AAR Career Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession
Miguel A. De La Torre, Editor
Miguel A. De La Torre
Associate Professor of Social Ethics at Iliff School of Theology
and Director of the Justice and Peace Institute
In 1999, I was completing my doctorate, and like most, was anxious to find a job.
Unfortunately, I had two things going against me. First, I had no idea how to obtain a tenure track position. A great deal of my time was spent trying to figure out how this process differed from the typical corporate job search. In fact, it all seemed rather highbrowed and mysterious: finding faculty search postings, preparing a dossier, writing an application letter, going through an interview, and negotiating a job contract. I didnít understand how faculty searches were really conducted. I naively believed that academics functioned above and beyond any form of political dynamics. My second "problem" was that I was a person of color, and therefore on the margins of the "good-old boy" system. As much as I wanted to believe that hires were chosen solely because of the scholastic rigor demonstrated by the applicant, the truth of the matter was that even within academic settings, race and ethnicity still mattered.
Fortunately for me, I came across a book that was partly responsible in helping me reach my goal - the prized tenure track position. The text was the Guide to the Perplexing: A Survival Manual for Women in Religious Studies published by the American Academy of Religion. Even though I am male, the practical advice, elucidation of the politics involved in faculty searches, and step-by-step explanation of the hiring process proved to be invaluable. The prevailing oppressive structures faced by women due to institutional sexism are similar to those faced by scholars of color. It was not too difficult to mentally adjust the bookís advice to the situations I would probably be facing as a Hispanic male. Still, even though the Guide to the Perplexing is well written, and remains a must-read for any woman entering the profession, I wish there had been a text dealing with the unique and specific challenges faced by scholars of color - both male and female.
When the AAR Committee on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession announced their intention of producing a Career Guide, I was thrilled. Knowledge is power, and the existence of a manual that provides the scholar of color with the necessary information required to survive and flourish within an academic career is crucial. This manual is specifically designed to be the product of a collective, versus singular perspective. It is the concerted effort of scholars representing a variety of races and ethnicities. The main chapter writers are: Mary C. Churchill, Kwok Pui-lan, Rita Nakashima Brock, Peter J. Paris, Anthony Pinn, Rosetta Ross, Andrea Smith, John J. Thatamanil, Lynne Westfield, and myself, Miguel A. De La Torre, who also served as editor. Each chapter is a composite of the collective wisdom of scholars of color from throughout the academy, who have contributed a great deal of feedback, anecdotal stories, and thoughtful advice.
The manualís usefulness is not limited to the task of obtaining a job, but covers the entire academic career, beginning with the consideration of graduate school, and onward to retiring from the profession. Written from the perspective of marginalized groups, the contributors explain situations normally faced by candidates of color that are due to institutionalized racism and ethnic discrimination. As you will read, their encounters differ greatly from those experienced by their Euro-American counterparts.
The first chapter serves as an introduction, focusing on who we are as scholars of colors, and exploring the importance of balancing our academic careers with self-care. There is also the struggle to avoid the fracturing of who we are, as we deal with perceptions of our identity, as in being the first or only scholar of color within our families, communities, or institutions. The second chapter discusses graduate school: how to select the school, the advisor, the committee, and the dissertation topic, followed by a discussion of skills needed while navigating through the doctoral process.
The third chapter focuses on the faculty search, a literal nuts and bolts guide on how to search, prepare, apply, and interview for job openings. The fourth chapter deals with the tenure process. This chapter explores institutional responsibilities, establishing relationships, choosing research projects, teaching skills, and career paths to follow. The fifth chapter describes what usually happens post-tenure, and the challenges and stresses one might face, as well as grant writing, sabbaticals, and preparing for retirement. Chapter six looks at other career options outside tenure-track academic teaching positions, i.e. activism, administration, publishing, etc. The seventh chapter concentrates on dealing with difficult issues, specifically harassment at the workplace. Chapter eight is geared to those institutional administrators wishing to diversify their campus community by providing predominantly white school administrators with valuable information on how to attract and retain scholars of color. The final chapter serves as a bibliography for the individual desiring to do further research.
The AAR Committee on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession decided to post the manuscript on the AAR website. Because it is an electronic manual, the information can be easily obtained and constantly updated. The manuscript was also designed to be interactive. As you read, you too can add your insights and suggestions. We provided discussion boards linked to each topic to allow you, the reader, to post comments, experiences, and wisdom gained. The AAR Career Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession intentionally moves away from the salient individualism of the dominant culture toward a communal format more indigenous to our own cultures. It is a project we hope all scholars of color will have a hand in contributing to and forming.
It is important to note the many hands that made this e-book possible. Specifically, we are grateful to Barbara DeConcini and her colleagues at the AAR for their administrative work. We also appreciate the advice given to us by Rebecca T. Alpert and Mary E. Hunt. We recognize the generosity of the Luce Foundation for their financial support. And finally, we thank the first three chairpersons of the AAR ad hoc Committee and Standing Committee on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession (Dwight N. Hopkins, Peter J. Paris, and Kwok Pui-lan) for their vision which produces the groundwork that made this e-book a reality.