As San José State University faces a historic $92 million budget cut, SJSU continues to demonstrate its investment in its educational mission by hiring 65 new faculty members since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Two additional faculty members were recruited during this time period and will be starting in fall 2021. Faculty members span colleges and disciplines, from Justice Studies to Marketing and Business Analytics to members of the newly-formed Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC).
The latest faculty cohort reflects San José State’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in more than one way. According to University Personnel, 53 percent of new hires identify as women, 10 percent identify as Latinx, six percent as Black, 25 percent as Asian and 39 percent as white.
Senior Director of Faculty Affairs James Lee provided additional data to demonstrate how the demographics of incoming faculty members have changed since 2015.
*Prior years using PeopleSoft Data. AY 20-21, Interfolio. 2 or more race/ethnicity is not reported.
Interim Vice Provost for Faculty Success and Chicano/a Studies Professor Magdalena Barrera said that new and returning faculty must be cognizant of challenges that students are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our goal is to attract a very diverse pool of faculty applicants—diverse in terms of their training, their areas of expertise, their gender, their ethno-racial identities along multiple axes,” said Barrera. “It’s important that faculty are understanding of issues around diversity and inclusion and are very equity-minded in their approach, using their training and creativity to the best of their abilities to be empathetic towards students. They are helping students get through a very challenging time and it’s important that they keep them motivated to stick with school and make progress toward their degrees.”
Deanna Fassett, assistant vice provost for faculty development at the Center for Faculty Development (CFD) and former chair of SJSU’s Communication Studies department, adapted much of the CFD’s previously face-to-face onboarding activities for remote work. Fassett said the shift to online programming has gone smoothly, with weekly trainings over Zoom ranging from curriculum development for online learning to anti-racist pedagogies. Professional development workshops are recorded and available for members who may not be able to attend in real time.
“This is the most resourced group of [new] faculty” at San José State, Fassett said. “They’re getting the effort and the labor and the drive behind me, eCampus Senior Director Jennifer Redd, our new Equity and Accessibility Educator Valin Jordan and their department chairs. We’re building out guides for how to have more interactive classrooms. There are new Teach Anywhere and Learn Anywhere website resources. Facing new challenges, we leaned in and asked, how can we be better in online mode? The Chancellor’s Office really enabled us to do that.”
“I was really looking forward to getting into the classroom and connecting with students,” said Hillary Hurst, theoretical physicist and newly minted assistant professor of physics and astronomy. She completed some of the activities online while moving from Washington D.C. to California this summer. “I’ve had to rethink some things about how I teach my courses. Jump Start offered an asynchronous onboarding course for faculty members. I started doing sessions before we moved, I continued completing them while we were on our road trip and finished the course in California. I’m looking forward to completing the online teaching certificate this winter. While it’s tough feeling like I’m not quite getting to know the students, I am working on improving my online teaching.”
Fassett also believes that hiring new faculty and updating recruitment and retention practices helps the overall health of the university.
“The better our faculty teach, the more students will come back to us, the better we will retain them, and we will continue to help them advance to their professional goals,” said Fassett. “Our university remains more relevant than ever, and that shows in our enrollments and in the work our faculty do.” ”
Both Fassett and Barrera said that by investing in recruiting, retaining and investing in the continued professional development of faculty, San José State can better address Graduation Initiative 2025, an ambitious system-wide campaign to increase graduation rates while eliminating equity gaps.
“This is a critical moment for us to observe student needs and not lose focus on Graduation Initiative 2025,” said Barrera. “A lot of historically underrepresented students find online learning challenging because they don’t have regular or reliable Internet access. Many of them have taken on more hours at work to provide economically for their loved ones. Incoming faculty members need to be aware of these challenges. How do we turn these into opportunities to really connect with faculty members in terms of their pedagogical styles? We have to think creatively about building community when we can’t physically be together in the classroom or on campus. We want to not just meet those goals; we want to be a leader among the CSU. We have a bigger mission and together we’re working towards it.”