Unpacking Teachers' Invisible Knapsacks: Social Identity and Privilege in Higher Education

Through its Liberal Education and America's Promise initiative, the Association of American Colleges and Universities calls on institutions to help students develop personal and social responsibility, a complex outcome that includes "civic knowledge and engagement—local and global" and "intercultural knowledge and competence" (2007, 12). We are preparing students for both responsible citizenship and a global economy. To this end, many US colleges and universities seek to diversify student bodies as well as faculties. But as we know, recruitment is not enough. Retention and success initiatives for first-generation and underrepresented students are a priority in many colleges and universities; foundations are expressing this priority in countless calls for proposals.

We must be similarly intentional about nurturing and retaining our diverse faculties. Ideally, more faculty members from groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education will enter the profession aware of and prepared for some of the differences and disadvantages they will have to negotiate. It would also help to have colleagues, and especially leaders, who "get it," who are conscious of the network of privileges and disadvantages attendant to social identity, and who can then provide informed support and mentoring. Awareness of these differences could also inform policies for the hiring, retention, and promotion of diverse faculties. These steps would help create a more richly inclusive intellectual and educational environment.

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