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In her newest role, Michelle Warren seeks to broaden participation in diversity efforts across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
For Michelle Warren, a professor of comparative literature at Dartmouth since 2006, serving as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' inaugural senior advisor for faculty development, diversity, and inclusion was a natural next step.
Over the past 12 years, Warren has led Dartmouth's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which seeks to increase racial diversity on the faculties of colleges and universities by encouraging undergraduates to pursue academic careers. Under Warren's leadership, the program has reached its highest levels of PhD enrollment, with alumni joining the professoriate in record numbers.
"Staying in touch with Mellon fellows long after they graduate keeps me connected to faculty issues and broader diversity initiatives at other institutions," says Warren. "The rising scholars I work with have ambitious ideas for changing historically unjust educational systems. I do everything I can to help create that better future."
Elizabeth Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, appointed Warren as senior adviser in January 2021. In this new role Warren serves on and advises the dean's academic leadership team on issues related to faculty recruitment, retention, equity, and inclusion. She also coordinates reporting of Arts and Sciences' progress towards Dartmouth's Inclusive Excellence initiatives.
"This is a critical position that will help us advance diversity and inclusion across Arts and Sciences units," says Smith. "With Michelle's guidance, we will continue to examine structural inequities and implement solutions. I am pleased with the progress we have made already and look forward to the work that lies ahead."
Major Steps Forward
As part of the first-ever Dean's Diversity Initiative for Faculty Recruitment last year, Warren worked closely with every faculty search leader to accelerate the pace of diversifying tenure-track faculty and improve retention. Collectively, last year's searches resulted in one of the most diverse cohorts of new faculty in Dartmouth history.
Faculty recruitment in Arts and Sciences has been supported for several years by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. "We concluded the grant's active recruitment phase with 40% more hires than promised," Warren says. "This is an incredible testimony to the breadth of commitment across the College, including financial support from the provost."
Last spring Warren led the development of the Arts and Sciences Inclusive Excellence Report and Demographic Addendum, which publicly documented faculty recruitment and retention outcomes in Arts and Sciences for the first time. The addendum summarizes faculty departure rates since 2010 by tenure status and demographics, and aggregates data about tenure outcomes and true retentions (faculty who decided to remain at Dartmouth despite opportunities elsewhere).
For pre-tenure tenure-track faculty, departure rates have been highest for women (all races and ethnicities) and underrepresented minority (URM) faculty. As for tenure outcomes, the data from the past decade show no statistically significant differences by either gender or race/ethnicity. But across higher education, women, in general, are promoted to full professor at a slower pace than men.
Guided by these findings and by a letter advocating for measurable racial justice progress signed by numerous Black faculty members in June of 2020, Warren began her internal outreach with a focus on junior women professors and faculty of color. "My approach is people-centered and data-driven," Warren says. "I start by asking, 'what do you need that you don't have?' And then I try to turn ideas into tangible initiatives. Some problems don't have clear solutions, but I hope that people at least feel understood."
Looking Towards 'Broad Change'
For the new academic year, the Dean's Diversity Initiative continues with eight searches in areas related to racial, cultural, and religious diversity. In addition, the Office of the Dean is partnering with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity to create more programming opportunities for faculty of color.
Pilot programs that were successful last year will also continue, including a pre-tenure women's faculty group, an associate professor book writing group, and a STEM DEI arts and sciences group that brings together representatives from all eight science departments.
Ultimately, Warren sets her sights on broad change. "The fundamental need isn't just to bring more people to campus—it's to transform the culture so that everyone feels able to thrive, and when problems arise, people know where to turn."