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BU aims for diversity

As Belmont promotes student diversity through initiatives like “Welcome Home,” the school is also trying to recruit a more diverse faculty and staff.

In the Vision 2015 plan, the university lists as a goal to “increase diversity and cultural competency,” and to achieve it by trying to “actively and intentionally recruit diverse faculty, staff, board and students.

The university, said provost Dr. Thomas Burns, wants to attract a more representative faculty based on the school’s characteristics and location in Nashville.

The school’s most recent Affirmative Action Plan, published in October 2011, gives a workforce analysis summary, which lists the statistics of minorities – gender, racial and ethnic – in the faculty and staff. Overall, 55.8 percent of the staff is female and 11.1 percent are listed as racial or ethnic minorities. These numbers include all regular faculty, adjunct professors and staff at Belmont.

According to the action plan, the university’s diversity “remains an important means to enable us to more faithfully live out our mission of providing an academically challenging education in a Christian community,” President Bob Fisher said in the report.

The university called on Belmont’s current underrepresented faculty to help with strategies to recruit new faculty that add to the diversity, Burns said. This plan will include a website that will link potential candidates with current professors at the school.

“As candidates are recruited, they will be directed to this page to see what faculty are saying about Belmont and about Nashville,” Burns said. “They would be encouraged to contact faculty they wanted to know more from.”

Awareness and recruiting minority faculty will also be major goals within the plan.

There will be a focus to ensure that potential minority candidates are aware of the process and to encourage them to apply, as well as to be aware of the diverse candidates during the recruiting process. “They are not the overarching goal,” Burns said. “Our goal at Belmont is to hire the absolute best person we can to teach students and just be part of our community.”

The university also has hiring goals in place for the next five years to address current imbalances among administration, faculty and staff. For example, the action plan specifies a university goal of hiring an additional female in senior administration around the 2014-15 school year.

Joyce Searcy, the director of community relations at Belmont and an African-American, said that Belmont is definitely making steps in the right direction to improve these numbers. However, she acknowledges that there is never any one goal to achieve a perfect level of diversity.

“A goal is like when you get there, you still see further out to do the next thing,” Searcy said.

While some of Belmont’s diversity goals may not yet be within reach, the university will to work toward fulfilling its mission statement. In its first two paragraphs, it addresses the goal of empowering “men and women of diverse backgrounds” and having “respect for the civil expression of divergent perspectives.”

Searcy also believes that diversity is an absolute necessity at Belmont. Her role as a liaison between Belmont and the community, especially the Edgehill area of Nashville, has helped with campus diversity by creating opportunities to interact with different area communities. She believes this makes everyone richer, and Belmont stronger as a whole, no matter how diversity is introduced into the school.

As to how diversity is being introduced into the faculty and staff, Searcy said firmly, “It has to start at the top. It’s not just for students.”

Minority applications for Belmont positions have doubled during the last four years and now make up around one-fifth of all submitted applications, according to the school’s affirmative action report.

However, Belmont has made clear they want steps to come soon to raise these numbers. For example, Burns said, when a teaching or administrative position opens, the university will want to ensure they are “conscious” of a variety of factors during the advertisement of the position and the hiring process.

Dr. Cathy R. Taylor, who will become dean of Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences & Nursing on Feb. 1, brings more gender diversity, and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, joined the College of Law faculty Jan. 1. The law school, which opened with its first class last September, has a relatively diverse staff consisting of four women and two ethnic minorities out of eight total, full-time professors. Gonzales joins eight other Hispanic professors working at Belmont, four of whom are adjuncts.

The world outside Belmont is changing and the school is striving to keep up with the community that is always in motion. Businesses are working more to bring multiple perspectives and ideals into their work environments, Burns said.

“Ultimately, you leave Belmont and go out and get a job,” he said. “When you do, it would be best that you get the chance there to explore and discuss different thoughts, ideas and approaches to things. So we think it’s appropriate that we’re not seen or perceived as being of one mind or of one set of focus, but rather seeing the ideas that can come from different lifestyles and from different people, places and culture.”

Belmont is supposed to help create an environment for students, Searcy said, and if the school wants to keep up, then it is important to include diversity in all aspects of the school – students, faculty and staff.

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