engagement.
“Students want classroom experiences and campus culture which reflect the diversity of the world at large,” said Andrew Martin, dean of the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “This is a challenge for higher education, but one we’re working to address head on through programs such as the LSA Collegiate Fellows. Recruiting faculty who are at the top of their fields and who offer an array of viewpoints and perspectives is essential to meet the needs of today's increasingly diverse student population and enhance the overall educational experience."
The 2018 LSA Collegiate Fellows cohort consists of nine of the top liberal arts scholars from across the country with expertise in the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities. In the fall the fellows will start a two-year postdoctoral appointment during which they will conduct independent research, gain classroom instruction experience, and prepare for possible tenure-track appointments in LSA.
“The LSA Collegiate Fellows program is a key initiative of our DEI strategic plan,” said Fiona Lee, associate dean for diversity, equity, inclusion, and professional development at LSA. “It’s a great tool to recruit highly sought-after postdoctoral candidates who are at the top of their fields and who have undertaken innovative research or teaching techniques proven to foster diversity on campus. These scholars bring academic excellence, unique backgrounds, and extensive work in the DEI space to U-M and LSA. We’re excited about what they will contribute to the community.”
This year’s cohort was chosen from more than 900 applicants. Some scholars advance DEI goals through research, such as gender history or media representation of people of color, while others advance them through their teaching and/or engagement efforts, such as increasing interest in STEM and access to STEM pathways for people from underserved groups or by building inclusive curricula in the classroom.
“Research shows that exposure to diverse perspectives benefits student learning and innovation, and students also want faculty who can effectively teach and mentor students from a variety of backgrounds,” said Tabbye Chavous, director of the NCID and professor of education and psychology. “We need to recognize and effectively incorporate evaluation of these attributes, skills, and competencies into the faculty search process, and LSA is leading the way with this program. In doing so, the selected fellows' research, teaching techniques, or experiences will contribute intellectual richness and promote greater diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus for all students. We're proud to welcome these new colleagues to our campus this fall.”
The 2018 LSA Collegiate Fellows are:
Camille Avestruz (Physics) - Avestruz received her Ph.D. in physics from Yale University. Her research interests include astrophysics, cosmology, and computation, focusing on understanding the evolution of clusters of galaxies. She is passionate about getting underrepresented groups interested in STEM. She has taught software and computation workshops, and has offered teaching labs to local middle and high school students and underserved elderly communities.
Andrea Bolivar (Women’s Studies) - Bolivar received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis. She is currently working on a project that explores the experiences of transgender Latina sex workers in the Chicago area. Through her work, Bolivar provides a new analytical framework known as “Fantasia,” to provide context for how transgender Latinas are racialized and sexualized in the sex industry.
Maegan Fairchild (Philosophy) - Fairchild received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California. She is currently researching a family of extraordinary answers to ordinary questions about the existence of material objects. Fairchild is the co-founder of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP), an international organization committed to addressing issues of minority participation in academic philosophy. In partnership with the LA LGBT Youth Center, she also helped organize the Los Angeles chapter of Corrupt the Youth, whose mission is to bring philosophy to underserved communities.
Raevin Jimenez (History) - Jimenez received her Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. Her work explores the gender history of Nguni-speakers in the southern region of Africa between the 9th and 20th century. She is a strong advocate for individualized support for students, especially for students of color, LGBTQ+, first-generation, low-income, and other underrepresented students. Jimenez has also spent time teaching newly arrived refugees and tutoring high school students of color.
Dana Murphy (English Language and Literature) - Murphy received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Irvine. Her current project focuses on African-American poet Phillis Wheatley and how her poetry was a strategy of quietness and restraint that would influence a generation of future readers who were inspired to be vocal in a way that she could not. Murphy has also helped to facilitate mentorship opportunities, organize student-led diversity trainings, and provide programming support for students.
Angela Ocampo (Political Science) - Ocampo received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research examines how racial, ethnic, and religious minorities become politically involved; specifically, how perceived inclusion and a sense of belonging among Latinos in the United States influences political participation.
Melissa Phruksachart (Screen Arts and Cultures) - Phruksachart received her Ph.D. in English Literature from the Graduate Center at CUNY. Focused on the past and present politics of Asian American representation in screen media and the public sphere, she is currently investigating Asian American media in the age of Black Lives Matter. During her time at CUNY, Phruksachart was the co-organizer of the Mentoring Future Faculty of Color project.
SaraEllen Strongman (Afroamerican and African Studies) - Strongman received her Ph.D. in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Her current project examines the second wave of Black feminism in the U.S during the 1970s and 1980s. During her time at UPenn, Strongman served as the graduate coordinator for their chapter’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which encourages students from underrepresented groups to pursue doctorate degrees.
Jessica Walker (American Culture) - Walker received her Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. She explores how race and gender are analyzed in studies of food, space, and identity. Walker’s latest project examines how soul food is a form of representation of Black womanhood in American pop culture. Her commitment to DEI is reflected in her pedagogy. Her teaching philosophy places a great emphasis on engaged and responsive one-on-one mentoring and creating space for a range of diverse voices both in content and classroom discussion.