Four faculty members at Mississippi State University in Starkville, were the organizers of a conference held in Atlanta this past weekend designed to empower African American women faculty members in academia. The conference, “Preparing Black Female Faculty for Prominence, Power, and Presence in the Academy,” was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The conference was focused on helping current and future African American faculty members navigate the hiring, tenure, and promotion processes at predominantly White institutions of higher education, particularly in STEM disciplines.
Linda T. Coats, a professor of educational leadership and the principal investigator of the grant project, stated that “African American female faculty members often face deep-rooted challenges that threaten their continued participation in STEM fields.”
As part of the conference, organizers created a social network to “link tenured African American female faculty with their graduate and undergraduates students to facilitate the sharing of experiences that fosters upward mobility in academic environments.”
Dr. Coats told JBHE that the symposium was a success: “The results of participants’ evaluation indicate that the symposium’s objectives, to establish a platform for intergroup discussions about diversity in the workplace, to illuminate gaps in existing literature to help target future research, and to propose pathways for assisting Black female faculty and graduate students succeed in the academy were achieved.”
Professor Coats added that “the results from this symposium will serve as a baseline for instituting pathways capable of forestalling negative encounters prevalent in higher education settings. The impact will reach across disciplines and institutional types to increase the diversity and quality of the nation’s STEM workforce, which in turn, will help the United States maintain its status in a global society and marketplace.”
Professor Coats earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mississippi State University. She also holds a master’s degree in English and mass communication from Jackson State University in Mississippi.
The three co-principal investigators of the grant project are Melody T. Fisher, Pamela K. Scott-Bracey, and LaShan Simpson.