The Institute’s purpose is to bring department leaders together to discuss various challenges they face in administering their departments and to share successful practices for meeting these challenges. This year’s Institute, hosted by Loyola University of Chicago, was attended by 24 individuals. An AAA Community was set up for participants to exchange ideas and informational resources. While ample time was set aside for informal discussions, the formal program elements included:
- Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion in Anthropology Departments
- Perspectives from Anthropologists in Practice Settings
- Student Advising and Mental Health
- AAA Support for Departments
AAA plans to hold this event every other year from now on, with plans for 2021 to be announced soon. Many thanks to planning committee members Anne Grauer, Andrea Sankar, and Elizabeth Briody for their guidance, and to AAA staff members Haleema Burton, Daniel Ginsberg, Tonieh Hansford, Anne Kelsey, and Alana Mallory for providing expert logistical and facilitation support.
Recap of the June 2019 meeting hosted by Loyola University of Chicago
Highlights from this year’s facilitated discussions include:
Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion in Anthropology Departments
Dr. Willie McKether (Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, University of Toledo) facilitated a discussion about recruiting and retaining diverse faculty. He believes that a focus on faculty is important so that classroom leadership and student advising benefit from this diversity of perspectives. For faculty recruitment and retention to succeed
- Leadership commitment is needed from the top, including resources
- Performance measures regarding diversity must be incorporated into department chairs’, deans’, and higher administration positions’ annual evaluations
- Data are needed to monitor the effectiveness of interventions that are implemented
- Diversity plans must be in place along with positions responsible for “owning” and implementing these plans (e.g., associate deans, provost-level).
- Training on “difficult conversations” is needed for faculty
- Job ads should prominently feature an inclusion statement, and candidates should be asked in their applications to address their demonstrated commitment to diversity
- Search committees need to be inclusive, and explicit attention paid to: Self Awareness; Formal bias training; A structured hiring process; A diverse applicant pool; Reject the ‘color-blind’ approach to hiring; Resource pool to subsidize job ads so they appear in channels that have appropriate reach
- Effective retention strategies include: avoiding overburdening faculty of color with “diversity work”, establishing effective mentoring relationships, plugging faculty into campus and community networks
- Is there an opportunity for AAA to recognize department achievements through awards and / or certifications?
Innovations in Pedagogy and Career Diversity
A panel consisting of Samantha Solimeo (Veterans Administration and University of Iowa), Natalie Hanson (ZS Consulting), Rita Denny (Practica and EPIC), and Edward Davis IV (Uloño Geolinguistic Praxis) talked about their careers post-graduation, and views about how well they feel their graduate training prepared them for their careers in business, government, and the non-profit sectors.
These four PhDs noted gaps and limitations in their formal methods training, opportunities to gain experience working on interdisciplinary teams, gaining experience communicating with non-specialized audiences, and a general “business acumen.”
- The group also observed that Departments have opportunities to provide:
- More emphasis on teaching / training techniques
- More public recognition of the value of a bachelor’s degree
- Increased internships / experience learning opportunities
- Advice to students on combining their anthropology undergraduate major with a complementary minor
- Events, perhaps co-sponsored with the development office, featuring alums returning to campus to discuss career prospects
- An “alumni board” for the department
- Exposure for K-12 students and educators to key concepts and career paths
- A reexamination of when in course sequence should a “careers” course be offered – focus on resume writing, internships, informational interviews and networking, job searches
AAA can assist by collating material to incorporate into career classes, and AAA should consider providing guidelines on establishing formal partnerships and internship programs.
Student Advising and Mental Health
Two graduate students, Sarah Morrow (University of Alabama) and Julianna Perez (Northwestern University), led a facilitated discussion along with AAA staff member Daniel Ginsberg. Highlights of this discussion included:
- Anxiety and stress are rampant among students. From the faculty perspective, a large percentage of students are so subject to stress and anxiety that they medicated, and the faculty are not always aware of whether responses they see are the result of medications
- The faculty response is often “I went through this and turned out okay. If you are tough enough, you will too.” From the students’ perspective, this is not a sufficient mentoring approach. “We shouldn’t have to ‘go through this’.”
- A tension between the richness and creativity of the discipline, on the one hand, and whether a student will be able to get a job with this degree, on the other.
- Some faculty bemoan the loss of an orientation that the purpose of college education is to prepare students to make a better society, and the “vo-techification” of the university.
- Closer coordination between community colleges and universities is needed, focusing on pathways to completion and overcoming articulation challenges.
- It is important for departments to encourage faculty and students to think holistically about a degree program, rather than just a collation of courses.
- Advisors need to make it clear that advising is important to the department, and that the student is important
- Major contributors to stress and anxiety:
- Students are often unsure whether they are doing enough of the right things during their degree studies to ensure themselves a career-track job once they graduate.
- This includes the lack of team support for securing grants
- The ‘impostor syndrome,’ which is especially acute for students of color
- Isolating incidents and advice that students should spend the least amount of time possible in a department, because the climate is toxic.
- Faculty responses to students’ need for developmental writing support
- Living ‘intersectionality’ in the department, instead of just talking about it in a theoretical fashion.
- Training for faculty to serve as advisors and mentors
- We’re not trained to be mentors / advisors
- E.g., Northwestern checklist to review with students – where are you now and how to get to where you feel you need to be? What do you excel in? What do we need to work on?
- Very little in grad training to become educators
- Mentorship should not be deficit-based
- What are practical things we can work on together to boost self-confidence (e.g., conference presentations)
- Adequate campus resources to connect students with support services are highly variable
- At departmental level – concerted mental health first aid training and training on secondary trauma so that students can be prepared to support peers in a mental health crisis
- Upstream interventions to make the climate less toxic, which helps existing resources go further
- Distinction between mental health requiring medication and therapy from anxiety and stress
- Managing the stress of being in grad school, maybe not in category of need for clinical management
- Isolation and power dynamic with faculty
- Grad student cohort is a false cohort; department can help people find a more meaningful community than one made up of other students who happen to have started the same degree at the same time
- CARE system for Loyola leading to identification of behavioral concerns
- Student cost of membership makes it difficult for students to join the AAA and access the Association’s network / resources
AAA Support for Departments
Ed Liebow reviewed services available through the Department Services Program, and discussed a forthcoming major fund-raising initiative that will focus on resources for pre-college activities, increasing public awareness of anthropologists’ work, and support for professional development beyond the degree. AAA Board Secretary Elizabeth Briody described a COPAA-sponsored pilot program for campus visits to increase departments’ exposure to business anthropology. Strong support was expressed by department chairs for the possibility of a workshop at the AAA Annual Meeting that would focus on better incorporating applied and practicing materials to the curriculum.