Warren will serve in newly created Deputy Provost postBy Jennifer Carnig
Kenneth Warren, the Fairfax Cone Distinguished Service Professor in English Language & Literature, has been named Deputy Provost for Research and Minority Issues.
Warren’s post is a new, part-time position created on the recommendation of the Provost’s Initiative on Minority Issues, a taskforce Provost Richard Saller established three years ago to focus on issues related to diversity at the University.
According to Saller, if the University hopes to be a leader and example of innovation in the areas of race and diversity, “we need a senior-level administrator to oversee, cultivate and maintain our momentum” in attracting a more representative body of faculty and students, as well as improving the environment for faculty and students of color already at the University.
“Ken Warren has proved his commitment to these issues and this University, and he’s been instrumental in shaping the work we already do, so he is a natural choice,” Saller said.
Warren and Steve Klass, Vice President and Dean of Students in the University, co-chaired the PIMI taskforce, which broadly evaluated the University’s performance on issues relating to diversity, including recruitment, retention and quality of life for the University’s community of color.
The PIMI taskforce specifically highlighted five areas for the University to immediately act on to ensure social and intellectual diversity at the University: recruiting and retaining faculty of color, improving the institutional communication on diversity, improving student services for students of color, developing curricula around issues of race, and developing diversity training for students, faculty and staff.
With the restructuring and expansion of the Office of Minority Student Affairs and the hiring of Ana Vázquez, Deputy Dean of Students in the University and Director of the OMSA, the University already has started following the PIMI committee’s recommendations.
While increasing its emphasis on graduate students, OMSA also has expanded its programming for undergraduates to include a new mentoring program and an initiative that helps students in the College maneuver through the process of getting into graduate school. It has also led diversity training for University housing staff and orientation leaders, a group that included 300 students and 75 staff members. But to better meet the guidelines issued by PIMI, a new senior level position had to be created, Saller said. In his new role, Warren will not only coordinate with OMSA and its staff to make sure the office is fully supported, but also help set the groundwork that will allow departments to identify and recruit minority faculty and graduate students, as well as work with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture on developing curricula to better meet student demand.
Though the new position will undoubtedly take time away from his role as researcher and teacher, Warren said the opportunity to make concrete change in the area of diversity was too great for him to pass up. Not only is the issue central to the University’s mission as an educational institution, Warren said, but it also is near to his own heart and something he already was spending much time on. “I realized that in my administrative and advising capacities I was already devoting untold hours to this work,” Warren said. Now that time spent can have a concrete, tangible impact on daily life at the University.
Warren said his goal is to help faculty and administrators realize that if their efforts to recruit and retain students and faculty from diverse backgrounds are successful, then they are underscoring the work of the institution as a whole.
“These issues need to become part of the everyday thinking of the University,” he said. “The kind of success we’re looking for is an acknowledgment that this work is consistent with the goals of a learning institution.”
While his exact job description is yet to be defined—as Warren is taking a long-planned research leave during the 2005-2006 school year—he said he hopes to focus on the recommendations outlined by PIMI and the goals broadly sketched in the University’s diversity statement (available online at http://www.uchicago.edu/docs/education/diversity-statement.html). Faculty recruitment and retention will be first and foremost on his agenda, but he said he also will look very seriously at pipeline issues.
“We need to assess what we are doing at the University to help produce a pool of students who will be successful and will become the kind of faculty that we want,” Warren explained. “Whether they go on to teach here or at other top-flight institutions, we need to look at every well-trained student we produce as a success.”
According to Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science and former Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, the creation of the Deputy Provost position “sends a signal to the greater University community, the city of Chicago and the education community nationally that we understand diversity to be central to our mission, and it opens up a direct line of communication between students and faculty and the President and Provost on these issues.”
While the University already has demonstrated a serious dedication to issues of race and diversity, Warren’s new responsibilities “instill a sense of accountability,” she said.
“Ken is a longtime and respected member of the intellectual community,” Cohen said. “He has a vision and a commitment to these issues that should help us move forward as a University and better live up to our educational mission.”