Cross-Institution Faculty of Color Mentorship Program

Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
Despite efforts to diversify hiring and recruiting practices, the number of full-time faculty of color across the state has remained within 14-17% since 2010. National research shows that faculty of color experience unique challenges that are systemic and remain unaddressed: hidden workloads, campus climate issues, and lack of transparent supports. Research also maintains that mentorship can address many of these issues. The Cross-Institution Faculty of Color Mentorship Program endeavors to expand our system’s ability to mentor, retain, and provide the needed support for faculty of color. While this program supports our current faculty, it will indirectly impact future recruitment and hiring.

Faculty in our Washington State CTC system have access to a variety of different kinds of mentoring on their campuses. Some of these are formal (i.e. tenure committees or a mentorship program sponsored by their department or institution) and others are informal. This program is not intended to replace the valuable mentorship faculty members already have access to at their institutions.

However, there are very few, if any, formal supports for faculty of color as they navigate the well-researched and documented obstacles, barriers, and challenges unique to people of color holding a faculty role in historically white institutions. Therefore, this program is designed to offer a kind of mentoring not available consistently at all of our 34 CTCs. As an example, many faculty of color suffer long-term exhaustion from what is termed “invisible workload” – work that their colleagues from systemically dominant populations do not see or experience themselves. For example, they often have larger “informal” advisee loads, asked to sit on multiple committees to “diversify” the team, and are looked to as the experts to take on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on campus. In addition, many faculty of color experience both microaggressions and macroagressions in their classrooms (from students) and from colleagues as they perform the work of the institution (department meetings, committee work, etc.)

As a result of the low numbers of faculty of color state-wide, often a faculty member of color is the only person of color in a department or program. Therefore, there is no one to turn to at their respective individual institutions who has also experienced these significant challenges as they manifest in the faculty role. This can lead to isolation and burnout. Furthermore, there is a need to process traumatic experiences and heal from them so one can continue supporting students. This mentorship program offers faculty of color a unique opportunity to feel connected with others who experience similar challenges, to learn and heal from and with each other.

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Dr. Sachi Horback


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