May 05, 2015, BY Matt Hughes

Bertrand Library

An $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support faculty diversity in the College of Arts & Sciences at Bucknell University.

The Bridge to Retirement, Bridge to Renewal grant will fund a bridge year during which faculty approaching retirement and the new hires who will replace them can work side-by-side, with senior faculty offering mentorship to the new professors.

The bridge year helps ease the transition to Bucknell's liberal arts education, during which new faculty need to balance a set of demands much different than those of a graduate student or postdoctoral fellowship. Mellon's support will help to ensure that retiring faculty members can transfer wisdom gained through decades of teaching to new faculty members, and that Bucknell will maintain the quality and diversity of its academic program.

"By focusing on recruitment of new faculty as well as retention of knowledge and experience through the mentoring component of this program, we will enable our faculty to maintain and model a campus climate which embraces diversity as a core value," said Bucknell Provost Mick Smyer.

The grant will support bridge-year salaries for two new humanities and humanistic social science faculty in each of the next four academic years, as well as search costs and incentives for faculty opting to participate in a step-down retirement program. Recruitment will emphasize faculty diversity, a core commitment of Bucknell's 2014–17 Diversity Plan.

"Bucknell developed this program to proactively respond to challenges we will face in the next several years as members of the humanities and humanistic social science faculty, including a significant number of faculty from traditionally underrepresented groups, approach retirement," said George Shields, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Bridget Newell, associate provost for diversity, noted that the benefits associated with having a diverse faculty are numerous. Faculty from traditionally underrepresented groups can expose all students to a broader range of perspectives, and act as role models for students with similar backgrounds and experiences.

Seeing and connecting with faculty who are themselves from historically underrepresented groups in higher education helps underrepresented students feel concretely that they have a place at Bucknell, and that they have potential mentors and advisors who can relate to them on many levels," Newell said.

"It may also help students from underrepresented groups envision themselves in the role of a professor or other leader in higher education — which is sorely needed.

"Broadening the range of experts students from majority groups engage with can also help them gain critical perspectives and experiences that transform aspects of their worldviews," Newell continued. "More generally, a more diverse faculty may bring more course content on diversity-related topics, which benefits all students, and can enhance policy and practice by bringing to the conversation critical perspectives that may be missing with a more homogeneous faculty and administration."

The grant is the most recent awarded to Bucknell by the Mellon Foundation, which endeavors to strengthen, promote and defend contributions of the humanities and arts to human flourishing and the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. Previous Mellon grants have supported digital scholarship, the Presidential Arts Initiative and environmental education.