North Texas Daily

Event highlights women of color in academics

Event highlights women of color in academics

Event highlights women of color in academics
October 17
09:00 2013

Michelle Bushe / Intern Writer

La Colectivia, a mentoring team of faculty women of color, is holding a symposium titled “Women of Color in Academia” from 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow in room 130 of the Environmental Science Building.

The free event will present two panel discussions – panel one, “Creating Inclusive Climates and Policies for Faculty of Color,” and panel two, “Co-Mentoring: Sharing Strategies for Success.” The discussions will be followed by a reception.

The symposium is a discussion of the impact women of color make on higher education in the United States, said Priscilla Ybarra, associate English professor and coordinator for the event.

Some of the discussions will be based on a book called “Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia.”

One of the editors of the book, Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, a Seattle University associate professor, will travel from Seattle to participate in the discussion where she will point out that being presumed incompetent because of the color of your skin is not an isolated incident.

“The audience will learn about the importance of expanding and addressing the needs of a diverse faculty and staff on our campuses,” Gutiérrez y Muhs said.  “As the first editor of ‘Presumed Incompetent,’ a book that has changed academic relations since it came out last year, I believe it is important that I be present in this important conversation about academic life.”

Professors from multiple schools will be in attendance. The symposium is set to have speaker Yolanda Flores Niemann from UNT, Nicole Waligora-Davis from Rice University and Myrtle P. Bell from the University of Texas at Arlington in addition to Gutiérrez y Muhs.

“I expect to meet and interact with a group of phenomenal women faculty who are like-minded and committed to changing academia for the better,” Bell said. “Women [and men] of color remain sorely underrepresented as academic faculty in tenured or tenure-track jobs. As a result, the ones who are faculty are often isolated, as the only person like them in their department, as I am, and college, as I am.”

The symposium is open to administrators, faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students from any background. It will be a host for discussions where both professionals and students can learn from the research and experience of others.

Bell said one of the challenges professors of color face is they are often asked to serve on multiple committees, because the committee needs to be “more diverse,” but too much committee service can be a distraction and an impediment to being involved in areas that universities value more.

The symposium will not only address issues people are faced with but will also provide solutions and advice.

Bell said as a result of women of color being underrepresented, students have fewer role models than they need and may feel isolated, so the consequences are multiplied.

She said they should not be discouraged because being a professor is one of the best jobs in the world.

“I would advise them to study very hard, to learn as much as they can, to choose their field of study very carefully,” Bell said. “Make sure there is a good support system and that the faculty there are truly committed to the students’ success.”

Associate professor of English Priscill Ybarra in her office. Ybarra is the director of the symposium. Feature photo courtesy of UNT

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